I’ve been reading Jessica Livingston’s interview with Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr (along with her husband Stewart Butterfield) in the book Founders at Work: Stories of Startups’ Early Days. It’s an incredibly interesting piece, but I was so shocked to read the following passage:
There is a lot of institutionalized sexism working against women in business and I think that people aren’t even aware that it’s there. One example happened when we went down to Silicon Valley to meet with a venture capital firm. After the meeting, the VC spoke to someone associated with our company and said to him, “Tell Stewart not to bring his wife to VC meetings.” Which was shocking to me, and Stewart was furious about this as well. He let everybody know, “Caterina is not ‘my wife.’ She is instrumental to the success of this company. Her contributions have been equal to mine.”
I’m not a woman in business, but I am a woman in STEM (although because I consider myself an academic first, in professional terms, I do forget this sometimes!). I’ve been lucky so far in the context of my work not to have been the victim of sexist attitudes, and I hope I never am. (Actually, I lie: in my very first semester of teaching, I was told by a male student in his 50s that he refused to take instruction from me, a woman.) If anything, I know of more women in my field than men! It’s shocking that Fake was regarded as merely “the wife” as recently as 10 years ago; it’s more shocking that it undoubtedly still goes on today.
I definitely recommend getting your hands on this book if you can. Some fascinating stories about how the Internet-based companies we know today got started and have prospered, even when the market seems already to be saturated.