Twitter CEO Feuds Over Claims of Sexism

men and womenIn the U.S., the discussion on sexism in the professional world is fraught with a variety of opinions. While some view feminism as no longer necessary due to the rise of women in both higher education and many professional fields, others note that despite the growing influx of women into the workforce, there is still a glass ceiling that prevents women from rising to the top positions across industries. When it comes to CEOs and board members at high profile tech companies, women are few and far between. A recent dispute between the CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, and Stanford Professor Vivek Wadhwa has sparked a surge in discussion on this issue.

The Twitter Fight

After recently filing for its IPO, Twitter has come under scrutiny for its lack of women in leadership positions. The company has no female board members or investors, and it only has one woman on its team of top executives. Most notable was a Twitter exchange that began with a shot fired from Vivek Wadhwa, a professor at Stanford University. Wadhwa stated, “The fact that they went to the IPO without a single woman on the board, how dare they?”

Possibly against his better judgment, CEO Dick Costolo chose to respond by making light of the issue and insulting Wadhwa, calling him “the Carrot Top of academic sources.” Other users were quick to criticize Costolo, who defended himself by stating that he took issue with Wadhwa’s specific comment, not the critique itself. Unfortunately, Costolo continued to fight with other angry Twitter users.

The Bigger Picture

Of course, these claims of Twitter’s sexism are not an isolated incident. Women are woefully underrepresented in the tech world, particularly when it comes to leadership positions. NBC notes that while Google is the leader in terms of female board members, they still only have three. Top female executives in Silicon Valley include Marissa Mayer of Yahoo, Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook, and Meg Whitman of HP; but again, these women are few and far between.

Furthermore, in terms of the thirteen companies in Silicon Valley that have gone the IPO route this year, eight did not have any board members who were female. Four companies had one female board member, and one, OncoMed Pharmaceuticals, led the pack with two. Many argue that women in the tech field are scarce, but this scarcity still does not account for the massive absence of women in leadership positions.

In a Huffington Post article, Penny Hersher, President and CEO of FirstRain, explores the benefits of this discourse on women in the tech industry. While it would certainly be better if Twitter simply had female board members in the first place, she notes, “Twitter’s IPO gives us another chance to look at the statistics, take a deep breath, and once again set out to change them.”

How has your business worked to increase diversity in its leadership positions?

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Elizabeth K

Elizabeth Kent is a recent graduate with an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University. She earned her B.A. from Smith College with a major in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in Jewish Studies. Elizabeth recently relocated from the Boston area back to Western Massachusetts, where she spends her free time volunteering with a local non-profit organization. Elizabeth has worked as a writing tutor, archival intern, research assistant, and retail associate. Her interests include studying pop culture, kittens, and making meals with as little cooking as possible.

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