A lovely juxtaposition of two articles at TechCrunch this weekend: One expressed concern about discrimination against older workers in the computer industry; the other said that if women weren't successful in the tech industry, it wasn't men's fault.
(H/T to @jmhodges, whose Twitter posting provided inspiration for the title.)
The age piece, by Vivek Wadhwa, criticized the computer industry for discrimination against older workers, and offered older workers advice.
"My advice to managers is to consider the value of the experience that the techies bring," Wadhwa wrote. "With age frequently come wisdom and abilities to follow direction, mentor, and lead. Older workers also tend to be more pragmatic and loyal, and to know the importance of being team players. And ego and arrogance usually fade with age. During my tech days, I hired several programmers who were over 50. They were the steadiest performers and stayed with me through the most difficult times."
One could imagine a companion piece with a very similar tone, talking about the value of hiring women. However, that TechCrunch piece was very different.
"Success in Silicon Valley, most would agree, is more merit driven than almost any other place in the world," wrote Michael Arrington. "It doesn’t matter how old you are, what sex you are, what politics you support or what color you are. If your idea rocks and you can execute, you can change the world and/or get really, stinking rich."
Arrington is perhaps most well-known for his greeting of Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz at an industry event earlier this year, "So how the fuck are you?"
Surprisingly, Arrington says he has a lot of trouble finding qualified women to speak at the conference, and he can't understand why there's so few of them. "Statistically speaking women have a huge advantage as entrepreneurs, because the press is dying to write about them, and venture capitalists are dying to fund them."
"My field is an Ayn Randian paradise of merit, you damn baby dropping gash. I inherited my coding chops from my ancestors hunting bison. Studies show that girl babies cry when playing with cars. Thus, women are genetically unfit for entrepreneurship," as one female poster summarized the comments. (Incidentally, the "baby dropping gash" part was a direct quote from one comment.)
I hasten to add that not all the male commenters were negative; a number had thoughtful, constructive things to say. And Jon Pincus wrote about it in his blog, exhorting Arrington to stop whining. "If you really want to make progress, treat it the way you would any other business problem you take seriously. Set goals, put a plan together, hire good people to help you, and do some real outreach. Work with organizations like Change The Ratio, Women Who Tech, Anita Borg Institute, GeekFeminism, BlogHer, Fem2pt0, TechMavens, and so on and invite them to guest post regularly on TechCrunch. Pay a diversity consultant and invest in their recommendations. Specifically for TechCrunch Disrupt, see Allyson Kapin’s excellent list of suggestions in Where are the Women in Tech and Social Media? Oh and while you’re at it please work on race, age, and other biases in TechCrunch and your other enterprises."
There is one piece of good news (aside from the fact that the piece brought every female TechCrunch reader out to comment, making it clear that women do, indeed, read TechCrunch). As a final line in the column, Arrington said, "And when you do start your company, we’ll cover it. Promise." A number of women are already describing their startups to him, holding him to his promise.