Tech Sexism on Both Sides of the Pacific

Of late, the U.S. tech industry has come under heavy criticism for lack of diversity. By the big tech firms’ own admission, they hire very few women or non-Asian minorities. The companies say they sympathize but claim lack of a diverse labor pool. Some folks disagree, contending that in the case of women in particular, misogynist attitudes run deep in Silicon Valley.

They may have a point. In a previous post, I described typical Silicon Valley interview screening assumptions, unconscious and technically gender-neutral, but definitely of differential impact on male and female applicants, and arguably not related to the applicant’s potential to do good work. I also described a disturbing incident relating to gender that I had witnessed, and that suggests that there may well be a very serious problem.

Well, the U.S. firms can now take at least some solace in the news about a software startup in China that employs female “cheerleaders” to keep up the spirits of the firm’s mostly male programmer workforce. While exhortations to 加油! (“Go, team!”) may or may not boost productivity, the practice is, needless to say, drawing sharp criticism.

At least this will help shoot down Western views of China as a sexually conservative society, and as an uncreative culture — at least in terms of marketing. Along these lines, note the practice a couple of years ago of using unclad female models at China auto shows.

Mao famously said, “Women hold up half the sky.” But it appears to be the same half that women hold up here.

xx

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