Google exec guilty of “manterruption”

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Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google, was reprimanded by the company’s diversity manager at the South by South West (SXSW) music and technology festival in Texas for “manterrupting” another delegate.

The tech giant’s former chief executive was speaking on a panel with Megan Smith, the US government’s chief technology officer, when a member of the audience confronted him for frequently interrupting her during the discussion on racial and gender diversity.

The audience member in question was Schmidt’s colleague at Google Judith Williams, head of global diversity and talent programs. Williams runs workshops at Google to educate staff about workplace prejudice and discrimination.

According to The Wall Street Journal, at one point Schmidt “opined on which of two questions Smith should respond to” and “interjected mid-sentence with thoughts on Raspberry Pi”.

However, before the incident, Schmidt had referred to the lack of women pursuing degrees in computer science a “tragedy”.

The Wall Street Journal reported that he did not respond to Williams’ accusations.

Earlier this year, Jessica Bennett wrote in Time magazine about “manterrupting”: the “unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man”, which many have aligned with Schmidt’s behaviour at the event. 

Williams told the panel’s audience that ideas she puts forward at meetings often get ignored – only to have a male colleague make the same suggestion afterwards, a trend which Bennett dubbed “bropropriating”.

Diversity figures at Google show that its global workforce is 70% male.

But Schmidt’s actions seemingly conflict with Google’s mission to increase gender diversity in its workforce.

“All of our efforts, including going public with these numbers, are designed to help us recruit and develop the world’s most talented and diverse people,” Google’s website says.
The company’s Equal Employment Opportunity report detailed that just three of its 36 executives and senior managers are women.

In an effort to encourage employment for women at Google, the organisation has established ‘Women@Google’, an employee resource group made up of over 4,000 female employees committed to providing networking and mentoring opportunities, professional development, and a sense of community to women in 27 countries. 
  • Mark on 5/1/2015 6:09:16 PM

    That is funny. I am a man who speaks English as a second language. How did you know? I know men interrupting women happens and it is a problem and it saddens me that you have had to experience this personally, but I have observed it is a problem with both sexes, having had a career of more female managers than men. I still say the best course is to focus on the interrupting and coaching and helping people to realize the harmful effects regardless of their gender, or national origin. It is an interesting comment given some of the recent research on team intelligence and the finding that there is a gender difference. Women team managers are found to have teams with higher levels of team intelligence than male managers. This is attributed to women being more likely to use participative styles of management over male team leaders and you can see that if a manager interrupts and basically shuts the conversation down or stifles the contribution of the team members this can lead to lower team intelligence. So it is truly a harmful effect.

  • Rebekah on 5/1/2015 6:54:54 AM

    Unfortunately, Mark, the issue is specifically gender related. The article proposes that there is a problem with men interrupting women, and with men coopting women's ideas and presenting them as their own. Interestingly, I can attest to this. If you are a man who speaks English as a second language, who is above a 'certain age', or who appears as someone other than caucasian I have no doubt that you can relate to this gender issue with one of your own experience. If, however, you are a caucasian man between the ages of 25-50, I suspect you have no experience in this arena.

  • Mark on 3/18/2015 4:12:32 PM

    Manterruption and bropropriating are both sexist terms and shame on any HR professional using them. It is still stereotyping. I understand the frustration, but it would be better and more productive to focus on the issues on interrupting and potential lack of respect it shows regardless of the gender.

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