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Why Reddit just lost another female exec

Bethanye Blount, Reddit’s lead engineer, has resigned, saying she has lost confidence in the direction of the company. Did she leave because of discrimination?

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    Ellen Pao arriving at the San Francisco Superior Court in March. A Reddit chief engineer who resigned just days after her exit told the press Monday that Ms. Pao had been placed on a "glass cliff."
    Robert Galbraith/Reuters/File
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Just days after interim chief executive Ellen Pao left Reddit, the popular community website has lost another female senior executive, whose high-profile departure continues to feed a contentious debate on the prevalence of gender discrimination in Silicon Valley.

Chief engineer Bethanye Blount has submitted her resignation after only two months at the company, reported Recode.

“I wouldn’t say my decision to leave was directly related to my gender,” said Ms. Blount.

Recommended: Why so few women in tech? Seven challenges and potential solutions.

But her remarks on the chief executive’s exit signal both a belief that Ms. Pao had been a scapegoat for the website’s performance and that the company’s overreaching standards was driving people out – herself included.

Speaking out on the two women from Reddit whose departures have stirred controversy – Pao and popular moderator Victoria Taylor – Blount said, “Victoria wasn’t on a glass cliff,” a term that refers to women being set up for failure by being put in precarious leadership positions.

“But it’s hard for me to see it any other way than Ellen was,” she added, echoing the opinions of sociology experts who have cried discrimination.  

Blount herself left because she had lost confidence in Reddit’s new direction, which encumbered its staff with unworkable demands, she told Recode.

The engineer, who’d previously been working at Facebook before joining the link sharing site, said she didn’t think she “could deliver on” those demands. Pao made similar comments in a statement explaining her resignation over the weekend, saying, "The board asked me to demonstrate higher user growth in the next six months than I believe I can deliver while maintaining Reddit’s core principles."

Some of Reddit’s decisions in recent months had bred widespread animosity, most notably its banning of several groups said to be harassing other users and the firing of Ms. Taylor, whose dismissal led to a protest of more than 200,000 users.

“Of course, the unprecedented protests aren't just a reaction to Taylor's dismissal,” wrote Business Insider’s Rob Price. “They are the culmination of years of simmering resentment between community and staff, as well as more recent concerns over the direction of Reddit.”

The team had been scrambling to retain business by making increasingly unrealistic assurances, Blount suggested in her interview.

“I feel like there are going be some big bumps on the road ahead for Reddit,” said Blount. “Along the way, there are some very aggressive implied promises being made to the community – in comments to mods, quotes from board members – and they’re going [to] have some pretty big challenges in meeting those implied promises.”

One of its “promises” was improving new tools for the site's army of volunteer moderators, according to a company announcement last week that acknowledged a lack of trust among users.

“I know these are just words, and it may be hard for you to believe us,” said Ms. Pao in her statement. She asked for patience in rebuilding a connection between Reddit’s team and user community, and pledged that staffers would be more responsive.

In response to Blount’s resignation, CEO Steve Huffman has denied allegations of gender discrimination. “The company is growing, and we have the opportunity to improve in many areas — including the number of women in leadership positions,” he said in an email to Recode.

Software engineer George Pang has been assigned the role of interim chief engineer while the company searches for a permanent replacement, he added.

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