Pao’s book, published two years after a difficult eight-month stint as chief executive of Reddit, gives her a platform to speak on diversity in tech, the focus of her advisory group Project Include. If the personal is political, then Reset is as political as it gets ... There is a temptation to compare Pao with Sandberg. Both are Silicon Valley authors addressing the barriers that women face in scaling the corporate ladder; both are wealthy and privileged beyond the dreams of most. Yet the books are very different. While Sandberg implores women to ask for the pay rise and push ahead, Pao sets out why this probably won’t be enough. She also addresses the intersection of race and gender throughout, something that Sandberg did not focus on ... Pao is a compelling narrator, sharing intimate stories such as her endometriosis and worries about conceiving, yet her manner is always restrained and businesslike — occasionally to a fault ... Only a few times does the book veer into preaching, such as when she recounts how her consciousness was raised by conversations she had about race in the Caribbean while on honeymoon. The fact that Pao lost her case poses a problem for the reader. Either you accept that the system is rigged or you discount everything the author has claimed. After reading this book, I am inclined to believe the former.
Pao writes with an incisive anger that has been throttled so long that its emergence is, by turn, startling and uncomfortable—and a great relief. Of course she is angry! ... If Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In has been the handbook for the rising female executive over the last decade, Ellen Pao’s book is its logical companion and should be read alongside it as a staple in every business course. There are many who will attempt to pit these perspectives against each other, suggesting that they attempt to advance different forms of feminism. I would say the opposite: Sandberg and Pao are products of similar environments, having graduated from Harvard Business School just three years apart. When confronted with the alarming realities of negotiating gender and race in the tech industry, they each hit upon different strategies for succeeding ... These are just three of many women who have spoken up this year, demanding fair treatment across the tech industry. They’re less afraid of retribution than they once were, and they’re more certain of the strength of their own voices to force a public reckoning in Silicon Valley. Among tech circles, there’s a name for this. It’s The Pao Effect.
Reset contains a fair amount of repetition — which doesn’t make it a bad book, though it can sometimes come across as disjointed. It is a tricky thing to write a memoir that’s also supposed to function as self-help and tell-all and activist’s manifesto, as well as indictment. Hammer your points too hard, and you don’t reveal enough of yourself as an ambivalent, fallible human being; reveal too much of yourself as an ambivalent, fallible human being, and you risk opening seams in the armor of your case ... It’s only when the memoir arrives at her tenure as a chief of staff at Kleiner Perkins that she fully sheds the voice of the innocent babe in the woods and allows some welcome cynicism and anger to come through. Her sentences get sharper; her jokes more cutting ... Pao, like Sheryl Sandberg, implies that having more women in positions of power will eventually benefit all women, and Reset ends with her having found sisterhood and solidarity in the tech world, helping found Project Include to fix a system that has 'exclusion built into its design.' This sounds like a promising development for Silicon Valley. For her book, though, it puts Pao back in safety mode, as she abandons the scabrous energy of her middle chapters and reverts to the kind of upbeat language she used when describing her childhood.