Google Chairman Manterrupts Female Tech Leader at SXSW to Mansplain Need for Diversity in Tech

“Mansplaining” is a term coined to describe the behavior of those men who have the need to explain what they believe are complex topics, in which they may or may not be well-versed, to women in a manner that is elementary enough for even a woman to understand. This very thing happened at SXSW this week, except this time, the “manterrupter” got called out publicly. Here’s how it went down.


(Photo Credit:

Earlier this week, a panel of tech leaders took the stage at South by Southwest Interactive (SXSW) to discuss the importance of and need for diversity in tech to fuel more innovation for the industry. The How Innovation Happens panel featured Google Chairman Eric Schmidt (male), biographer Walter Isaacson (male), and Megan Smith (female), who just so happens to be Chief Technology Officer of the United States of America (ever heard of it?).

As the panel discussion was wrapping up, an audience member called out Schmidt and Isaacson for manterrupting Smith, the lone woman on the entire panel: “Given that unconscious bias research tells us that women are interrupted a lot more than men, I’m wondering if you are aware that you have interrupted Megan many more times.”

Who was this daring #BossLady? None other than Schmidt’s fellow Googler, Judith Williams, who is the Global Diversity and Talent Programs manager at Google. Amazing. Shortly after the release of Google’s employee diversity report last year, Williams wrote in The New York Times, “the company [Google] was miles from where it should be [with diversity] — but being transparent about the problem was a vital part of the solution.” Moreover, Williams leads unconscious bias workshops that aim to educate Google employees on the science behind decision-making and encourage a “culture where employees are comfortable with — and held accountable for — calling out prejudice, both blatant and subtle.” Williams definitely practices what she preaches, and that became evident when she called out Schmidt and Isaacson at SXSW.

Women have made many strides in recent decades, but scenarios like the SXSW manterruption incident remind us all of the dismal state of gender equality in and out of the office. Even in a wildly progressive industry like technology, women are still underrepresented and are still being consciously or unconsciously undermined. Smith, who was appointed by the president of the United States himself, for crying out loud, can’t even get a word in edgewise in a discussion for which she is literally the poster child. Thankfully, Smith did not fight fire with fire at SXSW because, as the wise words of Paul Begala say, “Never interrupt your opponent when he’s destroying himself.”

If you’re a woman with a career in the tech sector, read this post to see how you can help encourage more women to follow in your footsteps and, eventually, narrow the    gender gap once and for all.

Tell Us What You Think

What are your thoughts on the SXSW “manterrupting” incident? Have you experienced this scenario in your life? Share your thoughts on Twitter with our community and join the conversation.