Athena Swan

Athena Swan promotes and supports the careers of women in Science, Engineering and Technology (STEM), and aims to address gender inequalities and imbalance in these disciplines and, in particular, the under-representation of women in senior roles.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

In the news - Vivek Wadhwa, Voice for Women in Silicon Valley, Is Foiled by His Tone

The debate over how to get more women into science and technology ultimately requires participation by all parties, male and female. As in any debate, more strident voices can sometimes dominate, dragging attention away from the work of others. They can also cause hurt and scare off potential allies and those who mean well but aren't quite sure what to do. So while the sometimes inappropriate words of Vivek Wadhwa, one of the more outspoken advocates from women in Silicon Valley, have lead to his recent retreat from the public eye, I can only hope that the more vitriolic backlash does not scare off those men more quietly leading the way towards progress for all in STEM.

Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur-turned-academic who is a co-author, with Farai Chideya, of the book “Innovating Women.” Mr. Wadhwa, 57, holds affiliations with Stanford, Duke and a Silicon Valley-based think tank called Singularity University. He is also a fixture on the lecture circuit and in the media, where he has frequently called on technology companies to address gender diversity.
At least he did, until he swore off speaking out for gender diversity after intense criticism from women in tech who saw him as neither their ally nor their spokesman.
But it is not enough, in this complex and delicate issue, to simply have one’s heart in the right place. “I think his intentions are good, but his message and his voice are actually damaging women,” said Sarah Szalavitz, the chief executive of 7 Robot, a design agency. “It has nothing to do with his gender or his ethnic identity, but what he’s saying and how he’s saying it.”

Read more here.

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