You’re stuck on an elevator with someone who loved that Sarah Lacy article. Now what?
Pretend ignoring this person isn’t an option.
The elevator you’re riding lurches to a noisy halt. Don’t panic: Help is on the way! And at least you have a companion while you wait.
She’s a woman about your age and apparently she loved the PandoDaily article Sarah Lacy wrote about why we shouldn’t be worked up over Twitter’s failure to include women on its board. For whatever reason she won’t stop talking about it. Attempts to change the subject are futile. Now you’re panicking.
But don’t worry. You’ll get through this. Here’s how to respond to the arguments she’s bound to make without being a jerk about it.
What she says: I mean, it’s just a tiny corporate board!
What you want to say: Your face is a tiny corporate board.
What you should say: I know. Isn’t it frustrating how the discrimination against women is so systematic, so structural, that we still have to obsess over this kind of thing? Clearly, most major corporations aren’t focused enough on it. Women occupy something like 16 percent of Fortune 500 board seats. That’s up from 12 percent 10 years ago, so there has been modest growth — but at a slower place than in other developed nations.
What she says: At the end of the day, Twitter has to run a business. Priorities, you know?
What you want to say: I’m embarrassed for you.
What you should say: Totally. I use Twitter all the time and can’t believe they don’t take seriously the value that more diversity would bring. It’s weird how so many people don’t seem to understand that actually representing your stakeholders has major business implications. You should check out this study from earlier this year that showed how diverse corporate boards outperform those with no women. You’d think that a company like Twitter would put its business interests first. Then again, they were operating at a deficit of almost $419 million as of June.
What she says: And what about people of color?! Why don’t feminists care about including them?
What you want to say: What’s it like to be, literally, the worst human on an elevator right now?
What you should say: I think a lot of them do. The gender issue is just a tiny slice of a much larger problem. Sometimes it feels unsolvable and you have to approach it bit by bit. But I think if we refuse to let it slide, we can effect change.
What she says: You know, some women would be really offended if they were hired just to be the “token woman” on the board. Twitter needs qualified people!
What you want to say: I hate you so much.
What you should say: Yeah, they’d have reason to be offended if someone actually suggested that’s why they were hired. But the worst part of the argument about tokenism is that it assumes there aren’t qualified women out there, which there obviously are. Insane. It’s troubling how people conflate the idea of appointing qualified women with the notion that doing so amounts to simply meeting a quota.
What she says: Have you seen these women who call themselves feminists who are bashing Sarah Lacy but retweeting men? What’s that about?
What you want to say: I’m going to invent a time machine so I can prevent your birth.
What you should say: I wish everybody would react less and respond more. But it’s good to see some people are actually thinking about what messages they’re amplifying rather than simply agreeing with someone because of her gender.
What she says: People act like Twitter invented sexism but none of this is limited even to tech.
What you want to say: Happy birthday! I understand you were born yesterday.
What you should say: It’s overwhelming, isn’t it? But, as someone smart recently told me, “Inequality in one place is never an excuse for inequality elsewhere.”
What she says: I just wish all of these angry women would chill out.
What you want to say: I just wish you would be raptured from this solar system.
What you should say: It’s painful to watch women hamper one another’s progress when it comes to elevating our standing in society, which ought to be a pretty straightforward shared goal. We should definitely find better ways to support one another so that everybody benefits.
What she says: I think some people just need something to be mad at. They’re going out of their way to look for it.
What you want to say: !@#%$#%!!!@*&!
What you should say: Something we agree on! I get the impression that Sarah Lacy is using her platform to manufacture outrage about all the backlash against Twitter. But I bet if we sat down with her, we’d actually agree about a lot of things and maybe even be able to work together toward making tech more inclusive. Don’t lose hope.
What she says: Ultimately, people should just work harder. Pay your dues. Prove yourself and you’ll end up stronger in the end.
What you want to say: Now I get it. You’re a robot programmed to say predictable bullshit. I love robots! We should reprogram you, though.
What you should say: I feel that way sometimes when I hear the debate over unpaid internships. The unpaid work I did is a huge part of what advanced my journalism career, and it feels essential and valuable to me. But then I think about all of the privileges I had that enabled me to spend so much time doing that unpaid work and all the people who would make incredible reporters who didn’t have those same privileges. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s not about giving people handouts or offering them more than they deserve, it’s about basic fairness being built into operational structures.
What she says: But hard work pays off.
What you want to say: I give up.
What you should say: It really does. So we’ll keep fighting to change the ratio, even when beating the drum is exhausting and it’d be way easier to keep quiet and just let things go on the way they always have. But I guess that’s how progress works. We haven’t even had the right to vote for a hundred years! Eventually we’ll win this fight, too.