Fortune Brainstorm TECH is an annual retreat that provides a chance for the leaders of Fortune 500 companies, emerging entrepreneurs, and the investors who finance these companies to come together and talk about the new ideas and trends that they are seeing. According to their website, “attending Brainstorm TECH can make the difference between finding a competitive edge or being disrupted into oblivion. At a time when every company is fast becoming a tech company, you won’t want to miss Brainstorm TECH.”
At one of the town halls on diversity and inclusion, Jonathan Sposato, Chairman of PicMonkey and an angel investor, had an interesting theory about a factor that he believes is contributing to tech’s gender problem. He claims the issue of gender inequality in the tech industry is due to the fact that “women don’t always support each other.”
Sposato prefaced his question and answer by saying that he realizes that he might make some of the people in the room uncomfortable – or angry – by saying that, “There’s one fundamental difference when we compare what’s happening now to the civil rights movement or more recently to the LGBT same-sex marriage movement, and that is – and this is a thing that is gonna potentially make some of the people in the room a little uncomfortable, but we’re all friends. I’m gonna go there and we can debate because this is a town hall – And that is this thing that I’ve heard from so many successful women. Women who are CEOs, women who are founders, women who are venture capitalists and that is this aspect that women don’t always support each other, okay.”
He continues saying, “So that’s difference. In civil rights, blacks coalesced. African Americans, they hung together. They would look at who’s getting this job, let’s go after that. LGBT Movement, same thing. But there’s something going on.”
Sposato continued talking about this phenomenon he believes is the problem until he was interrupted in order to let some other people speak and call bulls*** on his theory. This is exactly what Christa Quarles, CEO of OpenTable, said when she took the mic.
Quarles took a moment to calm herself before she continued to point out flaws in Sposato’s argument. Not only did she take the opportunity to call bull, she also explained why this man’s theory is completely wrong. She said, “In Silicon Valley today there is a sisterhood of women who are supporting each other, telling each other about board opportunities, giving each other business ideas. There’s a sisterhood.”
She explained that she is a Generation X baby who has seen the support system that women have built, and that she firmly believes this support has only grown in the years that she has been in business.
Quarles continues saying, “What you see from the millennial population is the most exciting of all. I’m seeing these young women come up, rise up. Part of the tide stems from women like Niniane Wang, a tech CEO, who are courageous enough to go on record about their experiences with sexual harassment in Silicon Valley. Such public disclosures put the industry ‘on notice.’ I’ve worked in Wall Street for 20 years – talk about sexual harassment. You name it, it has happened to me. It has to stop.”
Not only did she refuse to let people see Sposato’s theory as an excuse, she refused to let women be blamed for the gender inequality problem that we are still seeing in the workplace.
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