Another Tech Company Apologizes For Sexist Rant
In his book, "The Manual For Men With Abrasive Wives," Mads Christensen chided husbands to stop being so affectionate. In a column last year, he chastised the victims of the Norwegian massacre for not putting up more of a fight. And last month, he was invited by Dell Inc. to be a moderator at its big international conference in Copenhagen.
The Danish provocateur (pictured at left) took the opportunity to rejoice in the lack of women in tech. All great inventions have come from men, he explained, except for the "rolling pin." He ended by urging all the men in attendance to go home and tell their wives and girlfriends, "Shut up bitch." Dell's Danish CEO then reportedly took the stage to compliment him on his performance.
It was an unfortunate afternoon for a company that the Women's Business Enterprise Council has named one of America's Top Corporations for Women's Business Enterprises for the fourth year in a row, and that The Times of London has ranked twice as one of the Top 50 Employers in the U.K.
"The IT business is one of the last frontiers that manages to keep women out," Christensen told the room. "The quota of women to men in your business is sound and healthy."
Radio personality Christiane Vejlø, who was in the audience, was surprised when she arrived that the only women she could see were public-relations staff issuing name tags. She eventually spotted the "handful" of female Dell employees, who were probably squirming in their suits when Christensen looked at them directly, and asked, "What are you actually doing here?"
Christensen went on to expound his grand theory of gender, according to Vejlø's blog post on the conference, like how "bitchy" women are out to "steal" the power in business, politics and at home. And while women have contributed pretty much nothing to society, "We can thank women for the rolling pin."
In thanking Christensen at the end of the day, Dell's Danish CEO Nicolai Moresco purportedly remarked: "To stay within the code of conduct I don't want to comment on what you just said. But you did a good job."
After Vejlø's blog post was translated into English, it ricocheted through the blogosphere and forced Dell to make a flustered apology.
"These comments do not reflect Dell's company values and undermine much of the work we've done in support of women in the workplace overall," the company wrote on its Google+ page.
"Empowering women and their businesses is something close to our hearts at Dell and is the motivation behind our Women Powering Business initiative and Dell Women's Entrepreneur Network," an annual summit of female leaders.
"Going forward," it also notes, "we will be more careful selecting speakers at Dell events."
Christensen isn't the only guy who's recently made controversial comments about women at a business forum. At the Women in the Economy conference earlier this month, Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, described women's networks as "victims' units" and disparaged female mentoring programs. When it came to question time, a woman reportedly shouted, "We're regaining consciousness."
And several women and a few men walked out of a talk last month by Matt Van Horn, an executive at the social media company, Path, at the South by Southwest Interactive festival. Van Horn told the packed crowd that he had landed a job at Digg by sending them "bikini shots" from a "nudie calendar." He also warned against "gangbang interviews" -- interviews-by-committee -- and seemed taken aback when no one chuckled at his joke about his fraternity's recruiting strategy to "attract the hottest girls."
Ridiculing women at conferences might have gone unnoticed when there were no women in the room. But these days there usually are, and most companies in tech and business are actively trying to increase that number. So if a speaker chooses to mock ladies in pursuit of laughs, he can probably count on someone blogging about it, and other women thinking twice before they send in a job application.
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Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.
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