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Why I Clearly Must Be a Man

Christina Chaplin Beyond Borders
5 Sep 2014 BLOG_NUM_COMMENTS

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On August 17th I received an email from General Assembly. In the past I’ve found lots of great resources through them so I subscribe to their mail list and generally open all of their emails and even click through to whatever link they’re pushing. On this particular day the following caught my eye:

20140905-GA-contest-image“Meet CEOs and execs from Pinterest, Linkedin, Twitter, Chegg, and YCombinator, tour their campuses, and enjoy the best of the Bay Area with $1,000 Uber credit and a hotel stay at the luxury Hotel Zetta.”

So obviously I clicked, and turns out GA has organized a giveaway for one lucky winner to get to meet, 1-on-1, with some really big people in the tech industry. Who wouldn’t want to sign up for the contest and for a chance to get flown in from anywhere in the world?!?

I signed, up, was invited to share on social media for more chances to win, and received a confirmation email thanking me for signing up. Up to there a typical sweepstakes… until this morning. This morning, when checking my email a new sender caught my eye. I keep my Gmail pretty well organized with tabs, and when someone new (that I don’t recognize) makes it into my inbox, of course I investigate (unless it’s clearly Spam). What struck me was the subject line: “Welcome to InsideHook”.

Since InsideHook didn’t sound familiar and I certainly don’t remember signing up for anything called InsideHook I had to check out the email. This is the email I received:

20140905-insidehook-email

That’s right… me, Christina Chaplin, was signed up automatically to this men’s, online, lifestyle publication. And they made it explicitly clear that I was signed up as a subscriber because I had signed up for a chance to win General Assembly’s trip to Silicon Valley.

Immediately a few things crossed my mind…

I don’t remember any options, checkboxes or otherwise asking me about signing up for this. And yes I usually do read the marketing small print (I’m one of those people). So why was I signed up for this?

And why would General Assembly think I would be interested in a men’s lifestyle publication? I’ve actually had sufficient personal previous interaction with GA as a potential student, so why don’t they have a clue that I’m a woman?

Then indignation set it because it became clear that there was an assumption behind this email automation… if someone is interested in entering for a chance to win meetings with top Silicon Valley execs, they must be male. I went from mildly offended to more so as I scrolled through the email. Why does my professional, and business-related interest in potentially meeting major tech executives have to do with helicopter-submarines, scantily-clad women and the like in an Urban Daddy type publication (yes, I subscribe to Urban Daddy in spite of it's often misogynistic language and content, but I consciously chose to do so in that case)?

Needless to say, this might not have been a conscious decision by whoever does email marketing at General Assembly, but regardless of whether it was or wasn’t, it just goes to show how truly pervasive the gender-bias is in the tech world. It’s so deeply ingrained in the way so many people think (both men and women) that even if we’re not consciously discriminating against women, we’re doing so in the small day-to-day actions and decisions we make without even realizing it.

I would hope that GA (and others in Silicon Valley and tech) could learn from this unfortunate mistake and understand how it’s an example of how the devil’s in the details. These kinds of slip-ups can cost your clients and sales. I have received in the past other emails from General Assembly that leads me to believe they do care and support more women getting into male-dominated careers. However, promoting scholarships for under-represented groups like women and minorities isn’t enough if you don’t follow through on the little details and communicate the same message consistently.

Not impressed GA, not impressed.

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Christina Chaplin

Christina Chaplin

Head of Marketing, Talmundo

Indeed, I have seen my mother suffer the same annoyance for many years, receiving countless letters addressed to Mr. Mel Chaplin. In today's world of exceptional access to information and data automatization, you'd think we could make some real progress in correcting these daily grievances.
Quenby Wilcox

Quenby Wilcox

Founder , Global Expats | www.global-xpats.com

Unfortunately, the double-standard of "promoting programs for minorities, but not integrating equality norms into one's own org" is all too common in cos., ngo's, & govt. ags. across the globe. In my own dealings with various orgs in the past yr., I have constantly been reminded of the overly pious 'Sunday church-goer' who spends the rest of the week breaking all Commandments at break-neck speed.
Quenby Wilcox

Quenby Wilcox

Founder , Global Expats | www.global-xpats.com

If all orgs. would spend more energy in integrating equality, diversity, & ethical work norms into daily practices, we would no longer need 'special programs' designed to assist minority grps.

As to the problem of receiving letters & emails addressed to Mr., instead of Ms.. it is an issue I have faced all my life. I can empathize with your annoyance :)
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