Computer giant Dell red-faced after speaker’s misogynist rant
News from America this week has reported a fall in the number of women in senior positions in the technology industries for the second year in a row.
Several reasons have been put forward for this decline, including persistent problems attracting women to tech jobs, and retaining and promoting them.
But what could possibly be putting women off joining such a burgeoning industry? Could it be the stubbornly held attitude that technology is a man’s world, with no place for high ranking women?
Perhaps. Only last month, computer giant Dell held a global conference in Denmark, attended by upwards of 800 Dell partners and employees, including Michael Dell himself.
The role of moderator for the day’s discussions was filled by Danish ‘lifestyle speaker’ and celebrity/comedian Mads Christensen.
Unfortunately for all of the above, also in attendance was Christiana Vejlø, founder of the digital lifestyle magazine Elektronista, who shared the events of the conference with Danish readers on her blog.
It wasn’t pretty.
Much to the horror of the powers that be in Dell, Mads Christensen managed to pull off a routine that was, by all accounts, cringe-making and misogynistic in the extreme.
Immediately following a 20-minute speech from the eponymous Mr Dell, Christensen offered the gem:
”The IT business is one of the last frontiers that manages to keep women out. The quota of women to men in your business is sound and healthy.’
Tarry, it gets worse.
He said that men were responsible for the greatest inventions in history, but that we could ‘thank women for rolling the pin.”
He also asked some of the women who were present ‘What are you actually doing here?’
Other corkers included urging all male attendees to go home that night and tell their wives or girlfriends to “shut up, bitch”.
Although this event happened last month, it was only when Vejlø’s original Danish blog was translated into English earlier this week and subsequently posted on social media site Reddit, that cyberspace really sat up and took notice.
Strangely, it was also around this time that Dell felt compelled to distance themselves from the toxic comments of Christensen.
Writing on their Google account, they insisted that they were committed to equal rights in the organisation:
‘As members of our Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network know, Dell is an enthusiastic and committed advocate of women in business and IT. These comments do not reflect Dell’s company values.
‘Over the last few years we’ve launched several internal and external initiatives designed to accelerate the increasingly powerful role women play in driving economic growth.’
Bearing in mind that women run two of the world’s largest computer companies – IBM and Hewlett Packard – Dell were also quick to point out that, due to in-house programmes designed to promote women, they had laid claim to a number of accolades, including being named among The Times list of Top 50 Employers for Women in the UK for the second year in a row.
They also said, ‘Mads Christensen made a number of inappropriate and insensitive remarks about women. Dell sincerely apologises for the comments.
‘We will be more careful selecting speakers at Dell events.’
Dell have had their fair share of trouble in the past. An advertising campaign in 2009 rather gave the impression that they believed their female customers used laptops predominantly to track calories and look up recipes.
They also settled a gender based lawsuit filed by two female employees to the tune of 9.1 million dollars.
And what of Mads Christensen? Well, no comment has been forthcoming, but a quick look at his website gives a little insight into the man, describing him as ‘a unique entertainer with stylish hair and stylish anecdotes.’ Ahem.
And it may just be a quirk of translation, but according to the English version of his own website, Mads Christensen is also known as ‘bladder ass’.