Fewer than 140 characters in Twitter – chances are they’re all male
Net Result: The misogyny in Silicon Valley has been a prominent topic in recent weeks
Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo may need some tips regarding his interactions ... on Twitter. Photograph: Getty
Someone with some media and PR nous really needs to brief Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo on the use of, er, Twitter.
After New York Times writer Claire Cain Miller published an article noted that the high-profile social media company, which recently announced plans for its initial public offering, still has no women on its board, Costolo made one of the most brainless of social media gaffes.
Rather than either remain silent or – more appropriately – using Twitter to respond in a considered way, he instead insulted Vivek Wadhwa, the former entrepreneur and well-known academic. Wadhwa has published and been interviewed widely on the topics of technology, immigration and entrepreneurship. He’s also a fellow at Stanford’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, and is working on a book on women and the technology industry.
Wadhwa was quoted in Miller’s original piece. “This is the elite arrogance of the Silicon Valley mafia, the Twitter mafia. It’s the same male chauvinistic thinking,” he said. “The fact that they went to the IPO without a single woman on the board, how dare they?”
That kind of robust observation is typical of Wadhwa, who says what he thinks. Costolo took to Twitter to respond to a query about the article by noting, “Vivek Wadhwa is the Carrot Top of academic sources.”
Carrot Top is the stage name for American comedian Scott Thompson, known for portraying a stupid, puerile, frat-boy style of humour.
You could, I suppose, argue that Costolo too was simply saying what he thinks. But in doing so, he neither responds to the central criticism of the article, nor demonstrates that a chief executive – especially in advance of an IPO – can have a bit more self control than to let rip in a public forum.
Even if you think the latter point is a non-issue – after all, Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary has made a career out of provocative statements and insults – the point is that the reply was evasive, rude and extraordinary for a pre-IPO company that is currently so closely scrutinised. (Incidentally, Ryanair has two women on its board.)
Costolo’s timing couldn’t have been poorer either.
The misogyny sometimes seen in Silicon Valley has been a prominent topic in recent weeks, after two companies that pitched to investors at a conference run by TechCrunch managed to highlight the worst aspects of what is sometimes called “brogrammer” culture – a very male-oriented, chauvinistic guy mindset.
One company wanted investors for an app called TitStare, which lets users take pictures of themselves staring at – well, yes. Another company founder got on stage and simulated masturbation. TechCrunch now intends to screen company presentations before they can be this offensively stupid.