The e-commerce startup Sqoot could not believe the shitstorm. All they had done was advertised their Boston hack-a-thon by listing some of the perks they were offering at the event, you know, things like DJs, massages, food trucks, top-notch booze, energy drinks, snacks…
And women. Not women hackers, mind you. Clearly Sqoot doesn’t think women are capable of any technology-related task (except maybe using their phone cameras to snap n00dz to send them), because when they mentioned women as one of the perks along with all the other things they had available, they added: “Need another beer? Let one of our friendly (female) event staff get that for you.”
The internet rightfully exploded, causing Sqoot event sponsors to drop left and right. Eventually, the startup released a statement, saying: “While we thought this was a fun, harmless comment poking fun at the fact that hack-a-thons are typically male-dominated, others were offended. That was not our intention and thus we changed it.” This isn’t an apology. Apologies say something along the lines of “we screwed up. We’re sorry.” This says, “we thought it was funny. Some don’t. Fine. It’s gone. Party poopers.”
So they issued another apology, which said: “When we put together the original event page, we used language that we now realize was reckless and hurt efforts to diversify gender in tech. We immediately and deservedly received an enormous backlash. While we aimed to call attention to the male-dominated tech world through humor and intended to be inclusive, the gravity of our wording was just the opposite. Our words completely undermined our intentions and went further to harm the world we’re trying to have a positive impact on.”
They tried to call attention to the male-dominated tech world through humor and be inclusive? You don’t “call attention” to a male-dominated industry and foster inclusion by enforcing sexism. It’s only slightly better than the initial apology, but we are heartened by the swift and brutalizing reaction to the ad.
Get with the program, people! Technology isn’t just for guys.
Header image features a screengrab from an episode of the The X-Files called “Kill Switch” (season 5, episode 11), featuring Kristin Lehman as computer whiz kid Esther Nairn.