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He 'won't lower his standards' to hire women. Why this comment tells us a lot.

This isn't just 'foot in mouth' disease. It's a deeply hidden synaptic pathway, temporarily illuminated.

He 'won't lower his standards' to hire women. Why this comment tells us a lot.

A few days ago in a Bloomberg interview, businessman Michael Moritz was asked about the scarcity of women working at his company, Sequoia Capital.

His responses — among them that the firm is seeking women but is "not prepared to lower our standards" — were described by many as "open mouth, insert foot." Similar remarks across sectors and industries have been described this way, too.

But this foot-in-mouth characterization is wrong: It suggests that the speaker fumbled his words and misspoke.

What’s happening when Moritz talks about "lowering standards" is not a clumsy handling of speech. It’s this: In that moment, a deeply hidden synaptic pathway is temporarily illuminated.


When asked about Sequoia’s lack of women, Moritz said they were looking to hire more. But "what we’re not prepared to do is lower our standards," he said. Now, no one had asked, "Are you willing to lower your standards?" No: That was the question he heard when he was asked about hiring women. That was the association he made automatically.

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 later, "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 here is not that he misspoke. The problem is that the idea that women are not as good is so deeply embedded in the minds 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."

The cumulative effects of this belief system are profound.

It’s why women must be two and a half times as good as men to be considered equally competent. It’s why holding blind auditions for orchestras increase women’s chances of advancing to final rounds by 50%. It’s why professors who receive requests for mentorship from prospective students are less likely to respond if the request comes from a woman. It’s why women are hired and promoted based on proof while men are hired and promoted based on potential.

Moritz himself is a great example of these studies. In the interview, he suggests that the pipeline of women in tech is the problem. But he was a history major and journalist when hired by Sequoia. They "took a risk" on him; at the time he was hired, he says, he "knew nothing about technology."

Transgender people who experience the workplace as both men and women are often the most eloquent observers of this phenomenon.

As transgender biologist Ben Barres famously overheard another scientist say after he’d transitioned from Barbara to Ben, "Ben Barres gave a great seminar today, but then his work is much better than his sister’s."

Why don’t we notice this phenomenon most of the time? Because except for during moments like Moritz’s interview, this deeply embedded belief system is rarely given explicit, legible form. And because it’s usually unspoken, so it’s difficult to fully examine, question, and eradicate. A slip-of-the-tongue like Moritz’s is like the scent added to natural gas: tangible evidence of an invisible presence.

So this is where we must start: We must first acknowledge the existence of this belief.

When Moritz says, as he did in the interview, "I like to think, and genuinely believe, that we are blind to someone’s sex," it should sound an alarm.

Classic studies have shown that those who claim to be objective make the most biased judgments of all. Moritz is widely considered a leader in his industry, but true leadership would begin with this history major examining his belief that the "pipeline" of women in technology is the problem.

Foot-in-mouth moments are not fumbles, they are the opportunity.

We must seize these moments to draw attention to a pernicious belief system, excavate it, and ultimately eradicate it. The gifts of 50% of the population are at stake. And the world’s problems are too great to do without them.

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Marine veteran Paul Coppola is a wonderful example of the transformational power of service dogs.

Ten years ago, he was rocked by two explosions in an attack that took the lives of 17 Marines in Afghanistan. The attack left Coppola with traumatic brain injury, PTSD, and an injured back.

Coppola didn't think his struggles warranted a service dog but after prodding from his wife, he was paired with Dobby, a four-year-old black Lab mix trained by veteran organization Operation Delta Dog.

Dobby and Paul soon became best friends and partners in life.

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via © Jakub Gojda/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021 and © Zoe Ross /Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Two of the winners of the Comedy Pet Photo Awards.

A few weeks ago, Upworthy shared the hilarious winners of the 2021 Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards and the winner was a well-timed shot of a monkey who appears to have hurt the family jewels on a suspension wire. (Don't worry folks, no monkeys were harmed for the awards.)

The awards were created six years ago by Tom Sullam and Paul Joynson-Hicks to promote positive awareness of animal welfare issues. The competition has been so successful, the duo decided to branch out and create the Comedy Pet Photo Awards, where photographers can submit pictures of their furry friends for a £2,000 ($2650) prize.

Donations generated by the competition go to Animal Support Angels, an animal welfare charity in the U.K.

This year's winner is Zoe Ross for "Whizz Pop," a photo of her labrador puppy Pepper who appears to be tooting bubbles.

“We never ever thought that we would win but entered the competition because we loved the idea of helping a charity just by sending in a funny photo of Pepper," Ross said in a statement. "She is such a little monkey, and very proud of herself, bringing in items from the garden and parading past you until you notice her. She is the happiest puppy we’ve ever known and completely loved to pieces.”

Here are the rest of the winners of the 2021 Comedy Pet Photo Awards.

Overall Winner: Zoe Ross "Whizz Pop," Penkridge, U.K.

© Zoe Ross /Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Did this puppy swallow a bubble?

Best Dog Category: Carmen Cromer "Jurassic Bark," Pittsboro, North Carolina

© Carmen Cromer/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"My golden retriever, Clementine, loves to stick her face in front of the hose while I water the plants. Her expression in this photo made me think of a tyrannosaurus rex, hence the title, "Jurassic Bark." Duh nuh nuuuh nuhnuh, duh nuh nuuuh nuh nuh, dun duh duuuh nuh nuh nuh nUUUUUUhhhh." – Carmen Cromer

Best Cat Category: Kathrynn Trott "Photobomb," Ystradgynlais, U.K.

© Kathrynn Trott/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Jeff stealing the limelight from his brother Jaffa.

Best Horse Category: Mary Ellis, "I Said 'Good Morning,'" Platte River State Park, Nebraska

© Mary Ellis/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"I like to visit the stable horses before I begin my hike at the State Park. This is the reply I received when I said 'Good morning.'" – Mary Ellis

All Other Creatures Category: Sophie Bonnefoi, "The Eureka Moment," Oxford, U.K.

© Sophie Bonnefoi/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Cutie and Speedy are two chicks hatched from eggs placed in an incubator at home in August 2020. They spent their first few weeks indoors. In the photo, they are just over two weeks old. They were curious about everything. This is the day they discovered their own shadow. It was hilarious to see them wondering and exploring that 'dark thing' that was moving with them!" – Sophie Bonnefoi

Junior Category: Suzi Lonergan, "Sit!" Pacific Palisades, California

© Suzi Lonergan/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Our granddaughter gave the command to sit. Beau is very obedient." – Suzi Lonergan

Pets Who Look Like Their Owners Category: Jakub Gojda, "That Was a Good One!" Czech Republic

© Jakub Gojda/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"This photo was taken by accident during the photography of my ex-girlfriend with her beloved mare. For this cheerful moment, I thank the fly that sat on the horse's nose and he instinctively shook his head." – Jakub Gojda.

Highly Commended: Chloe Beck, "Hugo the Photobomber," Walsall, U.K.

© Chloe Beck/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"This is my best friend Faith, her husband Alex, and their cheeky Sproodle, Hugo. Faith wanted a photograph to mark a special occasion—her first outing after shielding at home for 14 months. Hugo jumped into the frame at just the right moment!" – Chloe Beck

Highly Commended: Luke O'Brien, "Mumford and Chum," Coventry, U.K.

© Luke O'Brien/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Losing the opportunity to play with my human bandmates during lockdown, Flint, my rescue dog, soon taught me that we didn't just have sharp bones in common, but musical ones, too. He soon became the perfect substitute for a collaborative stomp up at home, so much so that we felt we deserved our own band name (Muttford and Chum). With my camera set up remotely during this shoot, I think it's fair to say that the image is proof that his conviction as a performer matches my own." – Luke O'Brien.

Highly Commended: Kathryn Clark, "Wine Time," Cichester, U.K.

© Kathryn Clark/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"It's that time of day again! Little Blue enjoys it almost as much as me." – Kathryn Clark.

Highly Commended: Diana Jill Mehner, "Crazy in Love With Fall," Paderborn, Germany

© Diana Jill Mehner/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"This is Leia. As you can see, she definitely loves playing with all the leaves in autumn. It was really tricky to take this picture because you never know what the dog is going to do next." – Diana Jill Mehner.

Highly Commended: Christine Johnson, "Boing," Crosby Beach, U.K.

© Christine Johnson/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"I was busy playing with my dog on the beach and this dog came to play. I liked the shapes he was making in the air." – Christine Johnson

Highly Commended: Manel Subirats Ferrer, "Ostrich Style," Platja del Prat de Llobregat, Spain

© Manel Subirats Ferrer/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

Nuka playing hide and seek at the beach.

Highly Commended: Colin Doyle, "Nosey Neighbor," Bromsgrove, U.K.

© Colin Doyle/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"According to Ozzy, we need a new fence panel ASAP. He is fed up with Chester our nosy next door neighbor spying on him every time he has a meal." – Colin Doyle.

Highly Commended: Corey Seeman, "A Warm Spot on a Cold Day," Michigan

© Corey Seeman/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Two of the morning regulars at the dog park are Gary (hound mix with the jacket) and Kona, one of the most chill dogs ever." – Corey Seeman.

Highly Commended: Lucy Slater, "So What?" San Diego, California

© Lucy Slater/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"This is how I like to sit!" – Vincent the cat

Highly Commended: Mollie Cheary, "Photobomb," Poole, U.K.

© Mollie Cheary/Animal Friends Comedy Pet Photo Awards 2021

"Bailey was so excited to see her friends, she couldn't sit still for a photo!" – Mollie Cheary

Peet Montzingo following his mom around with a trombone is delightful family entertainment.

Peet Montzingo and his mom have the most delightful relationship, as evidenced by their joint videos on Montzingo's social media platforms. And one viral video sums up the sort of fun Montzingo and his unique family engage in.

The video is a compilation of clips of Montzingo following his mom around with a trombone, making silly sound effects as she goes about doing chores and normal daily life things. It's simple and silly, which is what makes it so wholesome. People can't get enough of their gentle bantering.

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Dolly Parton was the picture of grace in her 1977 interview with Barbara Walters.

Dolly Parton is a beloved icon whose appeal somehow bridges a diverse audience. Even people who aren't big fans of her music admire her for her kindness, philanthropy and unflappability.

Barbara Walters is a now-retired broadcast journalist who gained international fame for her candid interviews with well-known figures. Though she was renowned for her interview techniques and willingness to ask tough questions, sometimes her questions could be somewhat tactless.

Put those two together 44 years ago and you get a shining example of Parton's grace and wit in the face of tasteless questions about her looks, her breasts and criticisms lobbed at her. Parton has always been who she is and portrayed the outward appearances she wants to portray, and she calmly and deftly navigates Walters' patronizing line of questioning with impressive poise.

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So much of Barbara Walters' commentary and questioning comes across as condescending and judgmental, but Dolly Parton transforms that negativity into a positive portrayal of who she is, where she's from and what she's all about.

When Walters told her she was beautiful and didn't need the wig and the make-up and the outrageous clothes, Parton told her it was a choice she's making. “I don’t like to be like everybody else," she said. “I would never stoop so low to be fashionable, that’s the easiest thing in the world to do.

"I'm very real as far as my outlook on life and the way I care about people and the way I care about myself and the things I care about. I just chose to do this, and show business is a money-making joke and I've just always liked telling jokes," she added.

Walters asked her if she ever feels that she is a joke, since people make fun of her.

“Oh I know they make fun of me, but all these years the people have thought the joke was on me, but it’s actually on them,” said Parton. “I am sure of myself as a person. I am sure of my talent. I’m sure of my love for life and that sort of thing. I am very content, I like the kind of person that I am. So, I can afford to piddle around and do-diddle around with makeup and clothes and stuff because I am secure with myself.”

The questions about Parton's breasts were particularly tacky, especially by today's standards. But Parton handled it all beautifully. Her responses are a masterclass in grace and her self-assurance is a refreshing model for us all—especially now that we can see how she has stayed true to herself all these years. Anyone who has ever wondered why Dolly Parton's appearance is what it is will learn a lot from this interview, and anyone who wants to learn how to maintain dignity and class in the face of inconsideration will learn a lot as well.