Fighting Sexism in Silicon Valley: You're Doing it Wrong

Women in tech face challenges their male counterparts do not, so perhaps they were intrigued by a Wednesday Wall Street Journal op-ed that addressed them. Unfortunately, venture capitalist and UC-Santa Barbara professor John Greathouse used the piece to advise women seeking startup capital to obscure their gender by using initials instead of full names.

Greathouse first blames women for any lack of success they may face in getting hired or obtaining funding: "Professional women, are you properly curating your online first impression?" This is the tech equivalent of asking a woman what she was wearing when she was sexually assaulted.

His retrograde ideas don't get any more modern as he goes on. Greathouse cites evolution, which he says rewards the ability to make snap judgments about others. Because blaming biology is far easier than setting up standards, systems, and practices that encourage girls to participate in STEM from an early age and make life for women in the industry viable.

He then digs into the "likability" issue. Citing "persuasion guru" Robert Cialdini, Greathouse argues that "liking is accentuated when the persuader has a name that is similar to the person being persuaded." This is reminiscent of the discrimination software engineer Isis Wenger faced when an ad featuring her image prompted detractors to remark that she did not look like an engineer and therefore could not be one. This ouroboros of logic is truly a feat. If women become genderless avatars to participate in the tech industry, they cannot surmount the likability gap, and men will continue to be the accepted face of technology.

If that sounds like hyperbole, Greathouse also advises women to wipe their visages from social media. In other words, become an egg so men don't think of you as just the sum of your eggs. "[W]omen in today's tech world should create an online presence that obscures their gender" he says plainly.

This is not the first time Greathouse has waded into gender politics in the Journal. A 2014 piece called "Women Where Are You?" blamed women for not participating in startup events. He urged them to overcome "excessive modesty" by telling them "speaking events are not about you." Should they be "busy" because they have children, he offers the helpful advice that "The notion of 'busy' is not productive," along with the generous invitation to just bring the kids to events. "If they are an appropriate age, bring your kids with you and let them see 'mommy' in a new light."

On Medium, Greathouse expressed his thoughts on Wi-Fi inventor Hedy Lamarr with a post called "The Most Beautiful Entrepreneur of Her Generation Was Clueless and Fearless." Lamarr, he said, let her invention languish because she was "clueless" as to how to sell, market, or commercialize it.

For the record, Greathouse passed on a seed round for Uber and Twilio.

In his most recent op-ed, Greathouse adopts the tone of someone who cannot believe anyone would harbor such biases against women as he insults them himself. He has put, or not put as it were, his money where his mouth is. Rincon Venture Partners has investments in 34 tech companies, only three of which are co-founded by women, and each of those is a founder team comprising two men and a woman.

Greathouse passes off misogyny as if it is an insurmountable inherent biological characteristic of men that women will have to literally work around. Maybe the tech industry should put some funds behind disrupting such notions.

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