Monday, November 24, 2014
This summer, Google, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, and other Silicon Valley superpowers released demographic reports on their workforces. The reports confirmed what everyone already knew: tech is a man’s world. Men make up sixty to seventy per cent of employees at these companies, and, notwithstanding rock stars like Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, senior leadership is even more overwhelmingly male. A recent study by the law firm Fenwick & West found that forty-five per cent of tech companies there didn’t have a single female executive. (The picture is also bleak when it comes to ethnic diversity.) The Valley seems to take the problem seriously—Apple’s Tim Cook recently stated his commitment to “advancing diversity”—but there’s a long way to go.
A familiar explanation for tech’s gender disparity is the so-called pipeline problem: the percentage of female computer-science graduates has almost halved since the nineteen-eighties. But this doesn’t fully explain why there are so few women in senior management or on company boards (where skills other than programming matter). Nor can it explain the high rate of attrition among women in tech. A 2008 study found that more than half of women working in the industry ended up leaving the field. The pipeline isn’t just narrow; it’s tapering.
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Well, Ms Rybody, it’s funny that you should ask this for, truly, this has become the biggest fashion question – possibly even the only fashion question – in not just the world, but the entire cosmos. For anyone who might have missed it, last week there was some dinky story about a probe landing on a comet for the first time ever. I know what you’re thinking: “Probe, schmobe, get to the real issue here – what was one of the scientists wearing?!?!?!?” Glad to be of service! The project scientist, Dr Matt Taylor, appeared on TV wearing a shirt patterned with images of semi-clothed women that I assume (not being an expert in either of these fields) reference video games and heavy metal albums. Cue internet rage! Everything that followed was utterly predictable, but not especially edifying. The story went through the five cycles of internet rage: initial amusement; astonishment; outrage; backlash to the outrage; humiliated apology. First, our attention was drawn to the shirt via some sniggering tweets; this was swiftly followed by shock and its usual accompaniment, outrage, with some women suggesting the shirt reflected a sexism at the heart of the science community. As generally happens when a subject takes a feminist turn on the internet, the idiots then turned up, with various lowlifes telling the women who expressed displeasure at the shirt to go kill themselves. (This is not an exaggeration, and there is no need to give these toerags further attention in today’s discussion.)
Just as a simple error on the part of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s driver led to the start of the first world war, so this stupid shirt sparked the beginning of World War Shirt. The scientist knew he had to respond and so, during what I am told by youngsters is called a “Google Hangout”, Dr Smith issued a tearful apology for his shirt. Rumours that the offending shirt, stiff with dried salty tears, has been spotted in Dr Smith’s local charity shop have yet to be confirmed.
Look, I didn’t especially like his shirt, but I also don’t think one can expect much more of a heavily inked dude with a well-established penchant for bad T-shirts. As a cursory search on Google Images (hard research here, people!) proves, this one, while not in the best of taste, was clearly part of that tendency. Yes, it’s an embarrassing shirt and yes, it was a stupid shirt to wear on international TV. But the man is – classic batty scientist cliche – so absentminded that, according to his sister, he regularly loses his car in car parks. So if Taylor committed any crime, it was a crime of bad taste and stupidity rather than burn-him-at-the-stake sexism.
And, well said conclusion:
I totally understand why some women were offended by Taylor’s shirt, and I especially understand the frustration felt by female scientists who feel marginalised enough in their profession without high-profile men wearing shirts featuring half-naked women. But I can’t help but feel that outrage would be better spent on complaining about how few women were present in the control room for the probe landing. There are so many signifiers of sexism in the world and – I believe (again, not an expert in this field) – the science world that to attack a man for his shirt feels a little bit like fussing at a leaky tap when the whole house is under a tidal wave. Some people online have suggested that Taylor’s shirt proves he is a misogynist, or that he sees women purely as sex objects, or that he revels in marginalising them. Personally, if I saw a male colleague wearing that shirt, my reaction would be amazement that a grown man has the fashion taste of a 13-year-old. There is a difference – and I concede, the difference may be fuzzy in some cases – between enjoying the weird fantasy-world depiction of women, and seeing actual women as sex objects. Taylor has the right to wear whatever pig-ugly shirt he likes, and people have the right to be outraged by it. But when that outrage leads to a grown man weeping on TV, perhaps we all need to ask if this outrage is proportionate. My God, I’m a fashion bitch and even I don’t want to make anyone cry over my comments about their clothes.
Wednesday, October 29, 2014
The diverse and robust pool of female founders and tech execs at Fortune’s 40 under 40 party proves positive for Silicon Valley’s future. Editing Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list is, every year, an education in ambition, disruption and extraordinary achievement. The process takes months of reporting, lots of debate and discussion and a healthy amount of handwringing as our deadline looms.
And then comes the fun. Every year, we hold a giant party for the 40 Under 40 and a few hundred other movers and shakers in the San Francisco area. This is always my favorite part of the process. Because our listers? They show up. This year, we had a record number join us, traveling from as far as India (Rahul Sharma, CEO of Micromax) and as close as upstairs (Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, which hosted us in the lobby of the company’s headquarters in San Francisco’s SoMa district).
There were lots of local, Bay Area-based names, including Lyndon Rive, cofounder of SolarCity SCTY 3.82% , Josh Tetrick of plant-based food engineer Hampton Creek, Tristan Walker of Walker & Co/Bevel, Kabam’s Kevin Chou, Mason Morfit, president of ValueAct Capital (and youngest person on Microsoft’s board MSFT 1.26% ). Many more traveled to be there: SBE Entertainment Group’s Sam Nazarian, from Las Vegas; Nate Morris of waste-management disruptor Rubicon Global, in from Kentucky; Anthony Watson, CIO of Nike NKE 0.88% , who flew in from Beaverton, Ore; and President Obama’s deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes, who was able to break away from his boss for a quick trip west. There was, of course, a healthy crew from New York, including VaynerMedia CEO Gary Vaynerchuk, NYSE president Tom Farley, Highbridge Principal Strategies’ Mike Patterson and Blackstone’s Peter Wallace.
Friday, September 12, 2014
Carissima Mathen at Ottawa Law has uploaded "Crowdsourcing Sexual Objectification" on SSRN. The abstract reads:
This paper analyzes the criminal offence of the non-consensual distribution of intimate images (frequently called “revenge porn”). Focussing on the debate currently underway in Canada surrounding Bill C-13 (Protecting Canadians from Online Crime Act), it notes that such an offence would fill a grey area in that country’s criminal law. Arguing, more broadly, that the criminal law has an important expressive function, the paper posits that the offence targets the same general type of wrongdoing — sexual objectification — that undergirds sexual assault. While not all objectification merits criminal sanction, the paper explains why the non-consensual distribution of intimate images does, and why a specific offence is legitimate.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
Last month, Michelle Miers was shot and stabbed at her home by an attacker. Still breathing but in need of urgent medical care, she picked up her cellphone and dialed 9-1-1. Like most Americans, Miers probably presumed that calling 9-1-1 guaranteed help was on the way. For the 26-year-old mother of two, however, help would come too late—not because Miers was too far away, or because her wounds were already too severe, but because police and paramedics couldn’t figure out where she was.
Miers is one of more than an estimated 10,000 Americans who will die this year because wireless companies don’t transmit precise enough location data to 9-1-1 operators, leaving police unable to locate victims. In Miers’ case, responders were left scrambling door-to-door for 20 minutes before they spotted the apartment building with broken glass in the entryway where Miers lay covered in blood.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
From Ms., Writing Her In: Wikipedia as Feminist Activism. An easy, and immediate way to change and correct history. Just do it.
I’m tired of looking for important female artists on Wikipedia and finding no information, while second-rate male artists have pages and pages written about them.
The Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon was dedicated to changing this.During the edit-a-thon, Lesperance wrote a Wikipedia entry for Christina Ramberg. “There is no good reason why she wasn’t already on there,” Lesperance told me. “All of her male colleagues of the Chicago Imagists were represented on Wikipedia, and I’m finding this [omission] is typical.”
Omissions like this can be easily corrected. Lesperance said she felt an “air of empowerment at the ease with which an addition to that archive—which receives so much readership—takes place.”