Following yesterday's bikini babe-whistling embarrassment, Google has taken a tiny—seriously teeny—step to make women feel more welcome in Silicon Valley by promising women's t-shirt sizes at future events and conferences. As yet another (albeit small) demonstration of how the tech world alienates its female members, Google did not provide women's sizes at its I/O conference in San Francisco. "They gave me a t-shirt and it’s a size small, men’s," Alex Maier, a community manager, said at Google's Women Techmakers panel, according to Wired Business blogger Ryan Tate. "That makes me feel unwelcome. I don’t want to make this a big issue or confrontational thing…. But the thing is, I show up, and I want my shirt, and I don’t want to be told that I can sleep in it," she continued. When it comes to this very minor, but symbolic, issue, Google is on it. "We’ll communicate it — and make sure we have women’s t-shirts," senior vice president and panelist Susan Wojcicki said (again, per Tate). Cheers for female-friendly apparel, but the deeper Silicon Valley sexism issues still persist.
The problems extend beyond choosing an almost naked woman during its Nexus 7 Tablet demonstration to a room full of men yesterday. Pointing to another issue bigger than a T-shirt size, a woman inquired why she had only met with men while interviewing at Google. "I am a software engineer and I interviewed at Google," a woman told the panel. "And I was interviewed by all men. I thought it would have been advantageous for both sides to have at least one woman interview me." Google's explanation for that: The company can't promise female interviewers during "high velocity" hiring times.
Yes, these are small issues, but they add up. They also point to an overall culture of sexism that we see with brogrammers, Ellen Pao's gender discrimination suit, and Facebook's complicated lady problems, just to name a few recent examples. If Silicon Valley truly wants to be on the front lines of business and culture, its biggest companies might want to throw out the old playbook and be more inclusive.