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Twitter CEO Speaks Out To Defend Against Claims Of Sexism

Tensions continue to mount in Silicon Valley over sexism and diversity issues.

Rick Wilking / Reuters

Twitter CEO Dick Costolo took to Twitter this evening to respond to backlash surrounding a recent New York Times article, which criticized the almost-public tech giant for a lack of gender diversity among its executive ranks.

The piece is just the latest to shine a light on the glaring issues of gender balance and diversity in Silicon Valley, a pressing concern that’s quickly coming to a head, especially with regard to sexism.

In the piece, Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance who is in the process of writing a book on women and tech said the following:

“This is the elite arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia, the Twitter mafia. It’s the same male chauvinistic thinking. The fact that they went to the I.P.O. without a single woman on the board, how dare they?”

The article has picked up steam online over the weekend, prompting a defensive response from Costolo:


dick costolo

@dickc

@rich1 Vivek Wadhwa is the Carrot Top of academic sources.

/ Via

4. The comment attracted the attention of numerous tech personalities on Twitter, including Anil Dash, who took issue with Costolo’s seemingly flippant response


Anil Dash

@anildash

Sorely disappointed to see @dickc respond defensively to criticisms of industry sexism. Why not just lead, as Twitter does on free speech?

/ Via

Anil Dash

@anildash

Criticizing @wadhwa as an advocate for inclusion on the grounds of academic rigor is ridiculous; all of us can count up zero board seats.

/ Via

6. Costolo then defended his earlier statement

@anildash huh??? I was making fun of his propensity for silly hyperbole. I didn't say anything about the topic or even reference it!

— dickc (@dick costolo)

dick costolo

@dickc

@anildash huh??? I was making fun of his propensity for silly hyperbole. I didn’t say anything about the topic or even reference it!

/ Via

7. The back and forth continued between Dash and Costolo

8. Eventually, Wadhwa jumped in to defend himself against Costolo with a series of his own tweets:

.@dickc No Dick, it isn't about checking a box and you didn't do enough. You have a social responsiblity. You have to lead--not make excuses

— wadhwa (@Vivek Wadhwa)

Vivek Wadhwa

@wadhwa

.@dickc No Dick, it isn’t about checking a box and you didn’t do enough. You have a social responsiblity. You have to lead—not make excuses

/ Via

10. By the end of the bizarre exchange, Costolo seemed to acknowledge the gender problem was a subject worth discussing but also seemed reluctant to talk about the matter.

@wadhwa ah, I think you do a disservice to the broader issues with the hyperbole. It's easy applause, sure, but gives everyone an easy out.

— dickc (@dick costolo)

dick costolo

@dickc

@wadhwa ah, I think you do a disservice to the broader issues with the hyperbole. It’s easy applause, sure, but gives everyone an easy out.

/ Via

11. Some took Costolo’s response as a tacit suggestion that there were no qualified women for Twitter’s board.

@dickc @wadhwa When you say just 'checking a box' it suggests there are no competent women--& mystifies the (qualifications Board members

— dearsarah (@dearsarah)

dearsarah

@dearsarah

@dickc @wadhwa When you say just ‘checking a box’ it suggests there are no competent women—& mystifies the (qualifications Board members

/ Via

@wadhwa @dickc however, I agree problem lies deeper than checkboxes. If investors don't trust female leadership, you have to show them...

— nicoleva (@Nicole Valentine)

Nicole Valentine

@nicoleva

@wadhwa @dickc however, I agree problem lies deeper than checkboxes. If investors don’t trust female leadership, you have to show them…

/ Via

@wadhwa @dickc @anildash What issues are so critical that they supercede having female perspective at the table?

— ElissaBeth (@Elissa Shevinsky)

Elissa Shevinsky

@ElissaBeth

@wadhwa @dickc @anildash What issues are so critical that they supercede having female perspective at the table?

/ Via

Mark used "box-checking" excuse pre-Sandberg. http://t.co/iafvdrdZmH @wadhwa

— fake_train (@kate losse)

kate losse

@fake_train

Mark used “box-checking” excuse pre-Sandberg. http://t.co/iafvdrdZmH @wadhwa

/ Via

15. While others rightly noted that the current Twitter conversation failed to include any female voices.

@cgulbranson isn't it funny? two male execs argue about inclusivity, yet not acknowledge our input? Sigh.

— nicoleva (@Nicole Valentine)

Nicole Valentine

@nicoleva

@cgulbranson isn’t it funny? two male execs argue about inclusivity, yet not acknowledge our input? Sigh.

/ Via

16. One Twitter employee came to Costolo’s defense

@wadhwa @dickc a stereotype is being applied to @dickc that doesn't fit. From personal experience I know he's trying to fix the problem.

— gingerm (@Ginger Makela Riker)

Ginger Makela Riker

@gingerm

@wadhwa @dickc a stereotype is being applied to @dickc that doesn’t fit. From personal experience I know he’s trying to fix the problem.

/ Via

.@gingerm "Trying" isn't good enough for a company that is asking the public to give it a billion dollars and to make its executives rich.

— wadhwa (@Vivek Wadhwa)

Vivek Wadhwa

@wadhwa

.@gingerm “Trying” isn’t good enough for a company that is asking the public to give it a billion dollars and to make its executives rich.

/ Via

18. It appears Wadhwa had the last word with Costolo, though the conversation continued throughout the night

.@dickc I am not giving anyone easy out. Crowdcreating a book about this, have researched and written extensively. I am speaking up.

— wadhwa (@Vivek Wadhwa)

Vivek Wadhwa

@wadhwa

.@dickc I am not giving anyone easy out. Crowdcreating a book about this, have researched and written extensively. I am speaking up.

/ Via

If you like, you can follow most of the Tweets, here.

So far, Costolo has yet to respond.

This isn’t the first time Twitter has been criticized for its lack of diversity and female leadership in the company ranks. In a recent article in All Things D, Kara Swisher noted the lack of a female board member, quoting a widely-used Twitter employee joke that, “‘Twitter’s governing body has to expand beyond “three Peters and a Dick.’”

But, as many tweets noted in the conversation’s aftermath, the problem is in no way exclusive to Twitter. The company is, however, still the only of the tech powerhouses without a female board member (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Zynga, LinkedIn, and eBay all have at least one female elected to their boards).

As with most Twitter confrontations little was solved, but it’s a stark reminder of Silicon Valley’s growing problems and the mounting tensions inside some of tech’s most important companies.

Check out more articles on BuzzFeed.com!

Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
Contact Charlie Warzel at charlie.warzel@buzzfeed.com
 
 
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