By now, you've all heard that Google Executive Eric Schmidt did a whole lot of manterrupting at a SXSW panel, "How Innovation Happens," an event that sounds perfectly bland and full of meaningless corporate buzzwords. There was only one woman.
Already, I've read a dozen articles on the incident and none gave me the answer I was looking for: Schmidt's response to being confronted on his manterruptions.
I'm not discounting the media coverage and strong responses against Schmit's typical cluelessness and bullying behavior. I'm not even surprised he did it.
What bugs me more is that news outlets and the pontificating bloggers never bothered to inquire as to how Schmidt responded to getting called out on his (un)conscious bias and inclination to ironically dominate a discussion on diversity in tech.
The answer is important and not just because a female Google employee directly asked about it. Schmidt's
backpedaling response would reveal either a very good canned PR response or genuine insight into how a powerful, wealthy white man sees himself and how he views his own behavior in the midst of a very real problem.
Does Schmidt understand that gender bias is everywhere? Does he realize that manterruptions are one of many factors that hold women back in male dominated fields? Is he aware that he just engaged in this practice? Is he aware that every time he engages in this behavior that he's shutting down yet another person who deserves to be heard? Does he even acknowledge that what he's doing is wrong? Or do the basic rules of discussion not apply to him?
Yes, it's great that the media was quick to cover the incident, but it's not enough. But Schmidt's defense* would have been far more revealing and insightful similar to this guy's candor. If we don't inquire or demand an answer, then we're not only letting Schmidt off the hook and but we're missing a chance to put someone on the spot and point out that these behaviors aren't something that happen to faceless people in random non-Google offices. This shit is literally happening right here, right now.
It was a missed opportunity.
*I anticipate a bland apology from Schmidt in the next few days complete with some lip service to gender equality in tech and then it's back to normal.