All grown up
If I told you that Ashton Kutcher was hosting a live dialog about the state of gender equality in the tech sector, some of you might (understandably) balk at the notion.
What could the actor behind such cinematic gems as “Dude, Where’s My Car?” have to say about this topic?
Kutcher: More than an actor
Plenty, actually. Kutcher is a startup founder and tech investor. He runs a venture fund called A-Grade Investments, and he’s founded A Plus, a digital media company dedicated to producing thoughtful journalism.
However, many folks take issue with the topics he wants to discuss in the realm of gender equality. Here’s a screenshot from his LinkedIn account announcing the chat:
Some of these questions rely on “problematic myths,” as Paradigm CEO Joelle Emereson put it on Twitter.
Starting off with a discussion of workplace romance and the boundaries of flirting isn’t a good start out of the gate. While Kutcher may be able to reach a broader audience that needs to hear that message, the fact that it isn’t widely known, and that women are responsible for setting the line, is troubling.
Perhaps Kutcher’s most offensive point is asking if ideas with less merit should be considered by investors for the sake of diversity.
The troubling assumption there is that women’s ideas are inherently lesser than those from their male counterparts. It also fails to acknowledge potential biases that may also be at the root of a lack of representation.
So, what do the right questions look like?
Emerson pitched ten of her own questions, which you can read here.
We can see some overlap here
Both Kutcher and Emereson advocate for answers to questions about empowering and retaining a female presence in tech, be it as an entrepreneur or as an employee of a larger organization.
However, Emereson largely puts the focus on existing systems and the (largely male) leadership driving those systems.
She advocates for identifying and eliminating biases at key decision-making points, along with developing a culture that that doesn’t tolerate indecent behavior. Kutcher puts the focus largely on equipping women with resources; while admirable, it misses a significant piece of the accountability puzzle.