In Dreamforce Women Innovation Panel 2015, Gayle King asked Susan Wojcicki and Jessica Alba some cringeworthy questions.
Adam Rifkin stashed this in Women in Tech
I've been thinking about this Lauren Hockenson explanation last week:
When offered the opportunity to attend a woman-focused panel at a major event, my sanity-defense sensors begin to fly. It’s true that I believe that female CEOs are still rarely given the opportunity to share their perspective onstage — particularly as it relates to running a company as a minority and how they see the landscape of diversity now.
But too often, these panels are grandstanding dog and pony shows, designed to trot out successful women and demean them by asking them, “How do you do it all?” as if they are crazy for pursuing their careers as their male cohorts would.
Sitting in Dreamforce’s “Women’s Innovation Panel,” the final keynote and culmination of a new “Women’s Leadership Summit” track introduced to the multi-day Salesforce event this year, my stomach churned at how insulting panel host Gayle King was to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki and The Honest Company CEO (and actress) Jessica Alba. It was more than grandstanding: it was a complete farce.
Wojcicki’s story, specifically among women in tech, is one of the greats. As Google employee 16 and the initial source for the company’s Menlo Park headquarters (she legendarily offered up her garage to founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page), she rose through the ranks deftly and is now the only female CEO in the Alphabet umbrella. She oversees YouTube’s multi-billion dollar business and has a net worth of more than $300 million.
“Susan, you know something about babies,” King said during the panel. “This is what I love about Susan: she has five children.”
Wojcicki smiled, and confirmed King’s statement. When pressed, Wojcicki said that her eldest is turning 16, while her youngest is 8 months.
“By the same husband?” King inquired.
15 minutes into the panel, and Gayle King had asked one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley if all of her children have the same father.
Jessica Alba unfortunately fared no better in King’s line of questioning. Although primarily known for her acting work, Alba’s The Honest Company is now a $1 billion business selling natural beauty and home care products online. Her work for the company is vast, as Forbes noted in June that she had an encyclopedic knowledge of the 120 different items it offered.
“People seem to think there’s a beginning and an end to a Hollywood career,” King noted, in reference to Alba’s decision to start her company. “Were you thinking ahead about that? Your Hollywood career is by no means over.”
There’s nothing that inspires women quite like asking a successful actress whether she believes her company is an adequate fallback once she’s had her last fuckable day.
These are two particularly appalling moments, but on the same stage where Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella demonstrated his company’s products and at the same conference where Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick merited the values of maintaining a philanthropic arm to multi-billion dollar businesses, Alba and Wojcicki fielded questions about maternity leave, how they remain in their families’ lives, and whether they could invent a stylish shoe that doesn’t hurt your feet at the end of the day.
Lauren has a point. Can't believe Gayle King asked those questions.