Quartz Weekend Brief—Workplace sexism, Spanish elevators, troll-feeding, Project Cybersyn

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Good morning, Quartz readers!

As blatant sex discrimination in the workplace gave way to more covert forms of bias, a funny thing happened to women when we tried explaining the persistent lack of gender parity: We started blaming ourselves.

Too often, we realized, we scale back our professional ambitions when work-life balance pressures start to mount. We mistake our offices for meritocracies, and neglect to hone the networking skills necessary for advancement. We lack confidenceeschew risk, and harm our own earnings potential by failing to be bold enough in salary negotiations.

So this week, when Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella suggested that women who are uncomfortable asking for salary increases would do just as well to generate “good karma” by not asking for one, and should simply have faith that “the system” will reward them in the end, an uproar ensued.

In a world reverberating with Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s advice to Lean In, Nadella appeared tone deaf. He sounded sexist in condoning the idea of working within a system that has been distinctly unkind to women, instead of demanding a system that’s fairer to everyone.

But given the backlash that has continued to befall outspoken female executives, his guidance doesn’t seem altogether unhelpful. It might be a way for women to protect themselves in a sexist environment. And in the future, when the workplace is further shaped by the collaborative nature of emerging forces in leadership—women among them, along with Millennials of either sex—perhaps looking out for No. 1 will start to feel like an archaic concept, and Nadella’s advice will be seen as spot on.—Heather Landy

Five things on Quartz we especially liked

Lessons from Tiananmen for Hong Kong. Han Dongfang was exiled to Hong Kong after his role in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989. Now, he tells Lily Kuo, the territory’s pro-democracy movement needs to seize a negotiating opportunity or risk running out of steam.

Where did Spain get all its elevators? The country has more elevators per capita than anywhere else, and the reason, Matt Phillips explains, can be traced all the way back, through its economic policies and housing shortages, to the Spanish Civil War. File this one under “unexpected ripple effects.”

The Quartz kids these days. When we began discussing a new payments app in our in-house editorial chatroom, some of our older editors were horrified at how the younger staff handle their money. For an entertaining peek at a true technological generation gap, read the transcript.

How Nigeria stopped Ebola. As a flight hub for the continent, Nigeria could easily have become the next front line in the epidemic sweeping West Africa. But it took the threat seriously. A doctor who helped lead the effort to keep the country safe explains to Tim Fernholz how it was done.

How India keeps tabs on its bureaucrats. A simple, elegant online dashboard that would be the envy of any corporation lets India’s government—and anyone else—monitor the attendance of 50,000 government employees in New Delhi. Devjyot Ghoshal for Quartz India interviews the man who built it.

Five things elsewhere that made us smarter

Why Germans fear Google. Contrary to the misconception, it’s not that Germans are technophobes or privacy maniacs, explains Anna Sauerbrey in the New York Times. Rather, they distrust Silicon Valley companies’ “cowboy mindset” and tendency to ride roughshod over regulation and the state.

How Ebola got out of control. A detailed, engrossing account by a team at the Washington Post traces the outbreak from its origins in a remote corner of Guinea to its present exponential growth, helped along by a mix of funding shortfalls, political turf battles, and simple fear and ignorance.

Microsoft’s combative past and hazy future. After a blowup over Nokia’s acquisition irreparably split former CEO Steve Ballmer and Bill Gates, an unusually difficult search for his replacement ended with Satya Nadella. Bethany McLean takes a deep look at Vanity Fair into exactly what happened, and whether Nadella can return the company to relevance.

“Don’t feed the trolls” isn’t enough. Kathy Sierra, who was hounded off Twitter some years ago by online abuse, explains in this powerful essay why the common tendency to dismiss such attacks as toxic but ultimately harmless—”boohoo, someone was mean on the internet”—is a serious mistake, and how online culture rewards and even celebrates men who would be locked up as psychopaths in real life.

The socialist origins of “Big Data.” Before his death, Chile’s Salvador Allende hired a British cybernetics consultant to build an advanced—for the 1970s—technological system for managing the socialist economy. Evgeny Morozov in the New Yorker looks at how “Project Cybersyn” laid the basis for today’s ultra-quantified business practices.

Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, Spanish elevator pictures, and cybernetic system plans to You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.

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