Circular Firing Squad Update: Down Goes Vivek Wadhwa, the Tim Wise of Silicon Valley Gender Diversity
February 26, 2015, 10:09 AM
A+
|
a-
Print Friendly and PDF

26state-web1-articleLarge[1]

The NYT's caption: "Vivek Wadhwa, shown here during a congressional hearing on immigration reform in 2013, became a fixture on the lecture circuit and in the media, where he frequently called on technology companies to increase gender diversity."

From the NYT:
Vivek Wadhwa, Voice for Women in Silicon Valley, Is Foiled by His Tone

FEB. 25, 2015, by Farhad Manjoo

Silicon Valley has lately come to the realization that it is not the meritocracy it has long pretended to be — at least not for women and most minorities. Now, after years of ignoring the issue, and some serious prodding by the likes of the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, tech companies say they will do something about the hiring gap between white and Asian men and nearly everyone else. But what should we make of the fact that one of the most outspoken voices for women in tech has been — rather oddly — a man?

Just as Tim Wise has to work twice as hard as his black competitors in the Hate Whitey business, Vivek Wadhwa is a tireless complainer about the Brogrammer Menace.
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.

Women in tech criticized Mr. Wadhwa for clumsily articulating their cause. They said he was prone to outrageous gaffes, including once referring to women at tech companies as “token floozies,” a phrase Mr. Wadhwa later blamed on his poor English. Critics also argued that Mr. Wadhwa’s message to women — that they should become more confident to survive in the tough world of tech — was outdated and could backfire on the women who followed it.

And when he was called out on those points, Mr. Wadhwa, who conceded that he can be “a hothead,” adopted a defensive — even wounded — tone on Twitter. He said he was under assault by “extremist feminists,” claimed that he had “done more for the cause of women in tech than almost anyone,” and frequently deflected criticism of his language by saying that he was an immigrant who did not understand web slang.

“He pulls the immigrant card, the victim card, and it is so much work to stay on point,” said Mary Trigiani, a management consultant who has gotten into a few dust-ups with Mr. Wadhwa.

The whole episode could be written off as a mere Twitter-fueled kerfuffle. But the women who have criticized Mr. Wadhwa say the battle carries a bigger message. That he became a spokesman for women in tech despite their questions about his message is, they say, symptomatic of an industry that seems bent on listening to men over women, even when the men aren’t especially qualified to comment. …

He had been researching entrepreneurship and immigration, but he found the women-in-tech issue to be an unexplored niche. So he took up the mantle, exploring the imbalance in dozens of guest op-ed columns as well as in lectures.

Soon he was a fixture on the issue, a go-to source for reporters looking for a sheen of expertise. …

Ms. Burleigh paraphrased Mr. Wadhwa’s ideas this way: “Wadhwa says women not only are reluctant to overstate their accomplishments and goals; they habitually understate them.”

That didn’t sit well with Amelia Greenhall, a web designer and the executive director of Double Union, a community workshop for women in San Francisco, who wrote a widely shared blog post condemning Mr. Wadhwa.

Crabs in a bucket.