This has not been a great week for John Greathouse. ICYMI, the Santa Barbara-based VC penned Why Women in Tech Might Consider Just Using Their Initials Online for the WSJ and ran smack into the social media equivalent of an angry lynch mob.
I’m sure he meant well, but suggesting that women hide their gender to avoid bias is one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. It’s right up there with James Altucher’s perennial 10 Reasons You Have to Quit Your Job.
Of course, Greathouse was immediately labelled sexist by all the usual suspects.
T.C. Sottek of The Verge (hmm … wonder if he/she actually took Greathouse’s advice) called the piece “a monument to Silicon Valley’s sexism.” Sort of funny since, the last time I checked, Santa Barbara was in SoCal – a good 300 miles south of Silicon Valley. Details.
Pando’s Sarah Lacy – defender of womankind against the great tech brohole conspiracy – did not stop there, calling his article “overtly sexist, racist, xenophobic, and anti-semetic.” I hear she’s been seen around town with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (sorry, inside joke).
And the twitterverse immediately exploded with characteristic witticism:
Hey, women in tech, instead of using only initials, have you tried, you know, not being female?
— Jan Schaumann (@jschauma) September 29, 2016
— Anne Hjortshoj (@annesaurus) September 28, 2016
The following day, Greathouse did what everyone does these days: got down on his knees and begged forgiveness, posting this on Twitter:
“I apologize for the dreadful article I wrote in the WSJ. I told women to endure the gender bias problem rather than acting to fix the problem. I hurt women and utterly failed to help, which I wholly regret and I apologize for having done. Women have a tough enough time having their voices heard and my insensitive comments only made matters worse. I am truly sorry. – John”
My two cents:
I don’t know if systemic or subconscious gender bias is prevalent or not. I’m not even going to go there. All I know is, every time some dude decides to try to help women, he ends up getting his cajones handed to him. We all make mistakes. An error in judgement should not necessitate a groveling apology to half the human race. Sort of pathetic, if you ask me.
Look. If you’re going to publish what’s on your mind for all the world to see, you’ve got to have thick skin. You’ve got to have the courage of conviction to stick with it and not go walking it back at the first sign of backlash. Greathouse wrote a well thought out piece. The only dumb part was the advice.
Maybe the takeaway is we shouldn’t be giving so much unsolicited advice. It certainly doesn’t appear to be Greathouse’s strong suit. Maybe we should just let people figure things out for themselves, the way we used to. Just a thought.
In case you’re wondering, this is what he was trying to get across:
“My point is that many people in the business community are intellectually dishonest. They say that they believe in diversity of thought, but their pattern matching habits cause them to prematurely narrow their aperture before giving certain entrepreneurs a chance to prove themselves.”
Even so, those are probably not the kind of people you want to do business with anyway. It all works out in the end.
Image credit Chan-_-Chan via Flickr