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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.

“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.

manturrupting

(Photo Credit: makeameme.org)

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?).

Do You Know What You're Worth?

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. 

Leah Arnold-Smeets
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Jane
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Jane

How would you feel if the genders were flipped and someone wrote an article about WOMANSPLAINING? That’s when women use a public forum to condescendingly explain to men how offensive they are regardless of their intention. Not to use social pressure to assert power mind you, just to help men be more… aware? Would that feel fair? Or might someone feel hurt or offended? Seriously, isn’t a woman using a public forum to ridicule someone for awkwardly trying to address an awkward topic kind of aggressive in its own right? Cause it smells a bit like a double standard in… Read more »

Hargil
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Hargil

Ohhhh. I just realized my comment may have contained a touch of “mainsplain’in” all on its own. Leah Arnold-Smeets did a fine job writing the piece we’re all responding to. She reported concisely, gave ample context, and did it all with a mercifully light touch. (No sarcasm, Yea!) But then, as if Leah hadn’t already given all the background one needs, I opened my comment with my own definition of mansplaining. Which in itself was an act of mansplaining that added nothing to the discourse! Sorry, Leah. Why did I go and do that? Upon reflection I understand that I… Read more »

Hargil
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Hargil

Ohhhh. I just realized my comment may have contained a touch of “mainsplain’in” all on its own. Leah Arnold-Smeets did a fine job writing the piece we’re all responding to. She reported concisely, gave ample context, and did it all with a mercifully light touch. (No sarcasm, Yea!) But then, as if Leah hadn’t already given all the background one needs, I opened my comment with my own definition of mansplaining. Which in itself was an act of mansplaining that added nothing to the discourse! Sorry, Leah. Why did I go and do that? Upon reflection I understand that I… Read more »

Hargil
Guest
Hargil

Mansplaining is a new-ish word for an ancient problem – ujsing speech to assert power over others who are “less than”. It afflicts young and old, male and female. Most of the people who engage in mainsplaining were victimized by it as children. And most of them are quite unaware of causing shame and indignation when they interrupt, contradict, and “correct” a less powerful person. But, face it! Verbal ways of taking control can be as violent as literally pushing someone away from the microphone. Yes, we need a new word for it, to eliminate gender bias. But mostly we… Read more »

rob
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rob

I agree with Brian. Both Brian comments. I’ve been on the receiving end of “manterruptions” and “mansplaining”, and I’m a man. I’ve also had it done to me by [gasp] …women. It’s remarkably ironic that you (and other bad-feminists) talk about gender equality while affixing “man” to the words “explaining” and “interrupting.” It creates another “us vs them” situation between men and women when that divide is the major problem. Imagine if someone serious about gender equality started using the word “femotional” to describe every time a woman showed some emotion. It seems to me that might skew the fact… Read more »

Gayle
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Gayle

Geez. That happens to me often by men, in and out of the work place. I thought it was part of the breed and also have a boss like that. He talks to me like I just fell off the turnip truck and I’m a few years older than him. Its so annoying how he is condescending to both of us ladies in the office. But I know a women like that, too. They want to ‘one up you’ and explain your own point to you as if they think they’re telling you something new, and interrupt. Makes me wonder… Read more »

Ron
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Ron

Safety!!! What’s that?

unhypocrite
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unhypocrite

If you don’t have executive presence and communication skills, ask for speaking time quota? This only happens in a Golf handicap. Seriously why force those who don’t have executive presence or business skills into something that they can’t and often don’t want to do. There are enough women who don’t need handicap or quota. Why be partial and offer quota to those who can’t! In that case you should offer equal quota to coloured, Asian, Hispanics and all minorities! The fact is that you don’t shows that you don’t have everyone’s interest in mind, just your own narrow self! That’s… Read more »

Ed
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Ed

I do believe this man-terrupted behavior is ego driven by many who are in authoritative positions. They have a need to prove they’re the boss and what they say … goes no matter what anyone else may think. They appear to dominate every conversation and succeed usually at doing so. Very narrow minded in my opinion. I could add more but I’ve learn to stay away from people like that. They bring you down, make one feel less than, and make one not want to participate at all. Yes, I have had many experiences with this type of bad behavior… Read more »

Brian
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Brian

I get man-terrupted every day at work and I’m not a woman. Yes, I’m a minor, but not a woman. I finally called one of the guys out via an email to him, my boss and his boss. Things have “sort of” changed slightly, but most men who are not minors like Man-terrupting… Thanks for the awareness, but this is not an issue affecting women only…

Sony
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Sony

Thnx for the awareness.. This indeed needs to be taken care of as many are not aware of such terms

Brian
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Brian

I find your “Mansplaining” meme highly offensive and it shows another double standard where it’s deemed OK to disparage males.

Tomas
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Tomas

Everybody get back to work!

Tomas
Guest
Tomas

Everybody get back to work!

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