Much To Say About Diversity: Google Chief Eric Schmidt Repeatedly Interrupted Female Co-Panelist At SXSW


Eric Schmidt had reportedly attended the SXSW music and technology festival in Texas where he, along with United States Chief Technology Officer and former Google senior staffer Megan Smith, talked about gender equality in the tech industry. During the discussion, Schmidt was challenged by an attendee who observed how he repeatedly interrupted co-panelist Smith.

At the panel, Schmidt showed great enthusiasm in discussing a number of topics, which included his thoughts on the Raspberry Pi and the lack of women in the tech industry. He described this lack as a "tragedy."

While he had a lot of things to say about the industry's gender diversity, people noted how he seemed to have "grabbed" other people's chance to talk. This was observed when he gave his opinion on two questions that were initially intended for Smith and when he interrupted her while she talked about the Raspberry Pi.

The panel, whose discussion was dubbed "How Innovation Happens," spoke much about diversity in tech. In the hour-long talk, the panelists discussed how the U.S. government, along with companies such as Google, can inspire more women and minority groups to become more involved.

Another panelist, Walter Isaacson, who is an acclaimed biographer of Steve Jobs, was also observed to have repeatedly interrupted their female co-panelist.

When the Q&A session started, one member of the audience asked both men if they were aware that they were displaying their own unconscious bias when they interrupted Smith.

"Given that unconscious bias research tells us that women are interrupted a lot more than men, I'm wondering if you are aware that you have interrupted Megan many more times," said the attendee. The statement was met with cheers and applause from other members of the audience.

The attendee who popped the question was Judith Williams, head of the Global Diversity and Talent Programs department of Google. Williams conducts "unconscious bias" workshops where she teaches employees how to determine and call out prejudice.

The issue on diversity and how the lack of it had been observed in the workforce is a hot topic among a number of Silicon Valley companies, including Google. In the past year, an analysis of the company's own workforce showed that 70 percent of its workers are made up of male and that 60 percent of them are white. Eighty-three percent of the employees working in Google's tech sector are male.

Photo: Magnus Hoij | Flickr

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