Men invented the Internet and the Earth is flat
And to think, I believed Beyoncé when she sang, “who run the world? girls!”
But alas, the opening lines of New York Times article, Lawsuit Shakes Foundation of a Man’s World of Tech, reads:
MEN invented the Internet. And not just any men. Men with pocket protectors. Men who idolized Mr. Spock and cried when Steve Jobs died. Nerds. Geeks. Give them their due. Without men, we would never know what our friends were doing five minutes ago.
Hmmm. I’m sure there must have been a woman thrown in there somewhere, right? You know, as Steve and Bill clinked glasses and smoked cigars, as Mark bathed in dollar bills at night…surely there was a secret bunker somewhere full of X chromosomes coding by day, and needle-pointing by night.
The article’s “bold” opening leads way to the debate that has sprung up surrounding Ellen Pao, a junior partner in her early 40s at venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and the sexual discrimination lawsuit against the company and her colleagues. The complaint has Silicon Valley in a bit of a pickle.
Instead of talking about the New New Thing, people are discussing an old, old problem. And they are taking sides.
But is Pao’s lawsuit exposing an uncomfortable truth about Silicon Valley: starting tech companies in 2012 is still a male game, and so is funding them? It may seem very cliché and heard in many industries, not just technology, but what I find interesting is that the firm Pao works for is one of the few exceptions to VC’s disinterest in hiring women; one quarter of its 50 partners are female.
That fact fits awkwardly with the lawsuit’s claim that one male executive told Pao women would never succeed at Kleiner “because women are quiet” and another male is quoted saying women were not being invited to a big-deal dinner because they would “kill the buzz.”
You know what also “kills the buzz”? A lawsuit.
Now, without cold hard facts behind the complaint as of yet, I’ll keep my pointing finger in my pocket. And trust me, if you read the entire article, the accusations and information starts to read more like a Nancy Grace special than a simple lawsuit in the valley, but regardless (and not to get all Norma Rae about it), it brings to light the fact that they’re still using glass to build those ceilings. The article continues to point out:
Claire Mazur, a founder of Of a Kind, an e-commerce start-up based in New York. Ms. Mazur said she never had a problem getting meetings with venture capitalists. “But it’s definitely harder to talk to male investors who don’t have as much experience with retail and fashion,” she said. “That kind of personal connection can be key to getting funding.”
Or, as another e-commerce entrepreneur put it, “You’re trying to explain to a man why shopping is fun.”
Speaking only on the condition of anonymity — you never can tell whom you’re going to be asking for money — some entrepreneurs are more despairing.
One woman said she interviewed at a top venture firm in 2000 after coming out of business school. “I was told point-blank that they once had a woman and it didn’t work out,” she said. “That was 12 years ago and they haven’t had a single woman partner since.”
Here’s hoping this isn’t a retro trend coming back into style.