One spring day in 2015, Julia Lee, a top performer on the engineering team at the payroll-software startup Gusto, asked Edward Kim, the company's cofounder and chief technology officer, for a one-on-one meeting. Sitting together on a gray couch in the middle of their open-plan office in San Francisco's SoMa neighborhood, Lee, a Stanford grad who had interned at Google and Palantir, told Kim that she loved her work but was struggling with one issue. Of the 18 people on Gusto's engineering team, Lee, then 26, was the only woman. Before she got to Gusto, she told Kim, "people often assumed I didn't know the answer to a problem because I was a female engineer." Even at Gusto, she was reluctant to share her feelings of self-doubt. Kim, Lee says, was extraordinarily receptive. In fact, he made it a personal project to study the gender breakdown on the engineering teams at other tech firms. The numbers he found were dismal.
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