If you follow the Wall Street Journal or tech media like I do, you may have seen yesterday’s deplorable article by John Greathouse, advising women in tech to use only their initials in order to get ahead in the tech world.
The idea that in order for women to succeed in tech, they must disappear and mute their existence to be more appealing to men is horrible and disgusting. It makes the female experience invisible and silences women’s voices. Greathouse’s view is one that comes from a place of patriarchy as he tries to “help women succeed” while actually presenting his own outdated sexist position. It seems that Greathouse would prefer not to see women in tech at all, unless they hide and cover up their gender.
The history of women being forced to hide themselves in order to get the same amount of respect as men is powerful when taken into context. I’m quickly reminded of female identifying gamers not using their real names on the internet, or choosing more masculine characters in games for fear of being bullied. I think of female journalists being sent death threats over stories that expose sexism. Female authors throughout time have chosen to use initials or pseudonyms in order to make sure that their work was published and respected. Greathouse’s advice takes women back centuries, forcing them to hide under a pretense of being male.
Greathouse’s shallow attempt to help women advance in their tech careers is just another way of furthering the status quo that devalues women’s work.
Greathouse’s shallow attempt to help women advance in their tech careers is just another way of furthering the status quo that devalues women’s work. Instead of recognizing the issue of sexism in tech and giving advice to those perpetuating it on how to be less sexist, Greathouse recognizes the issue and promptly asks women to work around it. This allows sexism to go on unchallenged and accepted by men such as Greathouse himself who perpetuate it. It tells women that the technology space is not for them, unless they hide the distraction of their gender.
I’m appalled and embarrassed on Greathouse’s behalf, and on behalf of Rincon Ventures and Wall Street Journal. I’m not surprised that on the Rincon Ventures website, they only list one portfolio company with a female founder. I hope Rincon Ventures can move forward and re-assess how they approach their influence and the role they play in the tech community.
In a way, Greathouse’s article has done a service. It has exposed the sexism still very much present in today’s tech world — especially in the world of venture capital. Only 7 percent of investing partners at the top 100 venture firms are women. This number needs to grow in order to help counter the one-sided perspectives of male dominated firms. These perspectives perpetuate opinions such as the one Greathouse poses in his article.
Greathouse’s article has proved how important it is for startups to start and continue their diversity work, hire more female identifying executives, engineers, marketers, business development specialists, etc. Greathouse’s article has proved how crucial it is for women to grow in the entrepreneurial and venture capital space, creating their own companies and portfolios that move the industry forward. The more women we have in these positions, the easier it will be to stomp out the sexism in the tech industry and welcome in a more diverse industry that reflects our communities.
I urge women everywhere to use their full names, present how they wish, and be vocal in the tech community. I urge founders and VCs to challenge themselves and their views, listen to minority communities, and ask for feedback and advice for making their workplace and tech community equal and diverse. Together, we can move this industry forward.
About the author
Margot Mazur is the Partnership Co-ordinator at Wistia. She focuses on building strong business partnerships and successful communities around video marketing. On any given day, she pets 2-5 dogs. You can follow Margot on Twitter.
This article first appeared on Medium and is republished on Women You Should Know with the author’s express permission.