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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.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

via @Todd_Spence / Twitter

Seven years ago, Bill Murray shared a powerful story about the importance of art. The revelation came during a discussion at the National Gallery in London for the release of 2014's "The Monuments Men." The film is about a troop of soldiers on a mission to recover art stolen by the Nazis.

After his first time performing on stage in Chicago, Murray was so upset with himself that he contemplated taking his own life.

"I wasn't very good, and I remember my first experience, I was so bad I just walked out — out onto the street and just started walking," he said.

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