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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.

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.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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It can be hard to find hope in hard times, but we have examples of humanity all around us.

I almost didn't create this post this week.

As the U.S. reels from yet another horrendous school massacre, barely on the heels of the Buffalo grocery store shooting and the Laguna Woods church shooting reminding us that gun violence follows us everywhere in this country, I find myself in a familiar state of anger and grief and frustration. One time would be too much. Every time, it's too much. And yet it keeps happening over and over and over again.

I've written article after article about gun violence. I've engaged in every debate under the sun. I've joined advocacy groups, written to lawmakers, donated to organizations trying to stop the carnage, and here we are again. Round and round we go.

It's hard not to lose hope. It would be easy to let the fuming rage consume every bit of joy and calm and light that we so desperately want and need. But we have to find a balance.

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