It’s a Friday afternoon at a tech startup in downtown San Francisco, and Valerie Aurora is arming men with phrases they can use to try to make their Silicon Valley environment less sexist: “Not cool.” “We don’t do that here.” “Awkward!”
She wants them to use them against other men when they encounter biased comments or actions aimed at women, and tells them not to worry if they freeze the first time. “Just keep practicing and wait for the next time. I guarantee it will happen again.”
Aurora is a feminist activist and founder of Frame Shift Consulting, a tech diversity and inclusion firm. She has come to the company to run a three-hour training session for a group of men and women, teaching them how to use their societal privilege – whether male, white, straight or able-bodied – to benefit people who do less well in Silicon Valley.
Her workshop, a version of which has already been adopted by Google, isn’t aimed at the Donald Trumps of the world, says Aurora. The attitudes of the Republican nominee have sparked a national conversation about sexual harassment and sexism in America. Instead, what Aurora calls “ally skills training” is meant to teach people who both understand there is a problem and want to help fix it by taking practical action – including teaching men how to step in when they see other men engaging in casual sexism.