Why can’t a woman be more like a man?
That’s what Rex Harrison intoned as Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady. Life would appear to be imitating art as eyebrows of both genders are raised at an unbelievably crass opinion piece by John Greathouse in the Wall Street Journal.
It was clumsy rather than vicious but potentially damaging nonetheless. The investor, serial entrepreneur and University of California entrepreneurship adviser said that “women in today’s tech world should create an online presence that obscures their gender. A gender-neutral persona allows women to access opportunities that might otherwise be closed to them.
“Once they make an initial connection with a potential employer or investor, such women then have an opportunity to submit their work and experiences for an impartial review.”
It’s all becoming clear. Instead of complaining about gender discrimination and glass ceilings, all women need to do to get on in life or enhance their career is to hide the fact they are women!
Open those boardroom doors and wait for the stampede now women entrepreneurs have been handed the secret to success. Scales have dropped from female eyes the world over.
Greathouse issued a full and fulsome apology for his “dreadful article” and acknowledged that women should fight gender bias and not be forced to hide their gender in doing so.
It would have been better to resist the temptation to write such an unhelpful piece framed in such an unreconstructed manner in the first place; even more helpful had the WSJ used its usually sound judgement and sent it rapido into trash.
I’m amazed the writer resisted the temptation to add ‘10 useful tips to disguise the fact you’re a woman!’
1 – Troubled by facial hair; don’t be. Cultivate it. If that’s not possible consider a false moustache or stick on some phoney stubble.
2 – Keep that hairstyle ‘sheared sheep’ short. Consider bald!
3 - The legs are great but do you have to shave them? In fact, do you have to show them?
4 – Wear trousers – never skirts or dresses.
5 – And ditch those high heels – Oxfords or brogues from now on.
6 – Strap those chests down nice and tight. No sticky-out bits!
7 – That handbag is a dead giveaway: Get a manbag or stuff a couple of housebricks into a briefcase so people think you have a really heavy workload.
8 – Can you get that voice a tad deeper ladies? Try a growl. That’s better.
9 – Brush up on Trump-style locker room obscenity. You’ll instantly be one of the boys.
10 – Finally, you are NOT pregnant. You lie and say it’s a beer belly. All the male directors have one.
It was an appalling misjudgment by Greathouse and the WSJ and this kind of skewed rationale seriously obstructs the fight for genuine equality.
Kirsten Bay, president and CEO at California enterprise cybersecurity firm Cyber adAPT, got in touch with Business Weekly to state the case perfectly.
“As a longtime senior technology executive and as the current president and CEO of Cyber adAPT, I strongly disagree with John Greathouse’s remarks that women in tech should obscure their gender when creating their online presences and brands.
“I, and many other exceptional female technology executives, including Meg Whitman of HP, Ginni Rometty of IBM, Marissa Mayer of Yahoo!, and Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook – to name just a few – have worked very hard and overcome many obstacles to ascend to senior leadership roles in Corporate America.
“Gender played no part in their success; rather, these professionals made their way to the top because of their exceptional intelligence, insightfulness, business acumen, achievements, and leadership capabilities.
“I applaud these women, and countless others like them, who are successful in spite of outdated notions such as the ones espoused by Greathouse, and who fight every day to make gender a non-issue in the workplace.
“We are proud of who we are, the diverse paths we’ve taken, and what we’ve accomplished to date, and we are excited for the futures of our respective companies and the multi-faceted plans and strategies we’re implementing. In the end, gender should be irrelevant. I don’t intend to hide mine – ever – on any platform or channel.”
While Business Weekly dislikes tokenism per se, sometimes a little positive discrimination is the most effective way to highlight insidious bias. Which is why, in association with Cambridge University, we introduced to our annual business awards a ‘Woman Entrepreneur of the Year’ category.
The response underlined what we already knew – that there are a myriad of talented women entrepreneurs running exciting new generation businesses that will help transform the world in which we all live and work – given a fair shake of the dice.