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What’s Wrong With PayPal’s All-Male Panel: Good Intentions Aren’t Enough

Having advocated for diversity and inclusion at Airbnb, I can understand the intention behind engaging men, because y’all have so much power to change things and we want and love your help.

But this week’s panel is completely off the mark. I don’t want to hear about ‘men and women partnering to achieve a better workplace’ from a group of male engineering managers.

On the contrary, they owe us the answer to ‘what executive management is doing to foster an inclusive culture’. As a laywoman — I’m an E4 (‘normal’ Software Engineer) — I have very little power over HR or career development policy. When I show up as a woman, I’m already making this better 😛

To me, context matters so much with a ‘male allies’ event: What are these men prepared to offer? What have they worked on? Are they willing to mentor women or change processes? Who comes up with the content — is it drafted in partnership with the women’s group or by the wannabe allies? Will there be an expert moderator [lady or not]?

Without proper clarity around these questions, Tiffany Jiang worries that “it’s a bunch of guys asking themselves ‘what can we do better or what are the problems women are facing’, the women are all below them literally in the audience, having to raise their hands to speak up when the panel could be half and half [which would make it way easier to guide the convo]?”

This review of a 2015 Grace Hopper ‘male allies panel’ could just as well be applied to this proposed panel.

The panelists exhibited little genuine sense of self-awareness, and while the men said existing tech culture needs to change, they offered only stale encouragement, and had little to say about any of the repercussions women and other outsiders can face when they do “speak up” or “tell people their story” or “lean in.” — Selena Larson

The intent of this panel was good, but the structure of the event was flawed. If the goal of the panel is to teach men and women how to partner, a 50–50 mix would be much more effectively at conveying the challenges women face. By choosing a 100% male panel, we are saying that male executives are the best people to speak to the challenges that women face and thus excluding the voices that matter most from the discussion!

Finally, throughout all of this I’m thinking first and foremost of the women and men fighting for a better PayPal and how this uproar is going to harm the conversation there. Allyship is hard but getting this right is important. I will hope that we as an industry will do better about both diversity and diversity advocacy.

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