This picture shows Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg posing with an employee
called Katherine Losse who joined the startup back in 2005 before quitting in 2010. According to
Losse's new memoir titled "The Boy Kings", working at Facebook wasn't all fun and Zynga games,
particularly for females.
Back then Facebook was overrun with fratty Ivy League elites who tended to look down on the the few female employees that worked among them. She shares this anecdote about how Zuckerberg brought up a sexual harassment complaint during an all employee meeting:
Mark was too busy programming to get to the part of a liberal arts education where you study social inequality…When a female employee reported being told by a male coworker in the lunch line that her backside looked tasty – 'I want to put my teeth in your ass,' was what the coworker said – Mark asked at an All Hands (it was hard to tell whether it was with faux or genuine naiveteé), 'What does that even mean?' I went to Mark at the open office hour he kept after the meeting and told him that it was unacceptable to blow off sexual harassment in the office. He listened to me, which I appreciated, but understanding of the crux of the matter; that is, that women by virtue of our low rank and small numbers were already in a vulnerable situation in the office, did not seem to register.
As for the photo, it was part of a series of Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook photos posted on Gawker about three years ago. In the memoir, Losse explains that the photo was shot in a Tahoe house that Facebook rented for employees to use during the winter of 2006. Seeing the photo was what brought Facebook's strange gender dynamics home to her:
As the night proceeded and we became steadily more drunk, we played mp3s on someone's iPod louder and louder, screaming the lyrics to Green Day and Sublime so loudly that we were essentially doing karaoke, the singers' voices were drowned out. Sensing that this moment called for more entertainment, I donned the bearskin, complete with head, ta ht adorned the banister on the stairs leading to Mark's and [Facebook cofounder] Dustin [Moskovitz]'s rooms. Mark thought this was hilarious and insisted that I continue to wear the bearskin around my shoulders. Luke, who built the wildly successful Facebook Photos product that had launched months before, naturally took pictures all night of our shenanigans to post to Facebook in an album he titled "Opening Night," so the rest of the company could see how much fun we were having.
In one of the last photos Luke took, Mark is gesturing at me haughtily like an emperor as I stand doubled over in laughter with the bear suit draped over me. I twas all innocent fun; everyone was laughing and enjoying themselves, but when I saw the photograph appear in a Facebook album on Monday I was struck by the loaded nature of the image, ripe for interpretation, in which Mark appeared to be commanding an employee, female, to submit. If I were his PR person, I thought, I would tell Luke to take it down. Whether to protect the company, or Mark, or myself, I wasn't sure. IN this take-no-prisoners company, where you were either willing to devote your whole young life to it or not, it was starting to be hard to tell the difference. I felt certain that some gossip writer was going to find the photo and post it an article about Facebook someday. In fact, the photograph appeared in Gawker four [sic] years later.
Perhaps more interesting than the fact that the photo was taken and
posted on Facebook is that it didn't occur to anyone in the office that
there was anything wrong with it, or that the picture revealed something
about the culture of Facebook that it shouldn't.
As you can imagine, Lokke's memoirs includes a lot more awkward, charged-with-gender-inequality moments, including the strange way Zuckerberg introduced Sheryl Sandberg as his new COO in 2008. Check it out over at amazon.com