Women have certainly cracked the glass ceiling, but for every victory, there remain shards of misogyny. Recently, Yunha Kim, the CEO of Locket — a new tech startup that allows you to change your lock screen — received a startling email from a potential employee. After being asked to interview for a position at the company, a male engineer replied by asking Kim out on a date.
While this in itself is inappropriate, to say the least, that's by no means the worst of the email. The sender goes on to say that "there are some unconventional ways to lure me away from my company," completing his thought with a winky face. A WINKY FACE. Who knew a quasi-sext was the logical next step in an interview process?
The engineer concludes by suggesting that he's more interested in options with Kim than stock options with the company. The saddest part, according to Kim, is that it's "one of the more professional emails." While the message itself may be somewhat amusing and relatively harmless (though it sure didn't get him a job), it does shed light to the long and growing list of difficulties in being a company CEO, and a female CEO at that.
Kim's position as the CEO of a startup is one that is very rare for women. According to the Center for Venture Research, the first and second quarters of 2013 saw only seven percent of venture capital funding going to women. Given that venture capital funding is generally key for startups looking to successfully become viable companies, this statistic doesn't bode well for women looking to start new companies.
In fact, women don't seem to be very present in the startup space at all, with only 16 percent of businesses seeking funding in the first half of 2013 being led by women. Of this 16 percent, just under a quarter actually received seed money, which is actually a relatively high number for any given demographic. But even so, 23.6 percent of 16 percent means that only 3 percent of companies that successfully sought seed money had women at their helms.
According to Monica Dodi, co-founder of the Women’s Venture Capital Fund — a fund that specifically focuses on expanding "the pipeline of women entrepreneurs leading gender diverse teams" — Silicon Valley is comprised of "mostly white, male engineers," she told Forbes. As such, given the inherent risk associated with investing in a new business venture, these white males are most inclined to invest in "people that look and sound like them,” or simply put — other white males.
The underrepresentation of women does n't start and end in the startup space, though. The most recent survey of Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies found that only 4.6 percent of those companies had female CEOs. The fact that adding an additional 500 companies does not change the proportion of women in charge is absolutely horrifying.
Given these statistics, emails like the one Kim received seem to suggest a mortifying lack of respect for women in positions of power. As Business Insider asks, "Would a man say this to a male CEO? Would a woman say this to a male CEO?" Kim herself notes that being a female CEO is tricky, as her gender is used to qualify whatever adjective someone attaches to her. As Kim says:
If you are aggressive, you are a bitch. If you are emotional, you are PMSing. If you are soft, you are too feminine. Whatever way someone finds you, they can always justify it is because you are female.
In a world where having a woman as a CEO is so rare that they must be specified with "female CEO," this email is an unpleasant reminder of how far women have still to go in achieving equal treatment in the business world. While tech may be a laid back and friendly space, it would be difficult to believe that such behavior is in the least bit kosher.
Yunha Kim is doing awesome things with Locket, and doesn't need emails from ineligible bachelors to cramp her style.