Sometimes — more like most of the time or at least too often — we all say things without thinking through the full ramifications, especially those gleaned from experiences we’ve never had or opposed to what we think.
Yesterday I mentioned a startup CEO who said he was concerned about hiring more women, “It just seems like such a huge risk as CEO,” which brought the social media house down on him.
Although he apologized, etc., I noted that his words and actions probably didn’t do much to change his mind.
After reading the post a friend from back east wrote me his thoughts as a man-of-color/founder/CEO.
Sadly, everything he says is true and has been for decades — and I say that from first-hand other-side experience.
In the 80s and 90s I was three things that weren’t supposed to align: a successful tech (hdwr and sftwr) recruiter who was female.
Back then it was assumed that, as a woman, I acquired most of my clients in the same way Hollywood starlets got parts — on my back.
But, as I always said, if that were true I wouldn’t have had time to go to the office, let alone recruit anyone.
Here is the email; my only editorial change was to delete the name of the incubator.
When I expressed skepticism regarding real change, you said that it’s better because now people are speaking about it. I replied that it will probably be worse for women in general, because now they will be seen as a risk factor. Unfortunately this is my own experience — I am afraid of mentoring women because they will often take it the wrong way, as several have interpreted my well-meaning advances as attempted pickup. It’s just not worth it.
Most recently, I saw a young black woman at an incubator I was visiting and decided to pay attention to her in a purely social way to make her feel welcomed. There were NO black people there, and since I am viewed as somewhat of a star and important, I believed it would be a boost for her. I never had a conversation with her, and the contact stayed on the level of smiles, fist bumps, etc.
While I was in SF, I received an invitation to a Y-Combinator invite-only event on women and leadership that I could not attend. I approached the woman and told her about the event and asked if she was interested in going. She said, “Absolutely!” and I said — “Send me your email and I’ll introduce you to the people who are leading this effort within YC.” She wrote her email address on a piece of paper and I made the introduction.
Unfortunately her email bounced. I tried several different approaches. Then I went to her a few days after the event and said that I tried to make the introduction, and that her email had bounced. She looked at the piece of paper that she’d written her email on and confirmed it was incorrect without correcting it.
It then dawned upon me that she’d purposely provided me with the wrong email address, probably because she interpreted my friendliness as sexual advances. The sad thing is that I subsequently observed her whispering with other women and looking over at me, and that other women were avoiding contact with me.
I then resolved that it’s just not worth it. I’m never going to make friendly advances to a woman in a work situation in the US again.
I do it all over the world, and have mentored men and women in Europe, Asia, Latin America and the US, but here is the only area where I’ve had negative experiences doing so with women (several). I’ve never had, or been interested in, a sexual relationship with any woman at work, in any country where I’ve worked or lived (except my partner who was my teenage girlfriend).
The inflamed, sexualized nature of everything regarding female/male relationships in the US work environment does much to damage women’s advancement.
Which men will take the risk of staying late to mentor a woman after everyone has left the office — not me. Which men will take a woman out for drinks to have an informal chat about the politics at work — not me.
Which men will associate informally and socially outside of work with women they work with — not me. The reputational risk is simply too great.
Who is the loser? Obviously both men and women, since there is greatness among them both.
Culturally it is more difficult to mentor women in the US than in Pakistan. Who would have thought…
The following came as a PS about an hour later.
Sexual advances are something most women, and some men, have to learn to deal with.
This has always been the case, and there have always been successful women. There are more successful women now than ever before.
The worst thing that can happen is to scare away the men that genuinely mean well.
Haven’t you ever asked yourself why women in more misogynistic societies are surpassing US women in societal and professional advancement to an increasing degree?
May it be because there is no cost to supporting women for those men who choose to do so? In fact, there is often great benefit, as they will have access to a more motivated and competent pool of people.
All that said, I am not recommending turning a blind or benign eye to the kind of behavior and toxic cultures that have been making headlines.
On its face, it all sounds like meaningful change, right? Or at least it sounds a lot better than the very recent public shaming of women who came forward and the sweeping of bad behavior under the rug. (…) Public apologies and one-off actions are superficial ways to react to criticism or put on a happy face, but they often cover up company culture failures that are hard to fix, especially if no one is seriously trying.
While there have been multiple resignations and apologies (complete with crocodile tears), do you really believe that any of these wealthy, well-known, white guys will land anywhere but on their feet? That their actions will have any permanent effect on their future?
If so, you’re living on a planet to which I’d love to emigrate.
Whereas the women who went public will pay a heavy toll.
I [Pao] have heard from several women who spoke up in this newspaper and elsewhere this year that they continue to face harassment. They have been told that discussing their experiences has limited their careers.
After virtual reality startup UploadVR was sued for sexual harassment in May, a male startup CEO publicly commented that lawsuits like this make him “VERY afraid to hire more [women]. It just seems like such a huge risk as CEO.” His comments went viral and he later retracted, apologized and deleted them.
Retracted, apologized, deleted, none of which is likely to have changed his attitude.
Having noticed that the mostly male artists, developers, and designers they were working with took their sweet time to respond to requests and were often slightly rude and condescending in email— “They’d say things like ‘Listen, girls…,’” Dwyer tells Quartz—they decided to bring in a male co-founder named Keith Mann to make communication easier.
Pre-Keith, Dwyer explains, “it was very clear no one took us seriously and everybody thought we were just idiots.” When “Keith” contacted collaborators, Gazin says, “they’d be like ‘Okay, bro, yeah, let’s brainstorm!’”
Keith only lasted six months, but, by then, being Keith had taught them to stop being communicating “like a girl.”
Neither the approach nor the result is unique; women have been obscuring their sex to get ahead for centuries. But…
In era that touts gender equality, even school-age children are still absorbing warped messages about the sexes. A recent study published in the journal Science revealed that by the time most girls are six, they believe that only males can be geniuses.
That means by the time a female hits first grade she’s already convinced she’s second best.
There’s no question that tech, just like every other industry, is highly biased. It’s become a major issue not because it’s new, but because tech drives much of the economy, which puts it in the spotlight. Added to that, more women and people of color are and speaking out publically about what they have to deal with.
Tech’s main excuse for its lousy diversity numbers is a lack of talent, so they focus on kids to fill the pipeline — but all that really does is provide 5-20 years of avoidance in dealing with the real problem
Among young computer science and engineering graduates with bachelor’s or advanced degrees, 57 percent are white, 26 percent are Asian, 8 percent are Hispanic and 6 percent are black (…) technical workers at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter, according to the companies’ diversity reports, are on average 56 percent white, 37 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic and 1 percent black.
Those numbers certainly don’t add up.
The real problem is culture (duh!) — why spend eight-or-more (usually more) hours where you’re actively not wanted?
This past week has been unfortunate. There have been violent, racially charged protests, attacks and murder. All committed in the name of one cause or another. As an American I am ashamed. As a human I am saddened.
I never thought I would need to publicly state that I am against Nazi rhetoric or white supremacist views, but I am.
As a white male I find the fact that this thought still exists to be abhorrent and disgusting.
The thing that bothers me most about this is not that it exists; there will always be people that think a certain way. It’s the fact that the reaction of some leaders was to place blame on all, including the victims.
I never feel comfortable wading into race relations dialogue. I typically feel inadequate and too uniformed to truly understand the challenges that minorities feel. As a result I seek to learn and absorb.
However, in the case of Charlotte, Virginia the stance is clear. If you are an individual who claims that your so called purity as a white man/woman means you have more value than those of different colors, you’re absolutely wrong. Science does not support you, nor does history.
I failed to mention the train wreck that is Google right now.
One engineer writes a manifesto claiming women are emotion-driven and as a result are not as capable at STEM careers as men are. Google fires him, there is a major uproar and everyone now has an opinion.
One article I read showed how Google is acting as thought police preventing any idea that is not approved from being made public. Other articles I read show how, if we appease intolerant viewpoints, we risk allowing intolerance to abound and have extreme cases, such as Nazi Germany.
What does all of this say for society? I believe it shows that we are now on the margins of culture.
Only the extreme survive.
If you have an easy going and inclusive view on society then you are not to be trusted. However, if you take a hard stand on either the left or right, you are to be championed.
When did this culture of extremes become the norm?
I’m assuming you’ve read the anti-diversity manifesto, or articles about it, from the Google engineer decrying his company’s diversity efforts and harking back to the ancient reasoning that women are biologically incapable of being good coders, cops and firemen, among other incapables.
(It’s always sad to see this level of scientific ignorance in a technical person. Of course, it’s not easier in a (supposedly) educated politician.)
There are dozens of responses, but Yonatan Zunger’s is the best I’ve seen (hat tip to KG for sending it).
Zunger is a 14 year Google veteran, who left last week to join a startup. He not only refutes it, but analyzes why the damage goes well beyond the obvious. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth the few minutes it will take to read.
Women also have a brain therefore they write code too.
There, I fixed your #GoogleManifesto.
The one thing in the manifesto I do agree with is that freedom of speech should mean that anyone can speak their mind without fear of shaming or harassment.
However, the tactics he describes that are commonly used in liberal bastions on those espousing right and alt-right attitudes are exactly the same tactics used on progressives and liberals in conservative strongholds.
Irving not only stopped the ads, he set out to radically change a toxic culture that could easily have destroyed the company.
Culture starts at the top and its values and attitudes seep down throughout the organization.
That means change must also come from the top, but seepage won’t effect change.
Change requires structural and enforceable process change.
The answer is more complicated than just stamping out overt sexism. GoDaddy also focused on attacking the small, subtle biases that can influence everything from how executives evaluate employees to how they set salaries.
This was partly accomplished by changing the language, so that managers would evaluate impact as opposed to character.
“You can’t change a place just by hiring more women,” said Ms. Weissman, the senior vice president, who oversees a technical staff. “You have to create a safe space to talk about the assumptions all of us have. You have to work against the biases.”
Are the efforts paying off?
Today, almost a quarter of GoDaddy’s employees are women, including 21 percent of its technical staff. Half of new engineers hired last year were female, and women make up 26 percent of senior leadership. Female technologists, on average, earn slightly more than their male counterparts.
Who’d a’thunk it?
Go Daddy as one of the nation’s most inclusive tech companies and a top workplace for women and a lodestone of gender equity.
The company’s policies on equal pay, its methods for recruiting a diverse work force and its approach to promoting women and minorities had been lauded inside business schools and imitated at other firms.
Uber et al. take note.
With truly committed leadership a leopard can change its spots.
“For years I thought it was a pipeline question,” said Julie Daum, who has led efforts to recruit women for corporate boards at Spencer Stuart. “But it’s not — I’ve been watching the pipeline for 25 years. There is real bias, and without the ability to shine a light on it and really measure it, I don’t think anything’s going to change.”
Conscious, intentional bias is bad enough, but girls also have to contend with an unconsciously biased society and a dearth of powerful role models.
Women rarely consider themselves experts, unlike men, who will claim expertise on any subject, no matter how ridiculous.
A presenter asked a group of men and women whether anyone had expertise in breast-feeding. A man raised his hand. He had watched his wife for three months. The women in the crowd, mothers among them, didn’t come forward as experts.
Ellen Kullman, the former chief executive of DuPont sums up a large piece of the problem.
The UK’s advertising industry regulator has announced that portrayals of little girls aspiring to be, say, a ballerina while boys hope to be, for instance, a scientist or doctor will be banned from the country’s ads. Many of these air during kids’ programs and target teens through social media.
And if you think this example is extreme it is actually drawn from this Aptamil baby formula ad.
Can bias actually be addressed beyond training and conversation?
Join me tomorrow for a look at how a corporate sexist poster child became a lodestar for gender equity.
WA July 1, 2017 These women do themselves a disservice by choosing to appear bare legged, in shorts and casual clothing for this article. Rather, all three ought to have posed in business professional clothing. Women say they want to be accepted as professionals and peers while simultaneously choosing to participate in age old ways of competing: showing some skin. They have even chosen to do it for this article which is about the very acts photos like these encourage. Women who want to be treated equally should hide their sexuality (skin) in the business setting. It’s always been accepted that women who stoop to short skirts and low cut blouses at work are not to be taken seriously. What has changed to make that untrue today, exactly? Magical thinking?
What skin? One woman has on cutoffs? Her partners are in jeans and a skirt (no stockings) and all have on T-shirts. Typical Silicon Valley startup garb.
The comment reminds me of the ageless rape defense: dressed like that she was asking for it.
But do the people with the least power have to shoulder responsibility for weeding out misconduct by people with the most?
Ryan Pew, who writes Ryan’s Journal here on Thursday, is a former Marine and a millennial father of three girls. I asked him what he thought.
As a father of girls, by my very nature I want them to succeed without their gender being an issue. I understand the differences between the sexes but do see us as equal. However I have also seen how, as a man, you see other men who believe otherwise and are not afraid of speaking to a woman a certain way. One of these posts talks about how one of the VC’s was pushing alcohol and then used that as leverage when he tried his moves. Sounds very frat boy to me.
Hey, Ryan, it IS frat-boy, AKA, bro culture.
What I’ve never understood, and I’ve asked directly, is why these jerks think what they do is “NBD, business as usual,” but condemn anyone who treats their wife/mother/daughter/friend/etc. the same way.
Hi. My name is Brad. You may not have heard of me before, but don’t worry, I’m rich. (…) Obviously I’m a smart guy, but one thing I can’t for the life of me understand is: why do all these women keep accusing me of sexual harassment? (…) And yeah, I use my position of power to get laid, but who wouldn’t? (…) Do I want them to fuck me? Sure I do. Will it affect whether or not I fund their company? Yes, it will. Does that mean I don’t respect them? No! Well yes. But it’s not personal, it’s business.
From ‘77 to ‘97 I was a tech recruiter and can’t count the times I was hit on by VCs and managers. I’m here to tell you that harassment isn’t about sex any more than rape is.
It’s about power, control, money, and insecure male egos that are terrified of women who dare.
A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read allIf the Shoe Fits posts here.
There is much talk these days about ‘values’ and how companies need to base their cultures on them.
Many say that “cultural fit” is used to discriminate against older candidates, people of color, and women.
And that’s likely true if the company doesn’t included diversity and meritocracy as an integral part of their core values.
One recently added core value that isn’t talked about is expediency.
Here’s a great example from Facebook.
On May First, Facebook was accused of sharing information on how/when to reach “emotionally “insecure” and vulnerable teens on its network.” Naturally, the company denied doing it, but just the fact that they can should be very disturbing.
Even if Facebook hasn’t allowed advertisers to target young people based on their emotions, its sharing of related research highlights the kind of data the company collects about its nearly 2 billion users.
Also on May first Facebook announced a new effort to fight fake news — definitely expedient considering how angry people are — better late than never.
Facebook has appointed a veteran from The New York Times to lead its news products division, which is responsible for stopping the spread of fake news and helping publishers make money.
Making money is the number one priority — no matter how often a company says otherwise.