TIME Media

Jill Abramson Insists on Calling Herself ‘Fired’

WIRED Business Conference: Think Bigger
Executive Editor of The New York Times Jill Abramson attends the WIRED Business Conference: Think Bigger at Museum of Jewish Heritage on May 7, 2013 in New York City. Brad Barket—Getty Images

"That's what happened to me, and I've devoted my whole career to truth-telling, so why hide that?"

Jill Abramson insisted Greta Van Susteren call her “fired New York Times editor” in her first television interview Wednesday since her contentious departure from the newspaper in May.

“That’s what happened to me, and I’ve devoted my whole career to truth-telling, so why hide that?” Abramson said on Fox News’s On the Record. “And there are an awful lot of people in this country who, like me, have been fired from their jobs.”

Abramson didn’t assign any specific blame for her firing, but did allude to the whispers that her firing was more about her personal demeanor than professional accomplishments. “It was said because my management style. I was a hard-charging editor, and there were some people who worked for me that didn’t like that style,” she said. “Women in leadership roles are scrutinized constantly and sometimes differently than men…there are certain code words: ‘strident,’ ‘too tough.’”

But she doesn’t think it was only about gender. “Plenty of guys get fired,” she said.

Abramson also observed that “it’s mighty strange going from one day being an editor of stories to being the story, but I think actually it’s healthy for journalists to know what it feels like on the opposite end of the probing and questioning.”

 

TIME Japan

Is Shinzo Abe’s Notion of ‘Womenomics’ Just a Pipe Dream in Sexist Japan?

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves a news conference at his official residence in Tokyo on June 24, 2014. Abe has unveiled a package of measures aimed to boost Japan's long-term economic growth, from phased-in corporate tax cuts to a bigger role for women and foreign workers Yuya Shino—Reuters

As the Japanese Prime Minister's government pushes economic reform, it faces a major challenge: uprooting a male-centric business culture

On a recent state visit to Australia, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke of his plans to lift Japan from its economic doldrums and of the role women will play in that rejuvenation.

“Women have the greatest potential,” he told the business publication Nikkei, “and allowing them to demonstrate their full abilities is the core of our growth strategy.”

It wasn’t the first time Abe invoked gender equality in his developmental rhetoric. In September last year, he wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, in which he extolled the virtues of “womenomics”: “A country that hires and promotes more women grows economically.” Soon after the piece ran, Abe declared to the U.N. General Assembly his intention to “create a society in which women shine.”

The Abe government’s intent to rectify Japan’s gender imbalance is a key component in what has been dubbed Abenomics, a series of initiatives to prop up growth in the country. The first two “arrows” of the program have garnered praise among market watchers, who attribute low unemployment levels and a favorable exchange rate to aggressive fiscal stimulus and monetary easing. The third arrow, however, which aims at structural reforms to bolster Japan’s competitiveness, centers on the much more difficult task of overhauling a largely male-centric business culture.

“I used to be one of those people who would roll their eye at cries of sexism, and feminists terrified me,” says Mona Nomura, a Japanese woman raised in the U.S. “But moving to Japan has changed all of that.” Nomura, who works for an e-commerce company, says she has had an executive walk out of a meeting with her at the office, unhappy with her questions. She’s also been told to “go back to the U.S.,” where independent women are more welcome, by Japanese male acquaintances.

The numbers certainly paint a picture of a system less than inviting to women. On average, female workers earn 30.2% less than their male counterparts, and, according to 2012 data from the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, women only occupied 11% of managerial positions in the private sector.

It’s a similar scenario of inequality in politics. Government estimates in 2011 noted that women took up just 0.8% of town and village mayorships throughout the country. Female legislators only made up 8% of Japan’s lower house of parliament and 16% of the upper house.

A public outburst at the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly in June showcased just that sort of male-dominated brand of politics. Akihiro Suzuki, an assemblyman who has since resigned from Abe’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party but not his post, shouted at female lawmaker Ayaka Shiomura to “get married as soon as possible.” Another colleague heckled, “Can’t you even bear a child?” as Shiomura delivered a speech advocating more government support for pregnant women and young mothers.

Oyaji cannot be changed,” says Kotoyo Obikawa, an office worker in Tokyo, using the Japanese word for middle-aged man. “Teach gender equality to schoolkids.” She says sexism at her place of work remains rife — she has been asked as a project manager to do secretarial work and is obliged to pour drinks for men at parties. “Sexism is deeply rooted in Japanese culture,” she adds. “A lot of people unconsciously discriminate against women.”

But if the principles of womenomics are anything to go by, Japan’s future largely depends on its ability to uproot that status quo. Kathy Matsui, co-head of Asia investment Research at Goldman Sachs and longtime champion of womenomics, wrote last year that Japan could raise its GDP by as much as 14% if female participation in the workforce expanded to 80%. In an earlier report, Matsui and her colleagues noted an added benefit to bridging the gender gap: “Contrary to popular opinion, higher female employment could actually help raise, not lower, fertility rates.” That would help insulate Japan from the impending economic challenges posed by its aging population.

With that in mind, Abe has set targets, albeit some optimistic ones in the eyes of critics. He declared the goal of boosting female workforce participation from 68% to 73% by 2020 and challenged Japanese corporations to have women in 30% of top managerial positions, also by the end of the decade. As if to lead by example, Abe set the same 30% target for supervisory roles in the civil service, but his government has thus far only achieved a 3% rate. It remains to be seen how exactly his government plans to meet its lofty ideals.

Michael Woodford, the former CEO of Japanese optics company Olympus, says the recognition of the need for reform is “a positive sign of meaningful change in Japan.” He adds, however, that “it’s going to be a long and arduous journey to alter the entrenched behaviors of what I found to be an incredibly chauvinistic corporate world.”

Japan’s Minister of State for Gender Equality, Masako Mori, cited myriad challenges that need to be taken on in the reform process, among them better child-care support and more opportunities for female advancement in the workplace. “I’ve cursed the world around me as I’ve worked,” she said in an interview with Bloomberg. “It’s just so hard for women to work in this country.”

For the likes of Nomura, who are deep in the as yet inadequate bureaucracy, the hope lies in the waiting. “As everything else in Japan goes,” she says, “it will take a very, very, very long time.”

Correction: The original version of this story misspelled the first name of Japan’s Minister of State for Gender Equality, Masako Mori.

TIME Education

Title lX: How a Good Law Went Terribly Wrong

The landmark legislation was supposed to bring equality, instead it devastated mens' sports on campus

A weary wrestling coach once lamented that his sport had survived the Fall of Rome, only to be vanquished by Title IX. How did an honorable equity law turn into a scorched-earth campaign against men’s sports? This week is the 42nd anniversary of this famous piece of federal legislation so it’s an ideal time to consider what went wrong and how to set it right.

Title IX was signed into law by President Nixon on June 23, 1972. In 37 momentous words, it outlawed gender discrimination in all publicly supported educational programs. Before its passage, many leading universities did not accept women and law schools and medical schools often used quotas to limit female enrollment. As for sports, female student athletes were rare — and received precious little support from college athletic programs. The logic behind Title IX is the same as that behind all great civil rights legislation: In our democracy, the government may not play favorites among races or religions or between the sexes. We are all equal before the law — including students in colleges and universities receiving public funds.

Title IX applies to all areas of education but is best known for its influence on sports. Women’s athletics have flourished in recent decades, and Title IX deserves some of the cheers. But something went wrong in the law’s implementation. The original law was about equality of opportunity and indeed forbade quotas or reverse discrimination schemes. But over the years, government officials, college administrators and jurists — spurred on by groups like the National Women’s Law Center and the Women’s Sports Foundation — transformed a fair-minded equity law into just such a quota-driven regime, with destructive results.

Women’s groups strongly object to the “q” word. “Title IX does not in any way require quotas,” says the National Women’s Law Center. “It simply requires that schools allocate participation opportunities non-discriminatorily.” That can mean many things, but in the hands of bureaucrats and advocates, this diffuse requirement somehow came to mean that women are entitled to “statistical proportionality.” That is to say, if a college’s student body is 60% female, then 60% of the athletes should be female — even if far fewer women than men are interested in playing sports at that college.

Title IX defenders will tell you that there are several ways that schools can satisfy the non-discrimination standard other than proportional representation. That is true on paper but false in practice. The regulations are murky and ever-changing, leaving most schools to scramble to the only safe harbor: Proportionality.

Schools have cut back on male teams and created new women’s teams, not because of demand but because they fear federal investigations. Since football is a money-generating male sport with large rosters, Title IX quotas have all but decimated smaller less lucrative sports such as men’s swimming, diving, gymnastics and wrestling. More than 450 wrestling teams vanished since 1972, with only 328 remaining.

Then why not say that men’s sports were a casualty of football rather than Title IX? Because women’s groups have consistently rejected reasonable solutions to the football challenge. College football is qualitatively different from sports like diving, rowing and tennis. It is a mass spectacle, loved by millions of students, and integral to the identity and history of colleges and universities everywhere. It requires a large number of players and has no female counterpart. So why not just take it out of the Title IX mix? That one concession would have saved hundreds of small male teams. But no such concession was offered. Football is not destroying men’s teams; intransigent women’s groups and their “proportionality gap” bear most of the blame.

Look what happened at Howard University in Washington, D.C.: The school’s student body is 67% female, but women constitute only 43% of its athletic program. In 2007, the Women’s Sports Foundation, a powerful Title IX advocacy group, gave Howard an “F” grade because of its 24% “proportionality gap.” Howard had already cut men’s wrestling and baseball and added women’s bowling, but that did little to narrow the gap. Unless it cuts almost half of its current male athletes, Howard will remain under a Title IX cloud and legally vulnerable. The school’s former wrestling coach, Wade Hughes, summed up the problem this way: “The impact of Title IX’s proportionality standard has been disastrous because … far more males than females are seeking to take part in athletics.”

But the Women’s Sports Foundation disagrees. Girls are every bit as interested in sports as boys. According to its Title IX Myths and Facts, “Given equal athletic opportunities, women will rush to fill them; the remaining discrepancies in sports participation rates are the result of continuing discrimination in access to those opportunities.” And many well-meaning judges and government officials have agreed with them.

But there’s overwhelming evidence that women, taken as a group, are less interested than men in competitive sports. In 2012, a group of psychologists analyzed men’s and women’s propensities by looking at how many of them pursue team sports in their leisure time. Intramural sports are recreational games that college students can play just for the love of the sport. The researchers found that only 26% of intramural participants are women. They also studied recreational activity in 41 public parks in four different states. Lots of women were exercising, but only 10% of those playing competitive team sports were women. A 2013 ESPN report on youth sports found that 34% of girls in grades 3-12 say sports is a big part of who they are; for boys the figure is 61%.

No matter how much the Title IX activists and government officials want to pretend otherwise, the sexes are different. Overall, women care far less about athletics, both as participants and spectators. Sports Illustrated for Women, first published in 2000, was marketed to females between the ages of 18 and 34 with a “passion for sports.” The magazine lasted less than two years. The Women’s United Soccer Association and the American Basketball League were supposed to appeal to this same passionate demographic: Both folded after a few seasons. There is no call for magazines such as Vogue, Allure and Cosmopolitan, or websites like Jezebel, to include stories about draft picks, photographs of awesome plays and up-to-date information about fantasy teams and brackets.

Meanwhile, men by the legion (and a small percentage of women) support a vast network of sports magazines, websites, radio shows and fantasy teams. More than half of young men are sports-obsessives, and many would give their right arm to play competitive sports in high school or college — or even to sit on a bench all season with only a remote chance of playing.

“Build it and they will come,” says the National Women’s Law Center. But they don’t come. At least not many. So colleges are going to absurd lengths to achieve gender balance. It is not an easy task when women now far outnumber men on many campuses—thereby raising the proportionality hurdle—yet far fewer of them aspire to play varsity sports. Many schools solve the problem by axing men’s teams or limiting their rosters. Padding the women’s numbers is another common maneuver. As a 2011 story in The New York Times reported, nearly half of the fencers on Cornell’s women’s fencing team were men. Because of some loophole, male practice players counted as women. And, according to the Times, players don’t actually have to play to be counted as members, so at many schools dozens of girls are technically on teams — but never play. Some —like several women that were on the University of South Florida’s cross-country roster — didn’t even know they were listed.

Title-niners treat women’s underrepresentation in sports as an injustice that must be aggressively targeted. But areas where men fall behind raise little concern. They cannot have it both ways. If Howard University’s 24%sports gap (favoring males) warrants federal intervention, then its far more serious 34% attendance gap (favoring females) should warrant a Congressional investigation.

Instead of more investigations, restrictions, closed opportunities, bean counting, number fudging and gender politics, we should follow the advice of the novelist (and former wrestler) John Irving: “Keep Title IX: eliminate proportionality.” I know of no better way to celebrate this intrinsically good law on its 42nd anniversary.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author of several books including The War Against Boys and hosts a weekly video blog The Factual Feminist . Follow her @CHSommers

TIME sexism

Japan Politician Sorry for Heckling Female Colleague

Akihiro Suzuki, a member of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, bows to Ayaka Shiomura, a fellow assembly member, to apologize for his sexist jeer during a recent event, at Tokyo city hall on June 23, 2014.
Akihiro Suzuki, a member of the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, bows to Ayaka Shiomura, a fellow assembly member, to apologize for his sexist jeer during a recent event, at Tokyo city hall on June 23, 2014. Jiji Press—AFP/Getty Images

Shouted at female assembly member to "get married"

A Japanese politician apologized Monday after he shouted sexist remarks at a fellow assembly member during her speech last week about increased public support for pregnant women.

Akihiro Suzuki, a member of the ruling LDP party, admitted he taunted fellow assembly member Ayaka Shiomura, from the minority Your party, during her speech, CNN reports. He apologized for shouting out “You should get married” while Shiomura was speaking, but denies making a second comment, “Can’t you even bear a child?” A video of the incident shows Shiomura reduced to tears by the comments, but she finishes her speech anyway. She was advocating for more public support for pregnant women in the Tokyo assembly on June 18.

Shiomura accepted Suzuki’s apology, but said she knew there were others who heckled her who have not yet apologized. The apology comes after LPD party leader Shigeru Ishiba denounced the incident on a June 21 TV program and called for the perpetrators to come forward.

The incident is especially embarrassing considering that the heckles were coming from members of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s LDP party, since Abe has himself been vocal about making Japan a better place for working women. The Prime Minister wrote in the Wall Street Journal last year that he wants to boost women’s participation in the workforce to 73% by 2020, and close the wage gap (Japanese women make 30% less than men).

TIME sexism

Sexism Around the World Told One Tweet at a Time

Woman wearing a mini skirt
Getty Images

The Everyday Sexism Project collects stories of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, both minor and worse. Here are some of the submissions curated by founder Laura Bates

It’s summer. I know this, not just because of the changing of the clocks, the markings in my calendar, or the appearance of blossoms, but because of the entries on the Everyday Sexism Project, my website that collects people’s daily experience with gender imbalance.

The first year it happened, I couldn’t understand the sudden, almost overnight surge in activity and tweets to the project. But when you look more closely at the entries coming in, things quickly become clear. It’s a common phenomenon — what woman hasn’t experienced some form of sexual harassment? — but that doesn’t make it any less disheartening.

I started my website in April 2012 to show how overwhelmingly common incidents of sexism, sexual harassment and assault still are, in spite of the common argument that ‘women are equal now’ and sexism no longer exists. The 60,000 entries that have since flooded in from women all over the world quickly proved how pervasive and severe the problem still is.

What does the change in season mean to you? Many might say a breath of fresh air, walks in the park or even daffodils nodding in the breeze. But for women all over the world, the joys of the season are tempered by wearying frustration as catcalls, harassment and blaring horns go hand-in-hand with the opportunity to spend more time outdoors.

“Two complete strangers to me at lunchtime today: ‘don’t pull your skirt down love, it’s a sunny day, show us your arse’.”

“Walking along a busy road with two female friends, a young man came up and told us to ‘Smile! It’s sunny’”

“Attempted to sit outside this sunny lunch break but got harassed twice in 10 min so I’m spending it indoors at my desk”.

“Walking along the road with my friend on a sunny day, when a man comes towards us leering. As he passes by, he leans in and shouts; ‘Alright ladies, nice day to get naked and be [expletive] the arse isn’t it?’”

“Walking through busy public park at lunchtime. A man on a bike cycles past and says; ‘suck my d**k?’”

It’s a pattern so recognizable, so familiar, that it can be traced across countries and continents, as the nineteen international branches of Everyday Sexism demonstrate.

And it’s happening everywhere.

In the Netherlands:

“I went to the supermarket on a ordinary sunny afternoon, wearing simple clothing. I walked home with a heavy bag and I passed a building. And suddenly I heard behind me ‘zooooo’ (dutch for something like ‘oh helloooooo’ it insinuates approval, in this situation a kind of sexual way). I looked over my shoulder with an angry face, and there stood a guy, probably two or three times as old as me. And I was perplexed! Why should he judge me, is it his duty to give me approval, does he think I need his approval?! I just wanted to go home with my groceries without being judged in a sexist way.”

In France:

“Yesterday I went to the hypermarket… Usually when I am outside of a building I put on my headphones and focus on music to not hear any remarks but because I was waiting for news from a friend I was worried about, I did not do it immediately. A man I meet whispers ‘you have beautiful breasts’ – I wanted to vomit, to disappear, I felt dirty for the rest of the day… I wore a simple tank top – neither tight fitting nor low cut – but hey, I really don’t need to clarify that.”

In Germany:

“Every time I go to visit my friend, I know that in the 100 meters from the bus stop to his home I’ll experience comments, or just leering. Be it by young yobs, or older men. The last time it was ‘hot ass’.”

In Denmark:

“Today I was lying outside and enjoying the sun before I had to go school. I was lying on a bench, when three boys from my school came walking by and then sat down on the bench beside me… Recently I had been losing some weight and my trousers kept falling down, so I had to keep pulling them up, which one of the boys noticed and then moved behind me and started commenting on my underwear. I then told him that I found him very appalling and then he just started moaning my name. I got very angry and upset, and when I got up to leave then he said ‘Yeah baby, let me see your ass’. I was so upset, because all I wanted was just to relax in the sun…”

In Cyprus:

“On hols in Cyprus buying oranges, 3 cars individually come to a complete halt just to try and glimpse up friend’s skirt.”

In the United Kingdom:

“It being sunny does not make it okay for you to lean out your car and shout about my ‘nice rack’”.

In the United States:

“After a rough winter I finally got to drive with my car windows down! Sadly, had to roll them up and pretend to be on my phone because I got stuck in rush-hour traffic next to a pick-up truck with two young men who kept shouting into my car:

‘Hey, pretty lady!’ *wolf whistle*
‘Hey! HEY! We’re talking to you good-looking!’
‘This bitch is pretending to be on her phone!’

This went on for fifteen minutes before I was able to access the nearest off-ramp. Added thirty minutes to my drive home.”

And no, it’s not happening to women because they’re ‘asking for it’, or wearing any particular type of clothing — it affects everyone, from schoolgirls to widows, to members of the LGBT community, and happens everywhere, regardless of dress or time of day, as these recent entries show:

“Last week I was walking past a pub with my 6 year old daughter when a man looked at me and said very loudly ‘wow you have huge tits!’ I am a 45 year old woman and have been getting this most of my life but was even more disgusted that he seemed to think it was ok to say that in front of my 6 year old girl.”

“It doesn’t seem to matter what I wear, whether it’s sweats and a hoodie or a short dress. I still get guys shouting at me to ‘suck their d**k’ out of their cars. Do they expect me to run after them screaming, ‘Wait! Come back! I didn’t get to suck it’?”

TIME sexism

Study: ‘Entitled’ Men and Women Are More Sexist

Entitlement and Sexism Study
Gender Symbols - Male / Female 447314—Getty Images/Flickr RF

People who think they deserve it all usually have some outdated views on women, according to new research

A new study conducted by Case Western Reserve University and San Diego State University has revealed that entitled jerks are often also sexist jerks–regardless of gender.

A team of psychologists led by Case Western researcher Joshua Grubbs found that entitled men were more likely to hold hostile views of women while entitled women were more likely to view their gender as inherently weak.

“We defined entitlement using previous research on the construct,” Grubbs wrote in an email to TIME. “Essentially, entitlement is an attitude of unmerited deservingness in life.”

Grubb’s team conducted a survey asking 870 participants how much they agreed with a series of statements which measured their levels of entitlement or sexism.

To assess entitlement, researchers provided statements such as, “I demand the best, because I’m worth it,” or, “If I were on the Titanic, I would deserve to be on the first lifeboat.”

To assess sexism, the team broke up the statements into “hostile sexism” and “benevolent sexism.” Hostile sexism was measured through statements like, “Women seek to gain power by getting control over men.” Benevolent sexism included statements such as, “Women should be cherished and protected by men.”

Entitled men were more likely to agree with statements of hostile sexism while entitled women were more likely to endorse ideas consistent with benevolent sexism.

“This line of research really is fascinating,” Grubbs told TIME. “It’s also important, when you consider recent events and the examples we have seen of how dangerous entitlement and sexism can be.”

TIME feminism

We Can Finally Talk About Sexism in Tech–So Let’s Be Honest

TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013 - Day 1
Evan Spiegel of Snapchat attends TechCruch Disrupt SF 2013 at San Francisco Design Center on September 9, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Steve Jennings—2013 Getty Images

A Snapchat CEO's emails reveal how Silicon Valley’s fascination with self-obsessed youth has led us down a treacherous path that is unsafe for women and people of color

A few months ago, a series of incidents occurred that sparked a conversation among a few of my friends and resulted in this manifesto from us about women in technology. The timing of our publication could not be more unfortunate: Rap Genius co-founder Mahbod Moghadam published thoughtless comments on Elliot Rodger’s misogynist manifesto, then Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel’s demeaning emails from five years ago were revealed. What does this mean for women? Should we all decamp to greener pastures?

I don’t think so. If anything, it finally seems to me as if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. For the longest time, discrimination—racial or otherwise—was something we didn’t acknowledge at all. Everyone pretended there was nothing to see or change. I entered the tech industry assuming that was the case. I went along with jokes about the capabilities of a woman because that was how it had always been. I assumed I was not smart enough to be a good programmer because I thought good programmers were always men.

Today we can call bullsh-t on such opinions when they’re expressed. Spiegel’s emails reveal what many have always thought of Silicon Valley culture: a frat party that aspires to bring about utopia. Prominent venture capitalists have gone on the record to endorse similar behavior. The emails also reflect a larger issue of how companies are run by a nondiverse set of people. Why do we have so few executives who are women, and even fewer who are African American?

Fortunately, we have powerful publications and women shining a bright light onto this murky world. The magazine Model View Culture has been doing a stellar job of highlighting discrimination of all forms that exist in technology. Shanley Kane, Ashe Dryden, Nitasha Tiku, Kara Swisher and Alexia Tsotsis have been consistently highlighting people who perpetuate discriminatory culture. We also have large companies admitting that they need to do better. Google has been admirable in revealing the demographics of their workplace. The data show there is a lot of work to be done. African Americans form about 2% of Google’s workforce, women about 30%. But acknowledging the lack of diversity is the first step in addressing the overwhelming biases that exist in the industry.

The problem of getting more people of color and women to apply for tech positions is being tackled by several organizations. Black Girls Code, Girls Who Code, Girl Develop It, Trans*h4ck and Hack the Hood are enabling people from all walks of life to learn programming and apply for positions in technology. We need to empower these organizations to continue to broaden their reach.

Being transparent about the demographics also means we can now have honest and open conversations about team culture in technology. When teams are populated by mostly men who more or less have had similar upbringings, how can women or people of color expect to fit in? Why are 54% of women leaving technology after 10 years of working in it? We need to have an honest conversation about how managers can impact and alter the demographics of a company through how they hire people into their teams.

Ultimately, Spiegel’s emails reveal more about the tech culture that embraces such behavior. These emails are not revelations from a silly incident 20 years ago but rather happened a mere five years ago, when Snapchat was being created. It reveals how Silicon Valley’s fascination with self-obsessed youth has led us down a treacherous path that is unsafe for women and people of color. There’s an urgent need to provide safe spaces for women and people of color online. On the whole, I’m witnessing consistent conversation about discrimination and diversity. My hope is that these conversations lead to significant changes in team culture, demographics and how VCs choose to fund startups.

Divya Manian has worked for more than 10 years in the tech industry, has contributed to several open source projects and frequently speaks about open web standards and web development.

TIME Internet

Imagine If Half of All Tech Inventions and Startups Came From Women

Evan Spiegel Snapchat
Evan Spiegel of Snapchat attends TechCruch Disrupt SF 2013 at San Francisco Design Center on Sept. 9, 2013 in San Francisco. Steve Jenning—Getty Images

Frat bros like the Snapchat CEO who say sexist things grow up to run tech companies, where women feel unwelcome.

On Wednesday, emails sent by SnapChat CEO Evan Spiegel to his fraternity brothers about four years ago when he was in college leaked on the Internet. They were filled with misogynistic comments like, “Hope at least six girls sucked your d***s last night,” calling sorority girls “frigid” and planning to feed them as much alcohol as possible.

What do you expect from a frat? It might be easy to dismiss these emails with a “boys will be boys” mentality. Spiegel’s exchanges certainly are not unique among college men in frats. Spiegel apologized. He’s (slightly) older now and maybe sort-of wiser.

But frat bros like Spiegel grow up to become heads of companies that dominate the tech industry like SnapChat. The people creating the apps and devices we use and that shape our society are mostly 20-something males, many of them formerly in frats. And they don’t grow up that fast: Just look at the RapGenius co-founder who was ousted from his company over the weekend after making annotations on alleged UCSB killer Elliot Rodger’s misogynist manifesto that included calling Rodger’s sister “smokin hot.”

Men who have made sexist remarks to a large group are all over the tech landscape, and they deter women from tech. That’s a problem for three reasons: women are the majority of the tech consumers, and we need women engineers to build apps women would actually use; tech companies are more successful when women are helping to manage them; and we don’t have enough computer science grads to fill all the jobs opening up in this sector, so we need to recruit the other 50 percent of the population purely for economic reasons.

Imagine what apps would look like if more women helped develop them. SnapChat was conceived as a sexting app but has turned into a new social media phenomenon, thanks in part to women simply adapting the app to their own needs. A great article in Fast Company tells the story of one all-male development team that built an app for finding babysitters (great idea) but designed it such that women with long fingernails—i.e. a significant number of their potential customers—could not use it.

Titstare is the most notorious example of too much testosterone at a startup. Elissa Shevinsky, CEO of Glimpse Labs, felt uncomfortable when she was forced to watch a pitch at TechCrunch Disrupt for the app called Titstare that allows you to take photos of yourself staring at breasts. She became angry when her business partner, Pax Dickinson, then took to Twitter to defend the Titstare founders against accusations of misogyny: “It is not misogyny to tell a sexist joke, or to fail to take a woman seriously, or to enjoy boobies.”

After 14 years in the tech world, she decided she’d had enough and wrote a treatise about the sexism in the industry called, “That’s It — I’m Finished Defending Sexism in Tech.”

She points out that sexism isn’t a problem at every company, but it’s bad enough that women have to be picky about where they work. “Sexism isn’t evenly distributed throughout the industry. Some companies are much better (and worse) than others. The experience of at working at a company like The Knot (which is all about weddings) or even at Facebook is going to be different than a young company run with a primarily male workforce like GitHub,” she tells TIME. “Obviously we want to get to a point where women don’t have to make these close examinations to figure out if an environment will be professional.”

If it seems that products like “Titstare” are increasingly out of touch with consumer needs, it’s because a relatively small demographic is coming up with the newest tech ideas.

Studies have shown that startups with diverse teams are more likely to succeed than those run exclusively by men: researchers at the University of Michigan and Cornell University found that companies with more gender diversity delivered better results from IPOs by as much as 30 percent. Another study by the London School of Economics found that women-led startups failed less often than men.

And yet only 20 percent of software developers are women. By contrast, women make up 56 percent of the people in business and finance jobs, 36 percent of doctors and 33 percent of lawyers. As of last spring, Google—which has a better female to male ratio than startups partially because it has an HR department unlike fledgling tech companies—said only a fifth of its engineers are women.

Which brings us to the last problem: we simply need more engineers. “I really do believe that this is the most important domestic issue of our country. Seventy-one percent of the STEM jobs are in computing, and less than 18 percent of computer science degrees are given to women when we make up 56 percent of the labor force. That is an economic disaster, and we are doing nothing to fix it,” Reshma Saujani—founder of Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit organization working to close the gender gap in the technology and engineering sectors—told TIME. “In fact we’re emphasizing in the post-Social Network, everyone wants to be Mark Zuckerberg world, we’re emphasizing even more to young girls that this world is not for you.”

Of the women who do join the tech field, 56 percent leave mid-career, according to Harvard Business School research. A third of the women who leave move to non-tech jobs—jobs where the climate is more welcoming to women.

“I’ve been harassed, I’ve had people make suggestive comments to me, I’ve had people basically dismiss my expertise,” Ashe Dryden, a programmer who now consults on diversity in technology, told the New York Times. “I’ve gotten rape and death threats just for speaking out about this stuff.”

Even women who endure this harassment or are lucky enough to avoid it, must fight to be taken seriously simply because of their gender. Researchers at Wharton, Harvard and MIT found that when they played investors two recordings of the exact same sales pitch—one read by a man, another read by a woman—the investors preferred the idea when read by a man’s voice two to one. This “boys club” atmosphere bars women from success.

Spiegel’s emails matter because they represent a greater problem in Silicon Valley: few women will want to work with men like Spiegel when they could go somewhere else.

 

TIME sexism

The Toxic Appeal of the Men’s Rights Movement

As this poster shows, rape culture is alive and well in #yeg. A sad commentary & poor reflection on men everywhere pic.twitter.com/CZkLVCebEi

— Dr. Kristopher Wells (@KristopherWells) July 9, 2013
Twitter

A growing movement driven by misogyny and resentment is pulling in frustrated men struggling with changing definitions of masculinity. A men's fitness columnist on why they should walk away.

Imagine a kid who got a cone with three scoops of ice cream in it. Good flavors, too. Like peanut-butter chocolate, plus a scoop of cookie dough. In a waffle cone. And then this child whines about the lack of chocolate sprinkles on top.

Welcome to the men’s rights movement.

Wait, what? Men’s rights? That’s a thing? Yes, it’s a thing, and while there are certain legitimate aspects to men’s rights activism, or MRA, it’s overwhelmingly a toxic slew of misogyny. This world of resentment and hate speech has been brought to light in recent days as we learned about the vitriolic forum posts and videos left behind by Elliot Rodger, the 22 year-old accused of killing six people in Santa Barbara last week. But it’s hard to comprehend from Roger’s delusional rants how potent the movement’s message can be for ordinary men.

MRAs believe the traditionally oppressed groups have somehow seized control and taken away their white male privilege. They tap into fear and insecurity and turn it into blame and rage. Often the leaders of these groups are men who feel as though they got screwed in a divorce. They quote all sorts of statistics about child custody and unfair alimony payments, because in their minds, the single mother who has to choose between feeding the kids or paying the rent is a myth. They believe passionately in their own victimhood and their creed goes something like this: Women are trying to keep us down, usurp all our power, taking away what it means to be a man.

One popular MRA site is AVoiceForMen.com, with a mission to “expose misandry on all levels in our culture” and “denounce the institution of marriage as unsafe and unsuitable for modern men” as well as “promote an end to chivalry in any form or fashion” and “educate men and boys about the threats they face in feminist governance.” They also want an “end to rape hysteria” and promote “civil disobedience.” In their defense, AVFM does support nonviolence, but with all the inflammatory rhetoric, do readers always take heed?

There are Reddit threads and other Internet forums dedicated to men’s rights, and the language and vitriol towards women and especially towards feminism is appalling. Any messages of nonviolence seem lost in the hate mongering. These groups spew logically faulty statistics about the prevalence of male rape and spousal abuse, and how there really is no glass ceiling or pay inequality, and general complaints about how “that bitch got my promotion because she has a uterus.”

Men’s Rights Canada made headlines again recently with their classless response to an anti-sexual assault campaign called “Don’t be that guy.” Posters went up across the nation implying women aren’t punished enough for infanticide, stating, “Women can stop baby dumping. “Don’t be that girl.” This was a follow up of the same campaign from last year alleging many women made false rape accusations because they felt guilty over a one-night stand.

As a white man who writes about fitness, I’m very aware of the pressures on men and the many ways that these kinds of hateful messages reach my audience, both overt like the Canada ads and the less blatant claims of male victimhood in mainstream media. It’s clear that the definition of masculinity is in flux, and for some men that’s frustrating, especially with near-pornographic ad campaigns promoting women as objects of sexual conquest. And while there are aspects of MRA that are worth bringing to light, as a movement it can suck a good man down a rabbit hole of resentment. It is backward-looking and pining for good old days that never were.

Are there some problems with specific instances of unequal treatment? Yes. Is there some anti-male sentiment out there? Yeah, that happens too. But turning these issues into a movement is laughable. It is a like a multi-millionaire who whines that a tax loophole was closed and he’s losing 0.5% of his annual income.

Men, especially white men, aren’t marginalized, we aren’t under attack, and we not in danger of losing the overwhelming privileges society bestows upon us for having pale skin and a penis. However, MRAs have been described as whining children by the women they call “feminist bitches.”

So to any man who feels like he’s getting caught up in such a movement because they feel emasculated or are just having trouble relating to women and perhaps sympathizing with Elliot Rodger, I will tell you this: Life isn’t fair. Life is NOT fair.

Women will judge you. Some will judge you based on your appearance, your height, your width, you genitalia, your wealth, your car, your clothes, your acne. In other words, they will judge you the exact same way you judge them.

Fell is a syndicated fitness columnist for the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. He blogs at http://www.SixPackAbs.com. You can follow him @bodyforwife

TIME politics

GOP Senate Candidate Declares War on Sexism: ‘Our Country Has a Problem’

Conservative women fight back

A Republican Senate candidate from South Dakota has a message for the people calling her vulgar names on the Internet: conservative women fight back. Annette Bosworth, a current state Representative and medical doctor, held a press conference Tuesday openly condemning the misogyny she says she’s encountered throughout her campaign for the U.S. Senate, largely at the hands of “supposedly tolerant liberals.” Bosworth’s passionate diatribe hit a nerve at a moment when much of the country is turning its attention to misogyny in the wake of a mass killing in California, where a young man stabbed and shot his way through a college town, driven by his sexist views.

“Good morning, and welcome to the state of political discourse in 2014, “ Bosworth said while standing in a profane graffiti-covered room. She called the exhibit a representation of what’s facing women who “dare to challenge the status quo.”

“What you see around you are the words which have been written about me on blogs, on the Internet throughout this campaign,” Bosworth said. “They are hateful, they are hurtful and no person should have to endure it. It is its own form of abuse.”

Bosworth, who is challenging former Gov. Mike Rounds in the upcoming June primary, said she asked local artists to Google her and “pick a name. Spell it just as it’s spelled on the Internet and represent that on my campaign signs.”

“The Democrats talk about a war on women, but much of what you see is written by the supposedly tolerant liberals. Their message is clear: conservative women are fair game. If you are a female and a Republican, anything goes. Look at these signs. Look at the messages sent by our country. We have a problem, and it’s not being talked about.”

She called attention to the Santa Barbara massacre:

“I would like you to try and find a word that correlates to that in a man with the same connotation and the same disrespect that when their children Google it, it makes them cry. The misogyny is real. Go to the shootings in California. Look around. South Dakota is not unique. Our country has a problem.”

She may be considered a “long-shot” as a Senate candidate, but her powerful stance against the vulgarity sends a much needed, powerful message to hatemongers: enough is enough.

Watch the full video at Talking Points Memo.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser