It feels wrong to be talking about anything other than Purple Rain or Nothing Compares 2 U or the fact that I’ve only just learnt that Prince wrote The Bangles’ Manic Monday.
But the world is still turning – a little less cool, draped in a little more purple – and, as life goes on, so too do the constant reminders that gender equality is a battle we’re fighting on many baffling, strange fronts.
Today’s WTF Moment comes courtesy of PayPal, that thing on the internet that makes it really easy for you to spend money. While they’re brilliant at enabling the purchase of, say, Prince vinyl, they are clearly hopeless at having meaningful discussions about gender diversity. And how do I know this? Because somebody helpfully shared a flyer for a panel they were hosting on the subject and all five panelists were, yes, you’ve guessed it, men. (To be fair, they are by no means the first to display this level of what-the-fuckery).
Really? Seriously? My heart is heavy and purple enough today. The suggestion that a corporation can put on a talk called “Gender equality and inclusion in the workplace” WITHOUT ANY WOMEN would be funny if wasn’t so symptomatic of Silicon Valley’s chronic sexism problem. A study released earlier this year from a group of women working in tech called "The Elephant in the Valley" revealed that, for all the promises of the future that the world’s tech hub claims to be working on, they're positively post-World War Two in their attitudes towards women. Ninety per cent of the 220 women interviewed for the survey had witnessed sexist behaviour in their office or at conferences. Sixty per cent had been sexually harassed. In amongst all those twentysomething men in grey T-shirts working in incubators and developing apps, there is an absolutely huge sexism issue.
This might as well be a panel on 'how to make roads safer for cyclists' with a bunch of taxi drivers
“But hang on a minute!” cried the president of Unity, the Women@Paypal group who arranged the talk, “you didn’t catch the full title of the event!” The full title was, apparently, Gender Equality and Inclusion in the Workplace: a Conversation with our Male Allies.
Oh, fine. That’s that then. Er. What? A Conversation with our Male Allies. Is this meant to make the fact that there are no women on a panel about workplace inclusion OK, because – fret not, ladies – those men talking over us and at us, but definitely not to or with us, are on our side? They like women, honestly, they do! They really like women, they even like them in the workplace – just not so much on panels. This might as well be a panel on "how to make roads safer for cyclists" with a bunch of taxi drivers. We’re all about to get pushed out of the way, off the track, out of sight and mown down – all in the name of gender equality.
I don’t mean to be facetious. I’m sure the men (and women) who organised, and were on, the panel believed they were doing A Good Thing. I’m sure, if asked, they would positively affirm that they believe in diversity and respect their female colleagues. But, allies or otherwise, the absence of a female voice on a gender-equality panel is startlingly stupid – and frightening. Because, quite literally, a woman’s voice, a woman’s take on being a woman, a woman’s experience, was not deemed worthy enough to hear. They made being a woman talking about being a woman seemingly irrelevant and redundant. Like a lot of people in power, they believed they could sort out gender equality without bothering to consult the disempowered party they believed they were helping. The whole thing smacks of cigars in the drawing room – menfolk discussing how to make the world better, completely unaware of their own short-sightedness and ignorance.
In a Facebook post, the Unity president wrote: “This panel is intended to emphasise that women and men need to work together to advance this cause.”
Like I said, totally and utterly baffling. Back to Purple Rain.