"Let the boys have their social media"
February 12, 2015 6:50 PM   Subscribe

Vivek Wadhwa (@wadhwa) has made a career talking about women in tech (amongst other things). You may remember him from Newsweek's recent cover story on Silicon Valley sexism (previously on MeFi), or his crowdfunded book, Innovating Women, on which he was the lead author. However, many women have criticised Wadhwa for what they have percieved as his self-appointment as spokeman for women in tech, including arguing that his views are often paternalistic and problematic, and his ubquitous presence actually has the effect of excluding and silencing women. Amelia Greenhall makes the case: Quiet Ladies - Wadhwa is speaking now.

Last week, Greenhall was interviewed for On the Media's TLDR podcast about the post and her views on Wadhwa. Wadhwa responded by calling the interview slanderous and libelous. The episode has since been removed, although TLDR has not yet explained the reasons for doing so.

You can still listen to the interview here. Greenhill follows up on the response to her blog post and interview here: I wrote about Wadhwa and you'll never guess what happened next.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts (148 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite
 
Am I missing where he outlines exactly what he considers libelous or slanderous? Or is it sufficient to just say "libel" as a silencing tactic?
posted by rtha at 7:01 PM on February 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Apparently that's the magic word, rtha. What bullshit.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:02 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks for posting this! freebsdgirl and anildash have fought with Wadhwa on Twitter, and this seemed like a good topic for a mefi post by someone willing to put together the content. Kudos!
posted by Going To Maine at 7:03 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


This was the first piece of the new TLDR that I have really liked. I hope they aren't caving to pressure from Wadhwa and put it back up soon. I guess he could argue that the piece was flawed because his viewpoints weren't included, but that would just be too bitterly ironic for words.
posted by maxsparber at 7:05 PM on February 12, 2015 [7 favorites]


Am I missing where he outlines exactly what he considers libelous or slanderous? Or is it sufficient to just say "libel" as a silencing tactic?

Nope. He hasn't made any specific claims publicly. Although I saw on Twitter that he claims he has written to WYNC about the episode.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:11 PM on February 12, 2015


Hmm, I think the research he's doing/citing is sound; is there an actual complaint about the contents of it that he puts on air and in print? It sounds like what everyone else says who gives advice to women negotiating, fundraising and applying for jobs. I don't know why we should listen to any particular pundit, but he doesn't seem wrong. I do think he's in an uncanny valley of not being good enough at Twitter to know how his detractors receive him and not being bad enough to avoid interactions entirely.

Is he being interviewed and published because he's perceived as an "ally" or because he knows what he is talking about?
posted by michaelh at 7:18 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think it's because he has positioned himself as an expert and the media has a long history of taking self-declared male experts seriously in a way they don't extend to women, even when the subject is women.
posted by maxsparber at 7:21 PM on February 12, 2015 [72 favorites]


The press is so inherently sexist that their go-to person for women's issues would be a man. It is as if women cannot speak for themselves or have any credibility, which is absolute rubbish. Kudos to Greenhall...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 7:23 PM on February 12, 2015 [25 favorites]


I'm going to be really, seriously disappointed with OTM if they don't handle this better than they seem at the moment to be handling it. I'm hoping that they plan to do a full piece on Wadhwa that won't back down in the face of what seem like pretty toothless intimidation tactics.
Is he being interviewed and published because he's perceived as an "ally" or because he knows what he is talking about?
He's being interviewed and published because the media knows what it thinks expertise looks like, and expertise looks male. Fun fact that was included in a NYTimes Op Ed the other day: the media is more likely to cite as an expert a boy between the ages of 13 and 18 than a woman over the age of 65.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:24 PM on February 12, 2015 [32 favorites]


I'm not familiar with Wadwha, but I can't find any evidence that he's doing actual primary research or scholarship of his own. Is that correct? Most of what I'm finding in a cursory search is advice and popular articles and a whole lotta salesmanship.

If so, I'm automatically side-eyeing him as a source of information for me as a woman in science because, well, he doesn't appear to be bringing anything to the table that a female expert or commentator couldn't be, and he's very clearly missing lived experience. Not someone I would seek out if I was looking for career advice, in part because he by definition can't implement his own advice as a woman and see what kinds of reactions you actually get. (Protip: being assertive and standing up for yourself and being an enormous nerd do not always get the same reactions for women as they do for men!) If the goal is to talk about women in science, can we maybe have that career slot primarily for people who have actual experience being a woman in science?
posted by sciatrix at 7:25 PM on February 12, 2015 [16 favorites]


Is he being interviewed and published because he's perceived as an "ally" or because he knows what he is talking about?

Well, I'll just observe that the supposed expert on sexism in tech doesn't know which side of Gamergate are the 'bad guys'.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:26 PM on February 12, 2015 [48 favorites]


Just for interest, the FanFare entry: TLDR: #45 - Quiet, Wadhwa. (and update).
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:38 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah, I agree he is just doing pop science. He's still an expert on the subject, though, as far as getting quotes and op-eds goes.

Also, Amelia Greenhall didn't list women who are experts on the research about women in tech for the media's benefit. She just listed Anil Dash, who is another person who doesn't have any particular angle except that he reads/hears a lot and is available to speak. Maybe this article will be the kick some people need to start trading up the chain after him if they're knowledgeable but not popular, or to start making time for media if they're knowledgeable, popular and really busy (Wojjicki, Sandberg, Rice, Meyer, Jessica Livingston, etc.)
posted by michaelh at 7:39 PM on February 12, 2015 [3 favorites]


(Oh, and also on that FanFare thread - the most recent link that mathowie posted.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:40 PM on February 12, 2015


Uh, no disrespect to Mr. Dash; I know he reads this and I really appreciate his work with the Good Web Bundle, repping Metafilter and Pinboard, this tweet, etc.
posted by michaelh at 7:43 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm going to be really, seriously disappointed with OTM if they don't handle this better than they seem at the moment to be handling it.

Why wait, their actions so far have be amazingly disappointing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:45 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


He's still an expert on the subject, though, as far as getting quotes and op-eds goes.

What? Being treated as an expert doesn't make you one.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:51 PM on February 12, 2015 [12 favorites]


Well, they're claiming that they pulled the podcast but are going to cover the issue on an upcoming OTM (the parent show of the podcast), so I guess I'm holding out hope that the OTM coverage will somehow vindicate them.

I think this is partly a women in tech story, but it's also partly a journalists are lazy/ incompetent story: journalists aren't good at finding actual experts in a field, so they tend to go with the "experts" who have already been consulted on an issue, regardless of whether those people actually have anything to say. I'm not sure they're even in a position to evaluate the expertise of their experts most of the time. And that's also something that OTM might want to run with, along with the whole very-well-documented thing where women are massively underrepresented among experts cited by the media.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:56 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


Being treated as an expert doesn't make you one.
It works for every "regular contributor" to the New York Times Op-Ed page.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:29 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


My, my, Ms. Greenhall is a very clever lady. She's realized what an easy path to fame and self-aggrandizement it is to play the outraged pop feminist. Good work.
posted by shivohum at 8:32 PM on February 12, 2015


My, my, Mr. Wadhwa is a very clever gentleman. He's realized what an easy path to fame and self-aggrandizement it is to play the outraged 'male feminist'. Good work.
FTFY.
posted by oneswellfoop at 8:34 PM on February 12, 2015 [54 favorites]


My, my, Ms. Greenhall is a very clever lady. She's realized what an easy path to fame and self-aggrandizement it is to play the outraged pop feminist. Good work.

Vivek Wadhwa can't see who the villains are in Gamergate. There is little else to be said.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:35 PM on February 12, 2015 [41 favorites]


My, my, Mr. Wadhwa is a very clever gentleman. He's realized what an easy path to fame and self-aggrandizement it is to play the outraged 'male feminist'. Good work.

On that note...
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:56 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've tried to talk to him before. I tried again tonight.

The context of the "nerd" thing is he was quoted in national nedia using the word in a way that implied women couldn't be nerds and, by implication, aren't technical (the same article had very problematic recommendations from him that women just don't exaggerate enough like the men, etc). When challenged on the "nerd" part (privately originally) he insisted it was just a "not first language" problem. During this kerfluffle he claimed "mobs" were attacking him hatefully, etc.

I don't think it's asking too much, though, for experts on challenges women face in the tech workforce to understand words and stereotypes about tech workers and how that influences people's perceptions of who belongs in technical jobs. This goes doubly so for one the media gives a wide platform to.
posted by R343L at 9:02 PM on February 12, 2015 [8 favorites]


Having listened to removed interview, it's not surprising Wadhwa reacted as poorly as he did. Greenhall makes a number of assertions about things Wadhwa did and there's little actual evidence given.

Not that I think Greenhall is lying or that Wadhwa doesn't come as slimey, but a lot of assertions are pretty strong yet amount to he said/she said. Hopefully Greenhall can post links or similar "evidence" at some point.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:04 PM on February 12, 2015


(I should note the above is not the only time he's said things I find harmful to improving the position of women in the tech industry. It's just the specific context of one aspect of the recent events.)
posted by R343L at 9:05 PM on February 12, 2015


Greenhall write an entire blog post about it that includes the evidence.
posted by R343L at 9:06 PM on February 12, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think it's asking too much, though, for experts on challenges women face in the tech workforce to understand words and stereotypes about tech workers and how that influences people's perception

As a feminist, a good first step might be for him to stop and put a little more thought into what he's about to say as soon as he hears himself thinking "women can't ..."
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:09 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hopefully Greenhall can post links or similar "evidence" at some point.

Dude. Read Greenhall's post - it's the entire crux of the FPP, contains all the evidence for her points, and was the entire reason she was interviewed on TLDR in the first place.

TLDR - RTFA.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:15 PM on February 12, 2015 [25 favorites]


Sigh all my typos.
posted by R343L at 9:25 PM on February 12, 2015


Sigh all my typos.

Me too, mate. I mispelled 'Amelia' and 'Wadhwa' in the FPP - I've asked the mods to fix it up if they get a moment.

posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 9:35 PM on February 12, 2015 [1 favorite]


With allies like these....
posted by gingerest at 9:52 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Read Greenhall's post - it's the entire crux of the FPP, contains all the evidence for her points

It doesn't really contain any evidence, just a bunch of assertions craftily contrived to push as many outrage buttons as hard as possible.

Example:

Wadhwa says shaky self-confidence is one of the chief things holding women back.

Just be more self confident! Oh my gosh, that Lean In book was right all along, and all this sexism and getting underpaid and underfunded stuff is just because we ladies just aren’t TRYING HARD ENOUGH to be self-confident.


See how Greenhall sneakily mangled what Wadhwa said to set the blood boiling? He didn't say that every problem women faced in the workplace was just due to self-confidence, and he didn't say the self-confidence problem was due to women not trying hard enough.

Meanwhile the research is in fact quite clear that self-confidence IS a major problem for women in the workplace.

Another example:

Wadhwa says women not only are reluctant to overstate their accomplishments and goals; they habitually understate them. “Often I have to say to them, Why are you underselling?” he says. “When I coach women, I tell them how wonderful they are.

Wow, not creepy at all to have an older man coach telling you how “wonderful” you are as he encourages you to overstate your accomplishments. I imagine that that gets uncomfortable for the women he mentors. Ok, what’s next?

Yes, telling women who habitually understate their accomplishments to amp it up is asking them to "overstate" their accomplishments. Ooh, and the nasty little "creepy" smear is a lovely touch.
posted by shivohum at 10:01 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


My, my, Ms. Greenhall is a very clever lady.

Yeah, because that doesn't come across as patronizing and paternalistic.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:18 PM on February 12, 2015 [47 favorites]


(Also, her post is full of embedded links to Wadhwa's own writing and to women responding to it; it's not written in a vacuum.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:20 PM on February 12, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yes, telling women who habitually understate their accomplishments to amp it up is asking them to "overstate" their accomplishments. Ooh, and the nasty little "creepy" smear is a lovely touch.

Shivohum, where is the sound evidence that women understate their accomplishments, and if there actually is any, how are the studies able to determine that it is not men overstating theirs?
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:22 PM on February 12, 2015


See how Greenhall sneakily mangled what Wadhwa said to set the blood boiling?

I think it's more likely this was how Greenhall felt on reading Wadhwa's writing, not underhanded bad-faith manipulation designed solely to provoke outrage.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:32 PM on February 12, 2015 [5 favorites]


If you want an instant take on the kind of hubris this fellow possesses, look no further than this subtweet written shortly after Greenhall's original post.
posted by cellphone at 10:34 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Carey’s unease about asking for money doesn’t surprise Vivek Wadhwa, a Silicon Valley investor, diversity coach and author of Innovating Women. Wadhwa says shaky self-confidence is one of the chief things holding women back. It’s not just about the money, though. Wadhwa says women not only are reluctant to overstate their accomplishments and goals; they habitually understate them. “Often I have to say to them, Why are you underselling?” he says. “When I coach women, I tell them how wonderful they are. Women won’t make the ridiculous projections about their companies that the guys will. They won’t say the really stupid thing the nerds do. They are a lot more realistic and practical and humble.”
This is from the Newsweek article. This is why I think Wadhwa is a poor choice for the media to go to about women in tech.
posted by R343L at 10:41 PM on February 12, 2015 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile the research is in fact quite clear that self-confidence IS a major problem for women in the workplace.

This is seriously a chicken/egg thing.

Women don't get promoted as much as men. Research shows that with identical resumes, women get rated lower, are less likely to be hired, and would be hired at a lower salary than men (source). Women are judged more harshly and if they work with men, men are more likely to get credit for the work they do.

In other words, women receive significantly more negative feedback from others. Is it any wonder we are then less confident?

The irony is, this is actually a form of victim blaming. "If you were just more confident, women" people say, ignoring all of the ways in which women are punished for being confident and don't get advancement or reward even when they are confident unless they're very lucky. There even was a recent article about how a troll admitted he targeted a woman for extended abuse because she was confident and happy where he could see her. "I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self."

But be more confident women! That'll fix everything. The rape and death threats are just peoples' way of saying "you wear confidence well!"
posted by Deoridhe at 11:30 PM on February 12, 2015 [88 favorites]


Note: I included links above because when women confidently say something, we're accused of making strong statements without evidence! And then "evidence" is put into scare quotes!

But be more confident, women!
posted by Deoridhe at 11:32 PM on February 12, 2015 [47 favorites]


"Shivohum, where is the sound evidence that women understate their accomplishments, and if there actually is any, how are the studies able to determine that it is not men overstating theirs?"

Even Wadhwa agrees that men overstate their accomplishments. "Ridiculous projections" are rewarded, and Wadhwa's on the "join 'em" side.

Because the difference in bravado is relative, that means women as a population tend undersell relative to men.

But Wadhwa does need to learn the first rule of being in a hole: stop digging.
posted by klangklangston at 12:26 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


His being the go to 'expert on women in tech' does kind of give off a sense of the same kind of issue as the recent all male conference on women's rights in other patriarchal societies.
posted by infini at 12:30 AM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


I do think Greenhall's article had some unfair characterizations and allegations in there, and haven't heard the interview yet, but since the very point of calling Wadhwa out is that he's a public figure, OTM shoulda had their lawyers respond by Xeroxing pressed ham. His reaction really is just making it worse — anyone who throws around libel and slander better be a private citizen or have a real case because otherwise you just look like a total asshole.
posted by klangklangston at 12:32 AM on February 13, 2015


Mr. Wadhwha kind of loses 100% of my respect for not knowing who the baddies are in GG. It's about six months too late for "both sides" bullshit.
posted by Yowser at 1:20 AM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


If the FPP is also about the TLDR being take down, does anyone has an opinion on the "come over here and sit on my lap" ?
I think it's a pretty ugly tactic that implies a bit more than it should. Maybe Amelia knows something that I don't but I don't see any evidence of it.
posted by huguini at 3:11 AM on February 13, 2015


Dismissing criticism about the word nerd as though it's just some odd slang that he shouldn't be expected to know is absurd and flies directly in the face if his so-called expertise.
posted by maxsparber at 3:15 AM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Dude. Read Greenhall's post -

I hear ya, but my comment wasn't about Greenhall's post, it's about how poorly On The Media walked in that minefield. Then they responded even more poorly with Wadhwa got all "Oh, nice podcast you got there, would hate to have someone sue it." The page with their audio should have had a link to Greenhall's post and maybe some of the inks from it. Did it?

Greenhall's post is fine. Your post is fine. On The Media is so very not fine at the moment, it's depressing. About the only way they could make it better is to invent time travel and go back and fix their mistake on this.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:56 AM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


When challenged on the "nerd" part (privately originally) he insisted it was just a "not first language" problem.

Wow, this is a scummy tactic i haven't seen in a while.

For those just tuning in, who haven't been involved in... well basically anywhere scumbag "activist" dudes like this who weren't white or were ESL would show up and try and hijack the discussion, this is pretty much arming the canon to pull the guy-with-the-guy-with-the-gun where they tee you up so that if you continue to call them out, then someone else will call you a racist for doing it because white guilt and bla bla bla.

Serious dirty pool there. Total derail. "Why are you doing/saying this shitty/oppressive thing?" "well it's this reason, that if you challenge, you are a shitty oppressive person!".

It's some borderline gator shit.
posted by emptythought at 4:25 AM on February 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


The advice that women should simply be more confident is similar to the advice that african american kids should simply do better in school. In both cases a difference which is the result of social injustice is treated as the cause of an inequality, instead of the result of it.
posted by Nothing at 5:15 AM on February 13, 2015 [18 favorites]


Serious dirty pool there. Total derail. "Why are you doing/saying this shitty/oppressive thing?" "well it's this reason, that if you challenge, you are a shitty oppressive person!".

It's some borderline gator shit

so this means only I can stand up and be in his face about it without fear of any of these myriads of micro-charges? I can see teh BS he's pulling from my 'having experience in male dominated indian engineering college" special BS bingo card.

and don't even try pulling an IIT intimidation tactic out, i only look like harmless fluffy granny

Yes, I am watching myself bring my baggage to this random hill, but I have also been watching the evolution of vw from blogger/commentator to pundit/guru over the past decade or so, its a nice niche he found at a certain intersection
posted by infini at 5:22 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


What an utter shitstorm over absolutely nothing.

From what I can gather, Wadhwha is saying that it's up to individuals to promote their worth - bosses are quite strongly influenced by how strongly you make your case. Self-aggrandisement and self-confidence is a major part of this, like it or not. If you want to get ahead, you have to play the game, no matter how shitty you think the rules are.

Nowhere that I can see, is he saying that all of women's problems in the workplace would be solved by simply showing more self-confidence, and to interpret it that way is nothing more than wilful misinterpretation for the purpose of faux outrage.

I just can't help thinking that feminists would be better served attacking those who actually are holding women back in the workplace, rather than those who are speaking out on the issue.
posted by salmacis at 5:30 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, it's probably more likely to look like absolutely nothing if it's not about you and your life. How about letting those whose lives it is about decide whether or not it matters?

What I'm not seeing here is an 'utter shitstorm'.
posted by Too-Ticky at 5:36 AM on February 13, 2015 [22 favorites]


Also note the accusation that "feminists" are ignoring the real enemy, despite that being demonstrably untrue. All it's missing is complaints about those feminists being loud and "hysterical" and "bitchy."
posted by zombieflanders at 5:46 AM on February 13, 2015 [17 favorites]


And really, the hyperbole around "utter shitstorm" pretty strongly implies all of that.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:48 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


Saying that "it is up to individuals to promote their worth" is an awesome way for people in positions of power and privilege to shift the responsibility for inequality onto the very people suffering from it by suggesting that they are simply not trying hard enough. Which of course is a seductive view of the world for the powerful, because it also implies their power is entirely deserved.
posted by Nothing at 5:53 AM on February 13, 2015 [37 favorites]


Its like teh alchoholic needing to acknowledge their own problem first, no matter what the rest of the world sees, thinks, says or experiences.
posted by infini at 5:58 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


He can't afford to budge from this niche, though it may become increasingly obvious that he may not be the right person for the job anymore. Ten years ago, there wasn't anyone talking about this from the "mainstream" side of the fence, nor were there so many options for marginalized voices to be heard. He was opening the door back then. perhaps, and it might be sad in a way, perhaps the time has come for him to step aside and let his daughters through first.

in a microcosm, this struggle to hold on to niches and platforms, in a rapidly changed world,
posted by infini at 6:02 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


There might also be a tone deafness due the generational difference *and* the cultural background/educational context that might be making this worse. He probably doesn't see it the way you guys do because you've been sensitized and educated in stuff that not only become more mainstream in the past twenty years or so but also only now, due to tech/web/ict/ etc seeping outward to other geographies.

That he might be obsoleted is his own fear and ego, but that he's as sensitized to a lot of the stuff that leaves me rushing for AskMe or google to figure is also an assumption the critiques are making.

Its messy complicated and I don't have sympathy. Primarily because as someone said above, if you're taking the job then study for it.
posted by infini at 6:07 AM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


I haven't directly interacted with Wadhwa, but I did just read one of his interactions with R343L, and it's deeply scummy in my opinion to attempt to recast someone criticizing his demonstrated lack of expertise in the subject he comments on as racism, and to do so in a manner* that draws the eyes of his followers to the implied accusation, without the context of the criticism.

* the .@ prefix he uses, which makes his comments visible to his followers. It's analogous to saying "Hey, everybody, I'm saying this to ..." instead of a quiet side conversation, for those who don't speak Twitter idiom.
posted by ChrisR at 6:37 AM on February 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Women won’t make the ridiculous projections about their companies that the guys will. They won’t say the really stupid thing the nerds do. They are a lot more realistic and practical and humble."
See, the problem, ladies, is that you're just not obnoxious enough. You just can't sell shit on a shingle like a real man and you just won't say things that elicit scorn, embarrassment, and social ostracism like a real nerd. I'm sorry. In the future, you're just going to have to nut up and bring a full court press to your douche game.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:51 AM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Y'all know what douche is, right? I mean, before you ask the ladies to up their douche game?

*sets out milk and cookies*
posted by infini at 6:59 AM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


So Wadhwa's point is that, in the "Meritocracy" of Tech, self-promotion (like he does) is the most important skillset. He keeps using that word "Meritocracy"; I do not think it means what he thinks it means.
posted by oneswellfoop at 7:18 AM on February 13, 2015 [6 favorites]


"Women won’t make the ridiculous projections about their companies that the guys will. They won’t say the really stupid thing the nerds do. They are a lot more realistic and practical and humble."

See, the problem, ladies, is that you're just not obnoxious enough. You just can't sell shit on a shingle like a real man and you just won't say things that elicit scorn, embarrassment, and social ostracism like a real nerd. I'm sorry. In the future, you're just going to have to nut up and bring a full court press to your douche game.


Yeah, I read that and thought women are more "realistic and practical"? That's the PROBLEM? Maybe instead of telling women in this field to be more like men, we should be telling men to be more like women. I'm pretty sure "realistic and practical" are positive things when you're trying to do business with someone.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:24 AM on February 13, 2015 [13 favorites]


I feel like even Sheryl Sandberg, who in some ways sounds a lot like Wadhwa, at least realizes the double bind that women face: if you're not aggressive like the guys, you get ignored or underestimated, but if you are aggressive like the guys, you get dismissed as an arrogant, over-confident bitch. Sandberg just thinks that we can overcome that double bind by possessing extraordinary social skills to go along with our extraordinary tech talents, which is great if you happen to be one of the amazingly rare breed of people who combine both. Unfortunately, most of us aren't, and men don't have to be. But I mean, Wadwha doesn't even seem to understand the basic problem.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:28 AM on February 13, 2015 [15 favorites]


But don't you know, Mrs. Pterodactyl, that if only I was grandiose and unrealistic about what I could achieve at work and about the skills I had, surely THEN people would respect me more at work! Why, they would fall at my feet to bask in my reflected brilliance!

On an unrelated note, I am totally a building contractor and I have several fabulous bridges to sell. FOR REALLY LOW PRICES TOO! ALSO THE BRIDGES ARE MADE OF DIAMONDS.
posted by sciatrix at 7:33 AM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also, Amelia Greenhall didn't list women who are experts on the research about women in tech for the media's benefit. She just listed Anil Dash, who is another person who doesn't have any particular angle except that he reads/hears a lot and is available to speak. Maybe this article will be the kick some people need to start trading up the chain after him if they're knowledgeable but not popular, or to start making time for media if they're knowledgeable, popular and really busy (Wojjicki, Sandberg, Rice, Meyer, Jessica Livingston, etc.)

In the interview she does, including Jenn Schiffer and Kate Losse, both of whom are brilliant fucking people who have useful things to say. And let's be clear, Amelia (who I know a bit) isn't just some random woman spouting off: she co-founded both Double Union (a feminist hacker space in SF) and Model View Culture. She's really a big part of the newer women in tech movement, for those of us for whom Sandberg and Mayer are insipid and not very useful. (And if by Rice you mean Condoleeza, I don't think many of us are interested in taking advice from war criminals.)

And this is I think the thing Wadwha and some other defensive mainstream dudes don't get: this reaction is coming from we who are sick of this shit and suddenly we are not alone.

We go to work every day and get faced with dudes talking down to us and talking over us, telling us they'd listen if only we were nice, now a little nicer, now come criticize me in private. And all of a sudden a few years ago on Twitter, we discovered other awesome women who made awesome shit and had all the same problems. And they were sick of it, too. And then we went to conferences, Double Union was founded and we feel strong enough to say what we really know to be true, even though we know people will still get up our noses about it.

And one thing we know is that Vivek Wadwha doesn't speak for us; he says bullshit and isn't an ally. He takes the credibility he gets from spouting off about women (instead of promoting them to speak for themselves) and funnels it into his own projects. He is less beneficial that those little fish that eat the big fish's tongue and then become it to steal food.
posted by dame at 7:55 AM on February 13, 2015 [30 favorites]


You guys do those self-evaluation things at work? Don't know how widespread that process is, but the idea is you go over all your objectives point by point and write down how you think you did, your colleagues and superior do the same, and then you compare answers and get a magical score that determines raises and promotions...

Just did mine this week. Here's the only negative point raised about my work: I was told that, in this exercise specifically designed to list your accomplishments, I was over-confident and "braggy". Here's the wise business advice I got from my boss/mentor: "Be careful how you communicate your successes. Sure it's important to toot your own horn, but it makes it sound like you think you're better than others in the team." Wonder if that came up in any of my male colleagues' evals...

TL;DR : @wadhwa can cram his pro tips right up his @.
posted by Freyja at 7:57 AM on February 13, 2015 [35 favorites]


Yeah, ArbitraryAndCapricious, I have become extra fond of trotting out the paraphrase: The test of feminism isn't if a female Einstein gets treated like a male Einstein; it's if a lady schlub can make it as far as a man-schlub.

And I am so very excited that finally more and more women are saying no to the expectation we be twice as good to get half as far. (Ntm adding race to that mix.) And instead just saying "let's talk about how that's fucked," making good work, and making real allies.
posted by dame at 7:59 AM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


For full disclosure, ChrisR and I are pretty good friends so he's pretty inclined to believe me when I'm annoyed and see my words in the best light.

So Wadhwa ends with the implication that I'm telling him to shut up because he's Indian. Of course, I didn't tell him to shut up -- I expressed frustration that the media frequently quote someone who I (and many others) believe re-inforces harmful stereotypes about women and tech. Admittedly, lots of other people ARE explicitly telling him to shut up and of course my reply is yet another critic and it must be hard to tell us all apart and easy to assume we all come from the same place and think the same things. And, of course, unconscious biases are insidious and maybe some of my frustration is because he's Indian; maybe, if he were white, I (and other critics) would respond differently to him. It's hard to know -- it's hard to see it when it's happening. But I've seen him talk to other women like this. Even women who "take things privately" get told they are wrong and accused of bad faith, of not being fair to him, etc. Really polite women get push back on the mildest criticism. He claims he's being attacked viciously when what I consider vicious are rape and death threats, not "hey, this thing you said is wrong and shows a lack of basic competence in subjects you are viewed as an expert on".

Anyway, enough of that. One thing I want to comment on is specifically why I find his advice in the Newsweek article so harmful (aside from the "nerd" thing which is just a telling basic competence issue). He's saying women just need to brag more. And yet there is explicit research that says that's dangerous. Women who don't cast their success in team-oriented ways are viewed poorly. He's also saying the men exaggerate, and say "really stupid things". Men exaggerating and saying "stupid" things would only work if men in tech are presumed competent and "knowing what they are talking about" even when they say things that sound absurd. Women don't get that benefit of the doubt. In other words, instead of changing a culture that rewards people for quite literally lying to get ahead, he's saying women just need to learn to do the same thing even though we are penalized when we do and all the competent voices on the topic (including Sandberg!) agree it's a tightrope to walk. It's just so glib and frustrating that such an unnuanced voice is so frequently quoted.
posted by R343L at 7:59 AM on February 13, 2015 [30 favorites]


"Maybe instead of telling women in this field to be more like men, we should be telling men to be more like women. I'm pretty sure "realistic and practical" are positive things when you're trying to do business with someone."

That wouldn't work without changing the incentives for aggressive bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 8:31 AM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


Of course men can talk themselves up and feel confident about these things. They can be confident because they have a good idea that they're going to land on their feet. Me? Being a nerd has never worked in my favor before, thanks. Talk myself up and I'm too aggressive. Be modest and I look like a loser. I get a lot of no-responses and a lot of not-right-fits. Confidence is what you have when you're not broke enough to be on public assistance--you can't expect members of disadvantaged groups to do the same things that members of privileged groups do. We don't have anything to pull ourselves up with but bootstraps. The trouble in the end isn't the trite aphorisms, because it's not that he's spouting the wrong aphorisms, it's that you can't fix the problem in the space of a pull quote.
posted by Sequence at 9:01 AM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


TLDR has added something to the removed episode's page:

WNYC decided to remove this episode, because it centered on an internet debate about author Vivek Wadhwa and we failed a basic test of fairness: we did not invite him to comment. We are planning a follow-up that will address both the original issue and the ensuing conversation around the removal of the episode. We are keenly aware of the discussion out there and will release the new piece as soon as it is ready.
posted by sparkletone at 9:37 AM on February 13, 2015


Self-aggrandisement and self-confidence is a major part of this, like it or not. If you want to get ahead, you have to play the game, no matter how shitty you think the rules are.

Fine, but not everyone is playing by the same rules. Self-aggrandising, self-confident behaviour in women is often regarded as "bossy" or "domineering" rather than "outspoken" and "commanding", and is often not rewarded the same way.

The rules, themselves, are, as you point out, shitty, and while refusing to play isn't always going to result in the best outcome, there needs to be plenty of acknowledgement that the game is rigged, the rules aren't fair, and those currently benefiting most from the shitty rules should be stepping up to, somehow, help change them.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:49 AM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


michaelh: Oh, yeah, I agree he is just doing pop science. He's still an expert on the subject, though, as far as getting quotes and op-eds goes.
Are you saying he's an expert on pop science, which he isn't? Or that even though he's just doing pop science, he's legitimately an expert anyway, which would be akin to saying Uri Geller is an expert at metallurgical yield forces because he "telepathically" bends spoons?
posted by IAmBroom at 10:07 AM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


infini: Y'all know what douche is, right? I mean, before you ask the ladies to up their douche game?

*sets out milk and cookies*
Wonders if he should ask for red soda instead...
posted by IAmBroom at 10:13 AM on February 13, 2015


Self-aggrandisement and self-confidence is a major part of this, like it or not. If you want to get ahead, you have to play the game, no matter how shitty you think the rules are.

Maybe if there were more women in hiring positions, we wouldn't have to play shit games, and productivity would actually improve.
posted by Golden Eternity at 10:33 AM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Primarily because as someone said above, if you're taking the job then study for it.

I think the whole point is this is not a job for him to just take.
posted by herda05 at 10:57 AM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Wonders if he should ask for red soda instead..."

No such thing.
posted by klangklangston at 10:59 AM on February 13, 2015


Self-aggrandisement and self-confidence is a major part of this, like it or not. If you want to get ahead, you have to play the game, no matter how shitty you think the rules are.

I think this is the same bullshit that gets thrown around time after time to distract from real change and solutions. Its handy-wavy, not measurable, and shifts the focus of the problem. It's an excellent way to say, "Hey, you know this thing that appears as inherent systematic bias, well look, its really all your fault. Now if you could just be like Mike."
posted by herda05 at 11:53 AM on February 13, 2015 [12 favorites]


Hm. Save the world? I'm really perplexed by this growing mentality among men (tech guys in particular) that women should be expected to 'mother' everyone elses' behavior -- including the poor behavior of adults who should know better. It comes across as stereotyping and blaming the poor behavior of boys and men on a failure to receive proper female influence/mothering. It therefore places the onus on all women to 'fix' the problems of gender inequality.

"that women should let the boys have their social media, while they save the world"

What an incredibly patronizing statement -- and even though the problem is patriarchal, he removes all male accountability. It's also surprising in its ignorance. He's saying the problem is women aren't being treated equally/fairly because they don't stand up for themselves or boast more, yet his very statement demonstrates the fact that even he does not view women equally. He believes women should have to do more, and work harder, for the same, fair treatment in life, while men should be expected to do... nothing? Play video games? Play on FB and Twitter? Next it'll be: "Let the boys have their internet". F that.

I lived the female experience for over 21 years and have been living the male experience for nearly 12 years. The differences in treatment, especially in the tech world, has been night and day. The only people truly qualified to speak out about women in tech are women in tech. Men can be supportive of what the female experience may be like, but they simply cannot relate to it. They are men. They don't know. They can't. The fact that Mr. Wadwha insists he can relate is particularly frustrating, as it's not relevant, helpful or even true.

tl;dr He's another pseudo-intellectual techleech capitalizing on a hot topic to the detriment of women. He should stop telling women to speak out, then trying to silence them when they do. Let tech women -- not men -- talk about, and speak for, other tech women.
posted by stubbehtail at 12:43 PM on February 13, 2015 [27 favorites]


For someone who feels that women should be more confident and assertive, he's sure responding poorly to women confidently and assertively telling him not to be an ass.
posted by AAALASTAIR at 1:24 PM on February 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


Neither his upbringing nor his culture would have given him any socialization or skills on how to respond to women, other than what would be perceived as poorly, once he stepped outside of it, more so if they were confident, assertive and accomplished.
posted by infini at 1:31 PM on February 13, 2015


I really wish someone would write more about male fragility and this guy. Because while there are definitely elements of manipulative "oh my god look i'm being ATTACKED!" armwaves to his supporters with the how he takes any criticism, i totally believe he really feels persecuted because a lot of guys, especially nerdy guys, are like that. They'll react to being told they suck by acting like they got punched in the face.

Not that i think it has any bearing on the actual result and implication of what he's doing here, which is turning any criticism of himself back around on whoever said it as the violent aggressor. But i always think it's interesting how thin of a skin these dudes really have.

He's literally demonstrated that he folds when he experiences 1/100th of what a woman saying the same things would. It's a superposition of interesting and utterly boring.
posted by emptythought at 2:11 PM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]


Neither his upbringing nor his culture would have given him any socialization or skills on how to respond to women

Can you clarify? Do you mean Indian culture, American culture, or both?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:19 PM on February 13, 2015


Can you clarify?

probably not in a manner that would be suitable for this forum with the appropriate terminology. i hesitate because i'm not educated in the language of gender, ethnicity and whatnot and would not want to draw unnecessary attention to a misguided attempt.

not American culture. Just based on his wiki entry - generation, education, location - and yes, I have tons of experience with Indian males, their fragile egos, and what it means to be a woman in male dominated fields in both US and India, so I guess, speaking from a gut level read of the wiki for which I'd struggle with finding the right words to explain. A sense of eggshells perhaps, in case it becomes a case of #notallIndianmen ? ;p
posted by infini at 2:34 PM on February 13, 2015


> When challenged on the "nerd" part (privately originally) he insisted it was just a "not first language" problem

If his Wikipedia entry is correct, he's lived in the States longer than I have. Hell, he's lived here longer than many Mefites have even been alive -- he got his MBA from NYU almost 30 years ago. There's no way he can use that as an excuse after all this time. Maybe he doesn't know American pop culture from the 1970s, but other than that I can't see how he'd still have gaps in his vocabulary.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:43 PM on February 13, 2015 [8 favorites]


But aren't there plenty of women in India with a healthy level of self-confidence and assertiveness, at least among the more educated parts of society? Indira Gandhi? One of the previous companies I worked at's IT directory was an Indian woman, who was incredibly competent, and naturally confident as far as I could tell. Actually, there are quite a few I can think of. "Nerdy" ones as well... Whatever.
posted by Golden Eternity at 2:43 PM on February 13, 2015


Well, look, I don't blame him for not knowing that a woman can be a nerd. That's a little weird, but whatever. I probably misuse or misunderstand words sometimes, too. I blame him for not knowing that a woman can be a nerd while claiming to be an expert on the role of women in a subculture that worships nerdiness. That's inexcusable. In this particular context, the nerd thing pretty much seals the case against him.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:47 PM on February 13, 2015 [16 favorites]


But aren't there plenty of women in India with a healthy level of self-confidence and assertiveness, at least among the more educated parts of society? Indira Gandhi?

Yes. At the Prime Ministerial level, as daughter of a Prime Minister and member of an elite well educated privileged household, power accrued to Mrs Gandhi and few would have done little other than defer to her all her life.

I doubt if this gentlemen ever moved in the same circles, at least during his developmental years.

IT is a also seeing changes but for a different generation. And I too am not aware of how things have changed in the past almost two decades since I last worked there. Others, who may have left 40 years ago, would be more likely to have even less experience of how daily inter gender interactions in the workplace may have changed in India. I noticed that gap even with my parents while growing up, when we visited.

The person we discuss, if you check his wiki, and I mentioned in my earlier comment that I'd based my read on the wiki entry, has been outside of India for at minimum 40 years.

When would he met all your IT industry women? And where? If in the Bay Area and socially, there's an entirely different complexity. If at work, what odds that they would revert to their family teaching and upbringing to give respect to their elders.

You see, its already getting complicated to explain.
posted by infini at 2:50 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's no shortage of such women. Its the men who haven't kept up with the times. And so they take their anger out in DV, rape, humiliation, abuse of power and status and positions, and micro-aggressions. As far as I can tell, from the news out of India. Not a very good track record in respecting their womenkind, over there.
posted by infini at 2:57 PM on February 13, 2015


And you get women with an even healthier level of self confidence and assertiveness in the much less educated parts of society, because they're more likely to be doing the heavy lifting of running the households while the men drink and beat them. The very rich and the very poor have rarely been as constrained by teh mores and customs as the insecure middler classes of society anywhere.

Then it depends on the region and its culture, some regions have matriarchal societies, some are more intent on protecting their manhood's honour.
posted by infini at 3:01 PM on February 13, 2015 [3 favorites]


Last one, since I don't know the guy at all but more as context and where my earlier comments were coming from.

I met an IT project manager who is Mexican and married to an Italian. She's working for a big name Indian IT house in Finland. She's facing the same problems at work as described by many women in tech, with the additional cultural baggage of her bosses being accustomed to a socio cultural deference due to heirarchy that is part and parcel of the Indian milieu. I can see it because it struck me when I went there for my undergrad from an American style International school where we called our teachers by their names vs having to call the teachers Sir or Madam. It was in Bangalore.

This guy, in his context and milieu, probably feels and would be considered, very progressive a father for encouraging his daughters to study science and engineering and technology. [There's also a complicated bundle of things related to how much info I draw from his last name that I would need a book to communicate i.e. if he was S. Indian, the science and tech would be no biggie but then he'd match horoscopes for finding them husbands] For his generation, he's speaking out on behalf of women in technology and nobody in his social circle would be doing so. He's progressive! He's forward thinking! And all you guys do is attack him!

Add another complicated mixture that all his fancy brand achievements and wiki entry and punditry should be earning him automatic "bhau" regardless of how much or how little of an asshole he was and he's way out of his depth here with no means to respond properly to criticism he barely comprehends and does not expect nor know where its coming from or why - "must be race" default rather than attempting to learn something about gender justice issues.

Although I still don't have sympathy for him because you can't be speaking for women anymore nor should you be trying to once enough have told you so. And you're beholden to learn the cultural mores or expectations of your adopted country.

When I have seen my father's attitude and respect for me change, as I evolved and grew, as did the world around him, then these guys a generation younger have no excuse.
posted by infini at 3:31 PM on February 13, 2015 [9 favorites]


"that women should let the boys have their social media, while they save the world"

The thing which has stuck with me about this statement is the idea that "social media" belongs to men. Firstly, this is just an extension of the misogynistic belief that the world belongs to men and women should be the silent helpers. Secondly, it struck me how similar this is to downplaying areas where women dominate; evidence points to women dominating social media (I'm linking to a source because I can't be trusted to know what I'm saying - I'm a woman after all - but be more confident women!) and a lot of the harassment on 'important' social media platforms could be seen as a way of driving women out of a place where we had been running things because now twitter is making national news.

A similar thing happens to race - members of a racial group make something, that something starts to make money, white people step in and take over so they can make money with it (see: Rap; not linking to evidence - OMG CAN YOU TRUST ME TO KNOW MY SHIT????). Look at how My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was praised all over the place and now everyone focuses on the men who like a aimed at girls and women.

As for stuff about the fragile male geek, people have been talking about it for a while.
posted by Deoridhe at 6:31 PM on February 13, 2015 [7 favorites]


So here's an hour-long program on women in tech, in which Wadhwa is one of the two panelists. He's bad, but it's hard to exactly put my finger on why he's bad. He's incredibly complementary of his co-panelist, but in ways that sort of undermine her by setting himself up as her champion. He also chimes in after she says anything to comment on it, as if he's the final arbiter of what's right or wrong. He says some stuff about how it's ok that women are underrepresented in computer science, because women can use skills like empathy and design skills to influence tech. He starts by talking about systemic bias in the industry, but then he says that most men like women and that women should just ask around, find out who the bad guys are, and avoid them, which is sort of the opposite of recognizing that it's a systemic problem. He isn't quite as bad as some of the stuff on Twitter would make you expect: he says that Gamergate is sexist, for instance. But he's pretty annoying, and I understand why women in tech don't want him as the go-to guy for interviews.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:05 PM on February 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's also a lot of essentialist stuff about how guys like "silly apps," and women care about things that are really important, so women shouldn't worry about silly apps and should use their tech skills to save the world. I don't understand why we have to be responsible for saving the world, but also, it's a lot more daunting to think about saving the world than to think about coding a silly app. It basically puts a lot of pressure on women, which I think could actually discourage women just starting out in the field.

Oh, and he does a whole gross Mitt Romney thing about how bias in venture capital shouldn't be an issue because women don't need venture capital. They can just borrow $30,000 from their uncles and aunts and get started! Which.... yeah. Maybe his next thing will be class issues in Silicon Valley?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:15 PM on February 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


He sounds like a smarmy self satisfied smug idiot. she said judgementally
posted by infini at 2:26 PM on February 14, 2015


"The thing which has stuck with me about this statement is the idea that "social media" belongs to men. Firstly, this is just an extension of the misogynistic belief that the world belongs to men and women should be the silent helpers. Secondly, it struck me how similar this is to downplaying areas where women dominate; evidence points to women dominating social media (I'm linking to a source because I can't be trusted to know what I'm saying - I'm a woman after all - but be more confident women!) and a lot of the harassment on 'important' social media platforms could be seen as a way of driving women out of a place where we had been running things because now twitter is making national news. "

Really? I read the social media thing as dismissing social media as inconsequential and inverting the trope of having women do the frivolous work compared to the "serious" stuff of, like, computer vision algorithms and stuff that has big commercial application. How much of that is related to the general background sense of social media as frivolous because it's dominated by women is unclear (especially versus the general generational dismissal of social media), but the problem seemed to me more that Wadhwa was doing some blithe essentializing and ignoring how power functions in social media with regard to gender.
posted by klangklangston at 12:56 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The incredibly frustrating thing about Wadhwa is that the tech industry right now has a huge number of brave and bold female voices speaking out about the problems women are facing in the industry. Some of them are crass and giving of zero fucks, some are academic, some are humorous. But they are there, in spades, and it really takes no effort at all to find them. The ada initiative, the geek feminism wiki, model view culture... the list goes on and on and on. We do not need Wadhwa to speak for us. I would rather hear any of the many female feminist voices young and old, even the Sandberg's of the world, speak for us, instead of some random guy who is not in the tech industry and doesn't seem to want anything but credit for supporting women.

He has been told this, clearly, articulately, by the women in the industry. And instead he digs himself deeper and deeper into his identity hole. Does he really care about women in tech, or does he care about himself, his platform, his speaking engagements, his book deal? It seems pretty clear that he cares far more about the latter than he does about the former.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:20 PM on February 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


Wadhwa has finally found someone to publish his response for him. Here it is on Venture Beat.

Why he couldn't just put this out on his own blog, I don't know.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:23 PM on February 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I really hope Greenhall et al respond to that...
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 8:31 PM on February 15, 2015


Poor sap, the investment of time and money gone down the drain as the world changes beneath his feet. Its not the nit picky details he seems to be rebutting one by one that are the issue, its the fact that he is not a woman.

Wendell.
posted by infini at 12:54 AM on February 16, 2015


There is a new controversy brewing about whether a man should be allowed to comment on the challenges that women in technology face.
What a great beginning.
posted by sukeban at 1:39 AM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Why he couldn't just put this out on his own blog, I don't know.

Because that's getting down in the mud and "making it personal". If a middlebrow site like that publishes it for him, it adds an air of legitimacy.

Being a successful asshole, both in being successful in general and being successful at being an efficient asshole is all about yes men and getting others to either do your dirty work, or let you sit on their shoulders as social proof.

This is basically #notyourshield type garbage, but handled a lot more slickly.

It's high level sealioning, and some frank underwood house of cards shit. It's still pretty bizarre to me though that this guy is willing to invest his surprising amount of skill at being a manipulator in to... what? Getting back slaps for publicly bloviating? I don't understand what his endgame is other than getting attention.
posted by emptythought at 1:45 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Its not the nit picky details he seems to be rebutting one by one that are the issue, its the fact that he is not a woman.

I don't think it's quite that; it's the fact that he is being extremely tone deaf and patronising, and decidedly refusing to engage in good faith with any of the criticism he is receiving. Instead, he is calling his critics 'haranguing' and 'harassers' (but I thought you wanted women to be more confident, Vivek!). I went all through his time line and did not see any insults, ad hominem attacks or similar. I also couldn't confirm (from public tweets) his claim that people were harassing his followers.

He refered to one critic as 'that woman', also incidently implying (incorrectly) that she had been flooding him with DMs when in fact she had been participating in a public back and forth with him. Sure, that's not sexist at all. Also, hey, lies!

He also claimed that women make up false accusations of sexual harassment. He's deleted that last tweet now. That one looked bad, but I get what he was trying to say; he was responding to the charge leveled at him personally that his habit of DMing young women and asking them to come meet him in person was creepy. I don't think he was trying to be creepy or harassing, but he's a complete idiot if he doesn't understand why it would come off that way (and he obviously doesn't). Especially for a supposed 'expert' in sexism in tech.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:29 AM on February 16, 2015 [3 favorites]


Oh, and he's also engaging with and retweeting hardcore gamergators like @nero. That's who is on his side in this thing.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:36 AM on February 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


Does someone have actual responses to his piece in Venturebeat? Because a lot of his points there seem fairly substantive.
posted by klangklangston at 1:28 PM on February 16, 2015


There is a new controversy brewing about whether a man should be allowed to comment on the challenges that women in technology face.

The issue is actually that he does a combination of speaking for women, because men are considered experts by larger media companies, and that when he does speak about the challenges women face he individualizes them to each woman's fault rather than discussing and explaining the rather extensive institutionalized and social discrimination women struggle with. It is disappointing that he fails to read women's feedback so completely that his opening claim is that this is primarily about gender discrimination aimed at men.

Then for a while he talks about the stuff he's done. The support for women is mainly financial. Harvard and Duke are mentioned. So is his lucrative company, for which he was able to raise lots of Venture Capital. I'm really glad he's done so well.

Ironically, one of the systemic biases against women is the degree to which they are not funded. His claim in other places has been that women are not funded by Venture Capitalists because they don't have enough confidence to exaggerate enough about what they're doing.

"The podcast says that I believe that women understate their accomplishments."

This is not an opinion, but a conclusion drawn from research.


It is weird that he includes this in an article about how he was misrepresented by the "hurtful and damaging" podcast, since apparently they were right that he believes women understate their accomplishments. He continues to neither consider nor address why or the responses women get from being assertive; many women in this thread have talked about getting negative feedback for being confident, confidence online can land a woman with years of rape and death threats, and there have been studies showing that women are rated negatively for being confident and demanding.

Weirdly, neither of the studies he cites seems to support his claims. The first one he cites only states the differences between gender are small (and the included example is in motivation, not presentation). Granted, the bulk of it is hidden, but given how strongly he's stating that women understating our accomplishments is a huge problem, one would think it would rank strongly enough to be mentioned in the abstract.

The second says that women are undersupported by venture capitalists - something women have been saying all along. ("An increasing number of studies have examined access to capital as a possible impediment to the growth of women-owned firms (Brush et al., 2001;Brush, et al., 2004; Coleman & Robb, 2009). Recentstudies indicate that women-owned entrepreneurs raise smaller amounts of capital to finance their firms and are more reliant on personal rather than external sources of financing (Coleman & Robb, 2009; Coleman & Robb, 2010)."). The three challenges listed are: "Lack of mentors", "Their view of success and failure" and "A financing gap."

Again, women who are critiquing him have been claiming that under-support from Venture Capitalists due to entrenched sexism are a major impairment to women in business. He has focused on how individual women have failed to sell their accomplishments. This, ironically, reinforces rather than challenges the number two challenge that women face in business. His emphasis on women individually being responsible for the discrimination we receive is pretty bog standard sexism.

Some women believe I, a man, should not have been quoted in this because a woman would have been quoted had I not been. I don’t believe this to be the case and I did refer the author Nina Burleigh, to other women, including Heidi Roizen, who was featured in the story.

I'm glad he referred them to women. I wish he had suggested they speak instead of him. He doesn't believe he's speaking instead of women, though - whether one holds him as an authority on that would be an interesting thought exercise.

Rather than continue to engage in a public spat, I asked her via DM to come and speak to me in person at Stanford Law School, where like other professors, I hold regular office hours for students.

First note the language - public spat. This both minimizes what she was saying and casts her as a child. It is also interesting that he specifically says those hours he has are for students, but then doesn't see how his inviting of a woman who is not his student to something set up for his students is patronizing.

And if one can't see the issues with inviting a woman one has just been "spatting" with online to a private meeting in person in a location he controls, then I honestly don't know what to say; if something bad were to happen to her (heh, passive tense) most people would blame her for stepping into such a questionable situation.

This will also provide insights into a book I am writing on how to encourage more women to become entrepreneurs, to think big, and to help solve humanity’s grand challenges. It is they who are going to save the world, after all.

He claims putting the phrase in context would help; I don't find that it was taken out of context at all. Being put on a pedestal is just as dehumanizing as being asked to bring everyone coffee, and studies show that people who express positive discriminatory statements about women also hold negative discriminatory beliefs about us; there is no benign sexism.

Putting all of the pressure on women to "save the world" is overwhelming and demoralizing, especially since women continue to be paid less than men despite doing better at school, continue to get significantly less venture capital if they decide to strike out on their own, continue to be expected to pick up cleaning and social-support work in offices unpaid and unrecognized, and continue to be sexually harassed even at work. It also doesn't acknowledge that we, as women, might want to do something other than save the world; it leaves no room for us to be afraid, or rageful, or despairing.

It's nice he thinks women can save the world. Could we at least be paid more and not discriminated against while we're expected to also fix everything? Or, baring that near-impossible request, treated like people and not Angels of the Boardroom?
posted by Deoridhe at 6:24 PM on February 16, 2015 [21 favorites]


On the other hand, apparently his schtick of saying things really confidently and then people will listen to you and believe you without checking your sources really works. For him.

My experience has been I get patronized and dismissed - sometimes even my ability to Logic is called into question.

But be more confident, women!
posted by Deoridhe at 6:27 PM on February 16, 2015 [5 favorites]


Note that the second paper acknowledges that it is based on my research, but does not list me as an author. I wanted all of the credit to go to the women who helped me analyze the data and to Kauffman Foundation.

How big of him.
posted by Going To Maine at 6:43 PM on February 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's Wadhwa's deleted tweet about women making false claims of sexual harassment.

As I said above, it seems to me it was intended as a response to the claims that women he was interacting with found his behaviour a bit creepy, which he percieves as being a 'false allegation'.

Instead, it seems to have made him a bunch of MRA best buddies.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:41 PM on February 16, 2015


I thought the original TLDR piece was pretty sloppy: maybe it worked as a blog post, but it needed to be fact-checked and tightened up before it was put up on the podcast. And Wadhwa's response is kind of an object lesson in why you need to not be sloppy about this stuff. A lot of what he says may be accurate, but it also misses the point. For instance, I believe him when he says that he has never received money for being an "expert" on women in tech. I don't think he needs money: he recreated himself as an academic and media commentator after a career in tech entrepreneurship, and he founded and sold several companies. I'm going to assume that he's pretty rich, and he's in it for the prestige and attention, rather than the money. But he's still benefited from his status as the go-to "expert" on women in tech, so it doesn't really change the substance of the argument.

So as I see it, here are some real problems with Vivek Wadwha as an "expert" on women in tech.

1. He isn't qualified to speak on the subject. He refers a lot to his research and seems to suggest that his academic research is the basis of his qualifications. ("I have never claimed to speak for women but only about my research into the issues of gender discrimination in the technology industry.") In fact, he's a really dubious academic. He has an undergrad degree and an MBA, and he doesn't have rigorous training in any discipline. He has never published any of this research on women in tech in a peer-reviewed journal, and the only academic thing he has ever published on women in tech is a non-peer-reviewed article on which he is listed as the second author. He relies on the fact that most people don't know very much about how academia works and assume that since he can say that he's been affiliated with fancy universities, he's a serious academic. He's not, and it's not particularly impressive to have been given a position as a non-paid research assistant at an institute at a big-name university, especially, to be blunt, if you're a potential big donor. If he's qualified based on his research, it would be nice if there were some way actually to see this research and his conclusions based on it.

Now, I don't think you need academic qualifications to comment on women in tech, assuming that you have anything interesting to say. But he really doesn't. Which brings me to point number 2.

2. He doesn't have anything interesting to say. I haven't heard a single insight out of him that made me think "huh, that's interesting. I've never thought about it that way." His thoughts about women in tech are a combination of platitudes and cliches, and it's all really simplistic. He doesn't seem to have thought through the implications of a lot of the things that he says, and he misses things that would be really obvious to women who have actually worked in the industry or anyone who has listened to them.

3. He's kind of a mess when it comes to actually dealing with real women. It was a bad move to list himself as the author, rather than the editor, of Innovating Women, which is actually a collection of essays by women in tech. That thing that Going to Maine quoted, where he basically takes credit for women's academic work, is fairly monstrous. In general, I think he genuinely means well, but he can come across as patronizing, and he seems to either dismiss criticism of his ideas coming from women or take them personally.

For what it's worth, I think it's really great that a male columnist in business publications has used that platform to advocate for women in tech and for diversity in the industry in general. Go him! I just think it becomes an issue when he's seen as an expert on that issue and when he's sought out to comment on it when there would be better people to ask.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:37 AM on February 17, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm disturbed by the idea that podcasts are some "higher standard" than a blog post. Sometimes a podcast is just a podcast, and most of them are opinion. Holding "woman talks about influential man who will threaten to sue" to a higher standard I think reveals more bias than people might think.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:04 PM on February 17, 2015


It's one thing to make a podcast for yourself, it's another to release one under WNYC's brand. I haven't head other episodes of TLDR, but I think that this particular episode was way less polished than the blog post being discussed.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:32 PM on February 17, 2015


This is getting beyond parody. Wadhwa speaking at VMware's 'VMWomen's Speakers' series.

Speakers speaking about women, it would seem, and not actually women speakers.

I'm almost expecting him to start campaigning for a 'Woman of the Year' award. For himself.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:11 PM on February 17, 2015 [2 favorites]


I don't think that there's a higher standard for podcasts in general. I do think there's a higher standard for a podcast associated with a media criticism program that routinely calls out other media outlets for sloppy journalism. The hosts of On The Media make a passionate case for journalistic rigor, and the people associated with the show ought to practice what they preach. And I think this episode shows why it's necessary, because now Wadhwa can point to fairly trivial errors to discredit story, while sidestepping the fundamental point.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 3:01 PM on February 17, 2015


"I'm disturbed by the idea that podcasts are some "higher standard" than a blog post. Sometimes a podcast is just a podcast, and most of them are opinion. Holding "woman talks about influential man who will threaten to sue" to a higher standard I think reveals more bias than people might think."

Blog posts on official NPR/WNYC platforms would be held to the same standard of fact checking and journalistic ethics. This isn't Greenhall's personal blog where she has a lot more latitude; the TLDR failings aren't even on her — she can voice all the opinions that she wants to the hosts. But the producers have a duty to investigate, fact check and vet claims made by her (or anyone else, including Wadhwa).
posted by klangklangston at 7:13 PM on February 17, 2015






And tonight tldr posted their follow up. Wadhwa is interviewed and it is surreal.
posted by R343L at 9:31 PM on February 19, 2015


(FanFare post for some discussion - in addition to this thread, of course.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:14 PM on February 19, 2015


"This issue isn't about me any more. It is about ethics in journalism."

He has to be trolling at this point, right?
posted by zombieflanders at 4:24 AM on February 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


So many things wrong in that interview:

* Constantly interrupting the interviewer.
* Doubling down on the idea that people expressing their boundaries - that they found his behavior creepy - is a significant accusation of sexual harassment that can be called a lie.
* After having long conversations on Twitter with her, insisting he doesn't know who Kelly Ellis is and is she really a software developer?
* Calling the word "ally" slang. (It's definitely jargon but using the word "slang" in this manner is to say the word has little credibility and can fairly be ignored.)
* Blaming tldr for people on Twitter criticizing him (folks were before!)
* Making Haggerty read aloud a Gawker piece he says lied about him (and again it is somehow tldr' fault.)
* Using the word "crucified" to describe criticism.
* Again making the claim that being an immigrant excuses not knowing "slang".
* Telling women who are critical of the fact that he gets interviewed and quoted so often that they don't know journalism.

I could go on.

I think the most disturbing part to me is how much he takes what are really fairly mild criticism (I've seen almost nothing calling him names, telling him to die, etc) and turns it into it being some grand unfair attack on him. This is most notable with the fact that he takes women expressing their discomfort -- eg that they find him creepy -- and makes the claim that this is people accusing him of being a sexual predator, etc. If the mere expression of boundaries - "this behavior makes me uncomfortable and looks creepy" - is assumed to be an assertion of much more awful behavior (one a media outlet couldn't publish without say a court case as evidence), where does that lead? Must we not express our own feelings because to do so is (in his worldview) the same as accusing of an actual crime?
posted by R343L at 4:41 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


this is people accusing him of being a sexual predator, etc.

Going to listen to the podcast in a bit, but it does seem like his invitation to come meet at his office has been painted in this light. From Greenhall's post:

He invites young women who criticize him to meet him in person at his office at Stanford. (Ew ew ew.)

I read that "Ew ew ew" as definitely implying that Wadhwa's invitation has a sexual note. Is that wrong? (I suppose the answer would be that it does indeed have a sexual note, even if likely unintended, and that he should have figured out that that wasn't the best phrasing.)
posted by Going To Maine at 6:24 AM on February 20, 2015


Okay, listening to the podcast and wow. He really isn't doing himself any favors here.
posted by Going To Maine at 7:04 AM on February 20, 2015


He has two charges: Firstly, that he was accused of being a sexual harrasser. He wasn't. He was accused of behaving in a creepy way, and some of that has to do with unstated sexual implications when you invite someone to come to your office, but a lot if it has to do with him taking conversations to DM when he doesn't like where they are going. And, honestly, it is creepy, and it's shitty for him to claim the show made an accusation against him they didn't.

The second is his claim that he makes no money from this stuff. That's not as cut and dried as he makes it out to be, and I wish he were pressed a little harder on this. He may not directly profit from his advocacy and perceived expertise on the part of women in tech, but, as his income does derive from his perceived expertise on tech subjects, every time he is quoted in the media, and every time he does something related to tech that has his name on it, it builds his brand. The trouble is that the show phrased it as a rather simple "he makes money from this," rather than "he increased his profile and cache which likely benefits the business side of his world." They phrased it poorly, and it is in this poor phrases that he can claim to have been libeled, but, come on. There are benefits.

He repeated the heart attack story twice. Guy, I'm sorry, but if your heart can't stand criticism from women, maybe you should stick to an area where you won't be criticized.

He claims again to be a researcher. He could be pressed on this. Others have pointed out that he doesn't so much do original research as compiles existing research.

He claims not to be an ally, but that's a dodge, and here's where he gets it especially wrong. He explicitly frames his work in this field as advocacy for women, and yet he simply dismisses the word "ally" as slang as says that he shouldn't be expected to know it. "Slang" isn't the right word here; it's more an evolving example of jargon. It has been adopted and defined by women, and it is an evolving definition. 10 years ago, I was unfamiliar with the usage the word has now, because it has evolved to describe the sort of ethical and informed support that those who are less privileged should be able to expect from those who have privilege who share their goals. It's a tremendously useful term, and not one limited to some obscure group, or one that is hard to find in contemporary discourse on gender. The fact that he not only claims not to know the term, but insists he shouldn't be expected to, sums up the issue that many have with him: He's perfectly happy to talk about women, but recalcitrant about talking to them when they have criticisms of him, and refuses to educated himself on the way women themselves talk about the issue.
posted by maxsparber at 7:05 AM on February 20, 2015 [8 favorites]


He wants to speak. He doesn't want to converse.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:26 AM on February 20, 2015


A li'l bit more Wadhwa: Perils of becoming a public figure, in the South Asia Mail, posted some time after the first podcast went up. Features this delightful tidbit:

I offered to coach [Shanley] in how to build a PR platform. In response, she hurled streams of insults and profanities at me and attacked again on many more occasions. (It was reported recently that this woman had been in a relationship with a self-proclaimed White Supremacist and anti-Semite in 2012, and she admitted to having shared his values, but that is beside the point.)

Man, that parenthetical has nothing to do with being unfamiliar with the language.
posted by Going To Maine at 9:16 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


I feel like the "ick, ick, ick" thing is an example of how he really needs to start listening to some of the women he claims to be speaking for. I'm sure that he didn't mean anything creepy when he invited her to his office, but he also doesn't realize how much of a problem sexual harassment is for many young women and how carefully they feel they have to police their interactions to avoid those situations. Here's a commentary in Fortune magazine by a woman who is a computer science major at Stanford about all the overt and less-overt sexism that she's encountered. One of her examples is:
I’ve had middle­-aged coworkers (not at Facebook, another internship) literally GChat me pickup lines (that aren’t even clever) to the point I’d avoid certain portions of the office altogether
When you're used to having that kind of experience, then being asked to meet someone in private, on his home turf, in an office where he can shut the door, can come off as creepy even if it isn't intended that way. And if you're going to understand the challenges of women in tech, you really need to understand that, because it's part of the reason that it's harder for young women to find mentors than it is for young men. It's not just a matter of women lacking confidence. It's also a matter of women having to wonder whether every invitation is sincere or a pretext for an unwanted sexual advance.

Anyway, I'm putting off listening to the new podcast until I'm in a better frame of mind for it. Maybe I'll listen to it while I rage-clean my bathroom tomorrow.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:21 AM on February 20, 2015 [2 favorites]


The irony is that in India, there's even more of a concern among women to not be in a closed space with a strange man.
posted by infini at 10:15 AM on February 20, 2015


I'm a man and I wouldn't want to be in a closed space with Vivek Wadhwa, because he seems like a dick.
posted by maxsparber at 10:37 AM on February 20, 2015 [3 favorites]


Somehow I get the feeling that that was slang he would be familiar with.
posted by maxsparber at 10:37 AM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


this is people accusing him of being a sexual predator, etc.

I've been trawling his timeline for days, going back to the date of original broadcast of the Greenhall interview, and I cannot find any evidence of this. At most, people have described his habit of DMing young women, and then inviting them to come meet him in person (in some cases, after they have already declined to do so) as creepy, but nothing more.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:52 PM on February 20, 2015


I offered to coach [Shanley] in how to build a PR platform. In response, she hurled streams of insults and profanities at me and attacked again on many more occasions.

Here is that exchange. Apart from Shanley using the word 'goddamn', I don't see any profanity being hurled. So that's a fucking lie.

I think his offer was sincere, if totally tonedeaf and very patronising (Shanley was criticising that fact that Innovating Women is generally credited to Wadhwa, and not the women who wrote the majority of its contents). He sees himself as a saviour, and when he bestirs himself to offer his oh-so-valuable help, and it is refused, he parses that as an insult of the highest order.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:56 PM on February 20, 2015


(It was reported recently that this woman had been in a relationship with a self-proclaimed White Supremacist and anti-Semite in 2012, and she admitted to having shared his values, but that is beside the point.)

This (that Shanley held racist views) is an unverified claim made by Weev - Weev - about Shanley, and 'reported' by Andrew Brietbart (I won't link it - you can find it via Googling 'Shanley + Weev').

And Wadhwa has the gall to complain about factchecking!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:03 PM on February 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


"Somehow I get the feeling that that was slang he would be familiar with."

"I've never been a private detective!" #WadhwaSlang
posted by klangklangston at 7:44 PM on February 20, 2015 [4 favorites]


Here is that exchange. Apart from Shanley using the word 'goddamn', I don't see any profanity being hurled. So that's a fucking lie.

Although, in the interest of accuracy, Shanley did swear at him on other occassions. It's just another tone argument though, and therefore noise.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:50 PM on February 20, 2015






Wow, that column reels all over the place. Beefing with NPR, patting himself on the back, and ending with what would be a very graceful bow-out if not for everything before it:

But I may have made the mistake of fighting the battles of women in technology for too long. And I may have taken the accusations too personally. Today there is a chorus of very powerful, intelligent, voices who are speaking from personal experience. The women who I have written about, who have lived the discrimination and abuse, as well as others, deserve the air time. So I am going to bow out of this debate.
posted by Going To Maine at 2:19 PM on February 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Beefing with NPR

One might even say 'slandering' and 'libeling' NPR.

After all, his claim that they deliberately edited his interview to make him look bad is a serious accusation to make of a journalist, and he has declined to provide the evidence that he claims to have.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:02 PM on February 23, 2015


Brook Gladstone herself edited that episode. If she edited it unfairly she would lose a huge amount of credibility with other journalists. Her show's success depends on other journalists treating OtM as a fair place to discuss media ethics questions. So I heavily doubt that interview was cut in an unfair way.
posted by R343L at 5:59 AM on February 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Crossposting from Fanfare: Nitasha Tiku took Wadhwa up on his offer to visit him in Standford. Well worth reading.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:45 PM on February 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


After all, his claim that they deliberately edited his interview to make him look bad is a serious accusation to make of a journalist, and he has declined to provide the evidence that he claims to have.

At several earlier stages of this, i started to write a post i never finished.

Pretty much, this guy is using trolling tactics. He may or may not be a troll, but tons of stuff he's done are methods a skilled, dedicated troll would use.

This move in particular isn't about substance, it's about turning it in to a "both sides" thing and turning the camera around so that whoever he accused has to respond. The entire thing has been a manipulation. No discussion is allowed to happen without his input, and anything that doesn't please him has to be a conversation in which he dictates the terms.

This sort of "just asking questions!" kind of crap where anything that he doesn't like is misrepresenting what he said... yea, i don't know.

It's hard to put your finger on, but if you've seen a lot of deft trolling and manipulation your bullshit alarm starts ringing almost instantly. It's really high level sealion type stuff.
posted by emptythought at 4:06 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't even say it's that high level. The veering is so obvious that it's hard to think that he wants to do anything besides obfuscate. I actually buy into the Verge article's reading. Wadhwa might be sincere, but he has no idea of his own complicity and wants to deny it.
posted by Going To Maine at 4:32 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]




That piece's (needed) follow-up: "When Arguing About Tone Isn't Just A Tone Argument"
posted by Going To Maine at 8:00 AM on March 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


Personally, I think he's foiled by his obliviousness, his inability to recognise his own privilege, and his seemingly pathological inability to admit when he has made a mistake and take responsibility for it. His tone, while problematic, is the least of his problems. The content is far worse.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:13 PM on March 10, 2015


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