‘Blind spots’

Reddit co-founder says criticism over gender inequality will help tech sector, not hurt it

Alexis Ohanian (Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for WIRED25 )

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian spoke bluntly about the problem of gender inequality in the tech world in a recent interview with Quartz, noting that many men shy away from the “discomfort” caused by facing criticism over their own bias instead of taking the opportunity to learn from the experience.

Asked about his awareness of the problems facing women in the tech sector, Ohanian, who is also known for being married to tennis great Serena Williams, said that he identifies as a feminist, but acknowledged that he hadn’t thought about the obstacles facing women in the industry “actively enough” until after the #MeToo movement became a cultural force.

“I’ve certainly been aware of gender inequality in tech, especially in venture, but I obviously have blind spots … The most important lesson I learned from #MeToo was the extent of how audacious, offensive, and common workplace harassment is, as well as the tremendous work done to cover it up.”

“A little while after the Me Too Movement kicked off, I found myself at a dinner with some other male execs in tech and was shocked at how nervous the conversation was making them,” he continued. “They were concerned about hiring women at all and ‘not knowing how to conduct themselves.’ I remember saying that as leaders, we needed to step up to figure this out — at least in our own companies and workplaces. It didn’t land very well.”

In the end, he said, he hoped that more male leaders would learn to confront the problem of gender inequality head on and to learn to listen to criticism about how their companies, and themselves personally, treat their women employees.

“There are tech leaders who were accused before #MeToo and still operate as though nothing happened. We need more dialogue now and not less,” said Ohanian. “Think about it the same way you think about your workouts — pain is growth. If you’re feeling discomfort because someone is criticizing an example of your bias, think of it like finishing that set that’s just above your regular weight. It stings, because that’s where growth happens. If you really hear it and process it, you’re growing and you’re getting stronger because you’re becoming more aware.”

Read the full interview at Quartz.

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