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Twitter’s female “problem” (pandodaily.com)
57 points by kposehn on Oct 9, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 26 comments

> Particularly one Twitter screed that said I only successfully raised venture capital for Pando because of how I look and who I know.

Gender issues aside, Why exactly did Pando raise money, and how are they spending it? AFAICT it's a tech blog like many others

Let's assume PandoDaily will never make money, and in a few years will be back for another few million in funding.

Lets assume that PandoDaily will continue to write articles about VC funded tech startups, now why would a company that stands to gain potentially billions of dollars from positive press of its portfolio companies invest in a money losing business like Pando? Especially if Pando can't continue operations with out more funding?

Do you ever wonder why companies you can't buy anything from advertise on CNN?

I have no idea whether this is true, but if we're making up conspiracy theories, this seems at least plausible.

What's not obvious to me is your implicit assumption that press from PandoDaily is a positive signal. If it is understood that PD is sponsored by the very VC companies whose portfolio companies are being pumped, isn't it conceivable that the articles in the future could be a negative signal?

That's the nature of risk. Being able to associate negative perceptions around a company isn't exactly worthless either.

Because Sarah Lacy knows VCs, and VCs like investing in the projects of people they know, whether they're a tech blog or a grilled cheese sandwich restaurant (http://blogs.wsj.com/venturecapital/2011/06/01/jonathan-kapl...).

Which does sort of undermine the point she tries so heatedly to make about how women don't need connections to get funded -- a woman with connections can get funding even for something as far outside the standard venture portfolio as a tech blog.

I don't think that I will ever get tired of articles about gender and diversity in tech.

Is it just me, or has there been a recent explosion in the number of east coast "tech journalists" who couldn't code a hello world website who earn paychecks and page views by attacking tech startups with social-justice warrior type articles?

This is what happens to a country with too many worthless bachelor's degrees floating around.

It's not just tech journalism, it's a phenomenon that echoes in Western media.

I'm waiting for an article on how Silicon Valley discriminates against otherkin.

what have you ever done that is worthwhile?

Outrage is a growth industry. Go long on Outrage futures.

[EDIT]: Also, talk about the pot calling the kettle black. This is the NYTimes Board of Directors


Quite the diverse bunch, aren't they? (I'm focusing on the NYTimes, where the original article appeared instead of PandoDaily because PandoDaily is our standard tech industry rag that tacks on three pages of superfluous rubbish onto what someone else wrote first.)


This is a 100% non-issue. As a person of colour, if I started raising a hue and cry every time there was a tech company (or, for that matter, any company) board full of white men/women, people would go bonkers. No one says "there should be X Asian, Y Hispanic, and Z African-American members on the board" because it simply isn't practical to implement without cast-iron Government controls (which are themselves susceptible to favoritism, corruption, etc.)

If this Claire Cain Miller person on the NYTimes doesn't like it so much, maybe she should be in tech instead of spouting vitriol about Silicon Valley during the day and then going to a journalists' cocktail party in the evening where you would get laughed out and never asked again if you talked about apache v/s nginx. Her ilk of pseudo-intellectuals and outrage artists are making reporting into more of a theatre play.

For an example of a (young) woman who is actually making a difference -- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a35XINnYFtA

I don't think it's right that Twitter is being singled-out as the evil chauvinistic company out there, but it is undeniable that positions of power in Silicon Valley are indeed reserved for the privileged white-male, and that's the focus of the NYT article [1], although it does use Twitter as a high-profile example.

Would you deny that Silicon Valley's VC community is not a "old boys’ club" as the article describes? Would you deny that things are not tougher for women, persons of colour such as yourself, or latinos such as myself?

You are right: It is not practical to force companies to distribute opportunities equally among genders / sexual preferences / ethnicities / races and whatnot. However, we cannot also simply ignore the problem in our industry because a solution is not available at first sight.

Also, your own answer shows a bias against the author, dismissing her kind as "pseudo-intellectuals". That's exactly the kind of comment that makes technology such an unfriendly field for diversity in general.

[1] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/05/technology/as-tech-start-u...

> Would you deny that things are not tougher for women, persons of colour such as yourself, or latinos such as myself?

Studies suggest that most people will try really hard not to discriminate against women and blacks. People don't tend to get mad when Latinos are discriminated against (unless they are Latino). Asians / Indians also have to work twice as hard to get any credit.

Some of the problems women and people of color have could be discrimination. But as the article says, not that many women get in on the ground floor.

I think the soft sciences have a bit of an inferiority complex, in a way. They want to be like modern medicine, and find the root problem before they look for a solution. If the symptom is "not enough women in tech", maybe treating the symptom (getting more women into tech, and trying to remove the most immediate obstacles they face) might be more productive than looking for some deeper cause.

Of course, things are probably going to be tougher for people who are not white males, and we should pragmatically try and do something to fix that. My point is that articles such as this do little or nothing to help, and often end up breeding resentment amongst groups of every race and gender.

The journalism industry which writes these articles is often much less diverse and much less welcoming to outsiders than the tech industry that they are constantly criticizing and accusing of chauvinism and sexism. I do have a bias against these authors, because they tend to not have much to showcase in the way of their own forays into making any sort of technology stuff, and restrict themselves to writing about an industry whose fundamentals they probably don't understand.

It sort of sounds from some of your posts that you think that there isn't as much of a problem with sexism in the tech industry as people make it out to be - is that correct?

If you haven't been a woman in the tech industry it may be hard to understand. African American friends have told me things that I was shocked to hear about, and I could barely believe what I was hearing, given that I live in a very big, liberal city, in this day and age. It's very hard to put yourself in another's shoes like that if you haven't had the experience of living it - and moreso if you're a decent person who isn't sexist, racist, etc. and have a very hard time even imagining someone seriously showing that kind of bias.

> "given that I live in a very big, liberal city"

I don't know what city you are referring to, but your post alludes to a good point which is the fact that people normally associate Silicon Valley and San Francisco as liberal, and this is very much a myth. San Francisco in specific is actually a very conservative city: Gays are accepted only in a limited area of the city, the homeless are taken as a tourist attraction, the educational system is biased towards privileged kids (for example: latino kids are excluded and bused around to other areas of the city), there is no modern urban planning such as a decent public transportation plan (BART sucks, MUNI sucks, Caltrain is not connected to BART for example) while areas such as Pacific Heights and Palo Alto love to talk about environmental issues but actively lobby for not allowing BART in their neighborhoods.

Don't take me wrong: SF Bay Area is not a horrible place to live. All I am saying is that this notion that SF is liberal is wrong.

> It sort of sounds from some of your posts that you think that there isn't as much of a problem with sexism in the tech industry as people make it out to be - is that correct?

In a way. I believe that there is low participation of females in the tech industry workforce, but only a small part of it is due to chauvinistic sexism of the kind journalists typically write about in order to get good soundbites. A lot of it (I believe) is due to the low social respect accorded to people in science and technology in this society, the lonely basement-dwelling-male-nerd stereotype, etc.

> It's very hard to put yourself in another's shoes like that if you haven't had the experience of living it

To clarify, I have had people show overt or covert racist attitudes towards me (I'm a person of colour), but I don't believe that the outrage-hungry attitude of the journalist industry is going to do anything to cure them. Something else, like some of the staged experiments on Upworthy that showcase racial bias, or even reverse (anti-male) sexism can help spread awareness about our cultural biases.

I do generally agree that they're making rather a big deal out of it, but I don't think your comparison to racial minorities is a fair one. Women are going to be roughly half of the population, whereas the amount of racial minorities in a given community might be much, much lower.

I guess another way to look at it is a coin toss...arbitrarily assign male to heads, female to tails...at what point does it start getting alarming for a given run that you're not getting any tail flips? When a person has roughly a 50% chance of being either gender, and your board gets big enough, there's definitely something going on. The same even goes with the racial minorities, if the board is huge.

"I guess another way to look at it is a coin toss...arbitrarily assign male to heads, female to tails"

You lost me there. Males and females typically tend to have broadly different interests, life choices, and career goals. So it is nothing like a coin toss.

There is a disproportionately low female participation in the tech industry, and we should personally recognize our biases when recruiting and try and avoid them, because we would like a more diverse workforce.

At the same time, I don't see the nursing industry (90% women) or the teaching sector (80% women) complaining about low male participation.

They're not as different as you may think, the different life choices and career goals may very well be due to stigmatizing women in the fields they were once interested in. So when things like this happen (or more serious cases on larger boards), it's crucial to take into account if this is happening due to a real lack of qualified applicants, or a cultural issue within the organization.

I've noticed myself, as being introduced as the only woman to a formerly completely male team, that it's really important to have a mixed gender workplace. I didn't experience sexism, but there were little things here and there that were no longer acceptable in a mixed gender environment, and they adapted, which was in the end positive for everyone. While having a racially mixed office could also provide these benefits, I think the potential is much less, since societally latent sexism is considered much more acceptable than latent racism, and I'd argue may have more chances to come to light.

I have to point out that your nursing/teaching example is a terrible one, as nurses and teachers aren't considered the "professionals" in their field - that would go to the traditionally male dominated fields of doctors and professors. I can't think of any female dominated industry that doesn't have a higher level male dominated one associated with it.

> I have to point out that your nursing/teaching example is a terrible one, as nurses and teachers aren't considered the "professionals" in their field - that would go to the traditionally male dominated fields of doctors and professors.

I would disagree -- both doctors and nurses are considered every bit as professional as each other (these days nurse practitioners are getting more responsibilities than ever before), and both work in a field where science and technology are widely used.

Are you saying that somehow, all the nurses were told when they were younger, "You can't become a doctor, you have to become a nurse?" Or could it be that they chose the nursing profession because they can work part-time more, and have slightly more defined work hours and less middle-of-the-night calls than doctors?

What were those little things that you talk about?

It's fascinating how, in an article that's ostensibly about Twitter, Sarah Lacy manages to write so many more words about Sarah Lacy than she does about Twitter.

I noticed that as well. A critique turned into self-affirmation. Stuart Smalley would be proud.

I think in the first half she makes her point about Twitter, while the second half is devoted to defending herself from the attacks that will come her way.

Somehow it doesn't surprise me that the Twitter board is a men's club.

If this was merely a chance phenomena, that would be one thing but this is platform that has something of a history of being a mob-enablement tool in a bad way.

That's not to say Twitter hasn't done or couldn't do good. But a company like Twitter or Facebook is doing two things - making a significant amount of money and changing the world "social terrain". It seems reasonable that Twitter should be aware that they're doing this and should send signals showing they considering their impact. Now, the number of women on the board is probably a pretty poor marker by itself of whether a group is aiming to be sensitive. But one's willingness to send even a poor signal is different matter.

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