Pando

“Yes we have a gender problem”: Alfred Lin responds to Mike Moritz's horrific comments on gender at Sequoia Capital

By Sarah Lacy , written on December 14, 2015

From The PandoMonthly Desk

Not for the first time since it sold to AOL, I was disappointed in TechCrunch last week.

The blog scored the elusive Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital at its European Disrupt conference last week. The old TechCrunch might have asked Moritz about his appalling and outdated comments about gender in Silicon Valley, and at Sequoia, which he'd recently made to Bloomberg’s Emily Chang. In my time at TechCrunch, I time-and-again watched Michael Arrington agree not to ask something on stage… then turn around and do exactly that.

But nope. According to people who were at the conference, Moritz conducted an interview of someone else and was not asked a single question himself.

In the void was some stunning analysis about his comments and what they said about his… soul, frankly. The best was from Jessica Nordell, who argued on Medium that he didn’t merely “misspeak”:

When asked about Sequoia’s lack of women, he said they were looking, but “What we’re not prepared to do is lower our standards.” Now, no one had asked, “Are you willing to lower your standards?” No: that was the question he heard when asked about hiring women. That was the association he made. Here, then, is a map of his synaptic firings: women → lower standards.

The synaptic pathway was revealed again at various points throughout the interview. As evidence of the company’s eagerness, he said, “We just hired a young woman from Stanford who is every bit as good as her peers” and “If they can meet our performance standards, we’ll hire them.” No one had asked, “Will you hire women who can’t meet standards, or are not as good as men?” That was his association: women → not as good → exception → as good as a man.

Again, the problem is not that he misspoke. The problem is that the idea that women are not as good is so deeply embedded in the mind of so many people in positions of power, that it is not even recognized. It’s a belief system that leads one to automatically and without awareness, connect “women” with “lower standards” and “woman as good as a man” with “the exception.” 

She points out that Moritz himself had no background in technology and had never built a company when he joined Sequoia. He was just a journalist. Some might have considered that a “lowering of standards.” I guess only if Moritz had been a woman.

At our PandoMonthly with DoorDash’s Tony Xu and Sequoia Capital’s Alfred Lin,  I wasn’t nearly so polite as TechCrunch. I asked Lin squarely about the comments made by his partner and whether they reflected his own views. He didn’t mince words, saying, “Yes, we have a gender problem. We have a gender problem in venture capital. We have a gender problem in tech. We have a gender problem at Sequoia and we need to do a better job.”

He added, “There are plenty of qualified women and we need to do a better job at Sequoia to talk to them, recruit them, and hire them into Sequoia Capital.”

When asked if they’ve ever done unconscious bias training at Sequoia – as other Valley VC firms have – he answered “I think we should do those things.”

I agree.

The entire clip is below.