This week Katherine Losse, a former Facebook employee, published a book called The Boy Kings: A Journey into the Heart of the Social Network that provides an inside and very enlightening depiction of the early, mysterious days of Facebook. Katherine was the company’s 51st employee and she paints a picture of a modern day Mad Men-like office environment with founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg taking on the Don Draper role. “It was like Mad Men but real and happening in the current moment as if in repudiation of fifty years of social progress,”she wrote.
Losse joined Facebook in 2005 and left in 2010, first worked in customer service and then eventually as a ghostwriter for Zuckerberg. Losse says female employees were instructed to wear T-shirts with Zuckerberg’s face on them in honor of his birthday. Male employees were told to wear Adidas sandals, she said, in a nod to the CEO’s favorite footwear. “The gender coding was clear,” she wrote. “Women were to declare allegiance to Mark, and men were to become Mark.”
Losse told The Huffington Post about those early days:
“There were very few women obviously, and most of the women were not in engineering. Engineering was what the company valued, so that created a natural hierarchy where guys who were engineers weren’t really in an environment where they had to worry about how their behavior was perceived. Sometimes being on the engineering floor felt like a pretty testosterone-heavy environment.”
In addition to Zuckerberg’s Draper there were a few Pete Campbells running around as well. Losse writes about another male employee who would proposition young female workers for threesomes despite being married and another who told a female co-worker, “I want to put my teeth in your ass.” When the woman who received the crude comment addressed the remark in a private meeting with Zuckerberg, he reportedly responded, “What does that even mean?”
According to this book, Wall Street guys have nothing on Silicon Valley. During a company trip to Las Vegas, employees visited a strip club, and the men reportedly barked at girls they didn’t deem pretty enough to leave their table. “Leave! You’re not pretty enough!’ one of them seemed to say over the din of the club as he shooed the girls away in succession like so many servants,” Losse writes.
Luckily, though, conditions began to improve at Facebook when came to play. “The arrival of Sheryl Sandberg really helped because she was vocal and would say, ‘I really care about women in the workplace,’” Losse told The Huffington Post. “It was a clear turning point for the company in terms of knowing that these things were serious and [that harassment] needed to stop happening.”
Sheryl saved the day again!
The Boy Kings is available in stores now.