Hot New Startup Trend: Sexism

By Nick O'Neill ,

There are a handful of very powerful and public women in Silicon Valley. The few that come to mind quickly are Sheryl Sandberg, Meg Whitman, Marissa Mayer, and Carly Fiorina. Yet despite the presence of a few powerful female leaders, all will probably acknowledge the fact that they made it to such positions in the face of widespread sexist behavior.

It’s not exactly surprising that such behavior has become so rampant. As a featured article on Pinterest from this morning states:

Marc Andreessen himself readily admits he didn’t get it until a female researcher on staff urged him to reconsider. Says Andreessen: “Our industry historically … do we produce products initially aimed primarily at men or women? You’d have to say men.”

In other words: Silicon Valley is male dominated. This isn’t a surprise to most people though. For what it’s worth, Silicon Valley tends to be meritocracy driven but that doesn’t mean women don’t receive their fair share of sexist remarks. For the past few days Hacker News has been filled with posts about sexist behavior throughout the industry.

Check out this post about how the Geek List founders aren’t willing to pull down a sexist video of a woman in underwear dancing around with a Geek List t-shirt on. Or this post from a female developer who felt like she was a second class citizen despite her true talents.

Or check out this sexist Sqoot hackathon promotion. The list goes on. Walk around SXSW and you’ll see scantily clad women shoving promotions in your face (among other things) in an attempt to get your attention. They’re following a standard set by a much larger technology conference: CES.

That conference is well known for its “booth babes”, so well known that sexist technology publication Business Insider decided to condense all the hot looking women into this easy to digest slideshow of them. Perhaps the presence of such booth babes shouldn’t be an issue (as Violet Blue writes), but why not produce products that stand on their own?

How often did Steve Jobs send out an attractive young female out to show off the latest Apple product? None that I know of. Yet company after company that I see (and Hacker News highlights) continues to use the acceptance of sexist behavior as a compelling aspect of their company. However I can’t think of a single technology company that pulled off such imagery successfully (if you think of one feel free to post in the comments … aside from GoDaddy).

Can’t Stop Those Crazy Brogrammers

Sqoot, of all companies, which has apologized for their sexist hackathon promotion, still has a nude woman on their company blog. Which only makes me think that there’s a bunch of brogrammers that are sitting in a room enjoying the coverage they’re getting.

According to our own internal database, the past two days have been massive for Sqoot thanks to all the negative publicity. You’d think the investors behind Sqoot would advise the startup to pull the promotions because it’s making them look bad. Then again, maybe they’re part of the Silicon Valley culture which supports sexist behavior.

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