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TWITTER IPO: Where are the Women?
Friday, Oct. 11, 2013
After the release of its IPO filing, Twitter has come under heavy scrutiny for the lack of women amongst its board, investors, and executive team — save for Vijaya Gadde, General Counsel, who was appointed 5 weeks ago. High tech has long been criticized for having a gender imbalance, with only 5.7% of employed women in the US working in the computer industry; but in the wake of Sheryl Sandberg’s top seller, “Lean In,” the issue is front and center in the public consciousness. Critics of Twitter claim that the lack of gender diversity is among the many symptoms of Silicon Valley’s chauvinistic and male-dominated culture. Those close with Twitter’s CEO, Dick Costolo, report that finding a woman board member has been a priority, but has been a difficult process. Is Twitter in the wrong for going to IPO without a diverse leadership team? If so, should the public hold them accountable?
Kirk: The scarcity of women is a clear sign of the power of corporate cultures, and no doubt, Silicon Valley’s culture is one characterized by male dominance. No entrepreneur or venture capitalist would say that they hold a bias toward women, but it’s inevitable that unconscious biases develop in cases like this. Startups are hesitant to promote women because they don’t fit the traditional mold of Silicon Valley leadership, leading to even fewer women in these positions. It’s a vicious cycle. The only way this is going to get solved is by a dedicated effort by Silicon Valley firms to address this culture issue, and a steady stream of public pressure to keep them honest.
Patrick: To start, if Twitter went out 5 weeks ago to get a female in a leadership position (which they did), that’d be just as bad as not having any women at all. Yes, firms need to make an effort to get women in positions of power, but that doesn’t mean that hiring women should be a PR move or something done out of political correctness. It takes a sustained effort to make a sincere attempt at inclusiveness, better yet, remove arbitrary exclusion. This situation does not have a quick fix. Twitter made their bed a long time ago, now it’s time to lie in it.
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