Thursday, July 16, 2015

Ellen Pao's "Glass Cliff"

Ellen Pao, whose fifteen minutes must surely soon come to an end (right? right?), is back with an account of how she claims the trolls chased her out of Reddit. Never mind that her proffered reason for exiting was in fact that she couldn't deliver on user growth (though we may infer that one is causal to the other, in some wise). Still it was with no small interest that I read this in Jezebel a few days back:
The chaos at Reddit continues: chief engineer Bethanye Blount quit Monday after less than two months on the job, saying she’s lost confidence in the direction of the company and believes ousted CEO Ellen Pao was set up to fail.
Blount says her departure was not “directly linked” to Pao’s resignation, but echoed recent comments made by former CEO Yishan Wong, who says Pao was set up to fail from the start.
Blount also said she believed Pao’s exit was an indirect consequence of gender discrimination, and that Pao had been placed on a “glass cliff.” It is a term used to describe women being set up for failure by being put in leadership roles during crises.

Victoria wasn’t on a glass cliff. But it’s hard for me to see it any other way than Ellen was,” Blount said. However, she added that “I wouldn’t say my decision to leave was directly related to my gender.”
 So, wait, so putting a woman in a stressful, high-risk, high-reward situation is setting her up to fail? And this is, itself, presumably evidence of sexual discrimination? Isn't it really the other way around, that women demanding they only ever succeed (or should be put in situations where failure is not really possible) means they also don't get the rewards that come from navigating hazards? Isn't this reductive, infantilizing, and narcissistic? Doesn't this, in fact, serve the opposite end as anything recognizable as equality between the sexes?

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