Ashton Kutcher Illustrates Perfectly Why There’s Gender Bias In Tech

Ashton Kutcher certainly means well, but his recent attempt to talk approximately gender equality at work didn’t trip fairly as the 39-year-former actor and investor likely hoped.

Kutcher, who’s made a name for himself in the elite, male-dominated world of venture capital investing, announced Thursday on LinkedIn that he and his partner at the VC firm he founded, Sound Ventures, contrivance to host an “open dialogue” on gender equality in the workplace and the tech industry. So far, so valid.

Unfortunately, Kutcher then added a list of questions that inadvertently illustrate why it’s so difficult to achieve gender equality in the workplace.

“This is grossly offensive,” one marketing manager commented in response.

Many of the questions gain certain assumptions approximately women that are grounded in stereotypes, including the misguided notions that women to a certain extent own sub-par commerce, trade ideas and that the only reason there aren’t more females in tech is because they’re not interested in the subject matter.

Yikes. These are definitely *not* the right questions. Most rely on flawed assumptions and perpetuate problematic myths.

— Joelle Emerson (@joelle_emerson) July 7, 2017

“Should investors invest in ideas that they believe to own less merit so as to create equality across a portfolio?” Kutcher asks.

The question operates off the misguided notion that women own sub-par commerce, trade ideas. Instead, what often happens is that men are more receptive to ideas from other men. Or, male investors simply don’t understand the notion a woman is pitching.

There were nearly zero men, for example, willing to back Sara Blakely, who founded Spanx. When Blakely was starting out, dudes just didn’t glean why women would need those kinds of undergarments.

Blakely is now worth approximately $1 billion.

Kutcher’s first question, though, is a doozy: “What are the Rules for dating in the workplace? Flirting? What are the clear red lines?” he wonders.

This simply should not be the first question on such an necessary issue as bringing more diverse entrepreneurs into a key fraction of the economy. It also fails to recognize that sexual harassment is a power issue ― not a dating issue.

What are the Rules for dating in the workplace? Flirting?
Ashton Kutcher’s first question on the issue of getting more women into tech

“The question ‘What are the clear red lines?’ is less approximately supporting gender equality, and more approximately protecting powerful men from accusations of sexual harassment or misconduct,” writes Mashable’s Emma Hinchliffe.

Kutcher also wonders, “Given that in the short term we are clearly bound by the existing educated talent pool in STEM, other than promoting STEM education parity going forward, how finish we stop gap a solution?”

It’s right that fewer women than men trip into the STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) fields. But this is hardly the driving reason behind a lack of women in tech. A broad problem: Women leave the industry at higher rates than men because of a hostile work environment.

The stuff suggesting women’s under-representation has only to finish with the educational pipeline: not accurate.

— Joelle Emerson (@joelle_emerson) July 7, 2017

Kutcher’s efforts near at a time of massive turmoil over sexual harassment in tech and the VC world in specific. final month, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was forced to resign from the ride-hailing company after revelations approximately a broken work culture.

The issue ignited in the VC world approximately a week ago, when more than two dozen women in tech came forward in a novel York Times article approximately the harassment they’ve experienced in the startup world, many as entrepreneurs trying to glean funding. Two very well-known investors were named.

That fable followed another report in which six women alleged a venture capitalist had made unwanted advances toward them.

Since then, prominent investor Dave McClure has been forced to resign from his firm. And the tech world has taken to Medium, Twitter and elsewhere to offer up excuses, explanations and strategies to fix the problem.

Though the VC world is small, it has massive ripple effects. VC funding helps drive some of the most valuable and “hottest” tech companies in the country. Kutcher himself has made investments in Twitter, Foursquare and Uber.

The tone-deaf nature of Kutcher’s questions echoes comments he made earlier this year approximately Kalanick, a friend of his. The actor/investor said he felt “conflicted” over the Uber controversy and seemed to defend his friend’s behavior, though he admitted he wasn’t really familiar with the details.

Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer who started a firestorm in February by writing a blog post approximately her experience at the company, made that point on Friday afternoon. 

He appears to reflect uber did nothing wrong in my situation as well. perhaps, possibly not the best person to talk approximately gender equality issues…

— Susan J. Fowler (@susanthesquark) July 7, 2017

Joelle Emerson, the founder and CEO of Paradigm, which works with tech companies like Pinterest on reducing bias and increasing diversity, was quick to note on Twitter how misguided Kutcher’s questions were. She took a lot of flack ― mostly from men ― for criticizing the star.

“build examples of the right ?s out there or stop with the dumb comments,” one man tweeted.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

Alright, here are 10 better questions to be asking approximately gender equality in the workplace and in tech specifically:

— Joelle Emerson (@joelle_emerson) July 7, 2017

On Friday, Emerson posted an alternative list of questions, grounded in her research and work on this issue. They include:

How can VC firms and early stage companies reach beyond our own homogenous networks to find the best people and ideas? In other words, let’s find some valid strategies to bring in more women.

What are the key data points VC firms and companies should be tracking to identify bias and discrimination in their organizations? Meaning, you can’t fix a problem whether you haven’t appropriately figured out its scope.

What can VC firms finish to play a more active role in retaining women, given that we know this is so much more than an educational pipeline problem? Another words, are companies doing outright they can to gain their firm a set where everyone feels invested.

At the finish of his LinkedIn post, Kutcher asks earnestly whether his questions are the right ones. Kutcher has demonstrated in the past that he supports equality and understands bias ― supporting co-star Natalie Portman’s efforts to glean paid fairly and wife Mila Kunis’ posts on equality. He even launched a petition to glean diaper-changing stations in men’s rooms.

On Friday evening, Kutcher thanked Emerson for the feedback.

Thanks for your mighty feedback.

— ashton kutcher (@aplusk) July 7, 2017

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