Why Twitter is a male chauvinist’s dream company

Wed, 10/09/2013 - 4:57pm
Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor

Twitter is in big trouble.

The company, which recently began preparing to go public, came under fire for its all-male board and lack of female executives within the company.

All of this was pointed out in a NYT’s piece by Clair Cain Miller where Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford Rock Center for Corporate Governance, noted, “This is the elite arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia, the Twitter mafia. It’s the same male chauvinistic thinking. The fact that they went to the I.P.O. without a single woman on the board, how dare they?”

In case you were wondering about Twitter’s response, the CEO Dick Costolo, took to—you guessed it—Twitter to say, “Vivek Wadhwa is the Carrot Top of academic sources.” Obviously, Twitter is taking this criticism in a mature and thoughtful way.

Not only is the entire board all white men, all the investors are men and the executive officers are all men except for Vijaya Gadde, general consul, who has been on board for all of five weeks.

Putting aside any feminist equality agenda, the makeup of the company is not even close to reflecting the demographic that consumes the product.  By not having anyone but white males represented, the company is showcasing a lack of perspective of anyone but white—I’m going to take a guess and say wealthy—men. Diversity in business has been shown to increase profit and since Twitter has revealed they’re not doing so well, it could be the kick in the pants needed to introduce someone with a different attitude.  Plus, if men and women use Twitter in equal amounts, why isn’t everyone represented?

It could be because of the male-dominated “geek” culture that Silicon Valley is so famous for or it could be because only men applied for the jobs (I somehow doubt that.) Either way, any woman who does manage to claw her way into a job at Twitter can expect to be treated to nonsense like this: 

This is a poster—presumably for a happy hour—featuring a scantily-clad waitress beckoning “Hey Engineer!” that was posted in the women’s room at Twitter HQ. The image was tweeted by Twitter Engineering Manager Jill Wetzler. It might as well say, "Are you an engineer? Then this ridiculous depiction of a woman must be able to lure you into doing things!" [On the flip side, it also implies that men who work at the company can be swayed by the, ahem, assets of a cartoon, which is an insult to men.]

I’m not sure what it was doing in a women’s bathroom when it’s clearly aimed at a straight, male audience, but I digress.  It’s sexist and it doesn’t belong anywhere, let alone at the workplace.  It does however, highlight an issue that has plagued Silicon Valley since its inception: a culture that refuses to stop over-sexualizing and objectifying women. It's easy to understand why more women aren't interviewing for jobs, which coincidentally is the reason Twitter is using to explain away a serious lack of women.

Let me tell you what this whole issue is not about. It’s not about picking women to be on the board of a tech company just to say you have women on the board. That’s not doing anyone any favors. It’s about fostering an environment in which all types of people feel comfortable. These companies need to start working on getting rid of their frat-boy, no-girls-allowed images and expanding searches. If you think culture isn’t a problem, check out the Anita Borg Institute’s recent report, which found that the rate of women leaving the field (56 percent) was double that of men leaving and one of the three big reasons cited was culture. 

 This doesn’t mean just giving lip service to the issue. To their credit, Twitter does support the initiative Girls Who Code. Still, less than half of its engineers are women. This is obviously a bigger issue, but as a titan of the industry, Twitter could (and to their credit says they are attempting) to fix the problem.



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