Tuesday, October 10, 2017

What Forbes Can Learn From Its Women@Forbes Under 30 Summit

What do ForbesPlayboy, and my Women@Forbes experience have in common? 

A few weeks ago, I applied to and was selected to attend the Forbes Under 30 Summit in Boston where I am completing my senior year at Emerson College. I was honored to be recognized as an Under 30 Scholar among a group of like-minded, entrepreneurial peers. I looked forward to gaining industry insight from top young change-makers such as Kendrick Lamar, Karlie Kloss, Tyler Oakley, Evan Rachel Wood, and many others who would be speaking. I was even more elated to receive a special invitation to the Women@Forbes MIT Takeover, a summit for young women in tech. 

As a self-taught, rookie coder, I am very proud of the blog I have created. Everything you see on Bits of Style has been executed by me, with the exception of a few photoshoots from time to time. I never would have dreamed of being hosted by Forbes and MIT as a top young woman in tech. On Sunday, October 1st, I made my way over to the MIT Media Lab, ready for the eventful day ahead. I envisioned an empowering, inspiring experience with women doing everything to make the event possible from operating the tech booth to the cameras. Was I in for a surprise. When I stepped into the lecture hall, I was taken aback that every camera recording the event was being operated by a man. I thought this was a women in tech summit. I took a vacant seat in the press section and listened closely to Bozoma Saint John, the new and first Chief Brand Officer of Uber, a company with a history of sexual harassment. Bozoma is a strong, smart woman who gave a moving speech on what it means to be female in the tech sector, and how solving the issues of sexism takes effort from everyone. I have all the confidence in her ability to shape an inclusive and respectful culture at Uber. 

Uber is by no means the only company plagued by insidious, abusive behavior. The Weinstein Company has been making headlines for producer Harvey Weinstein's sexual harassment and abuse of female employees and coworkers. His mistreatment of the women he works with has spanned decades. Weinstein was fired on Sunday. What is it with men in positions of power in the entertainment and tech industries treating women with such disrespect, like we are a disposable commodity? I firmly believe it has to do with the "boys club" mentality of these sectors which for so long have kept women out and fenced men in. 

As I looked at the male camera operators, I felt uneasy. I thought about how hypocritical it was for Forbes to host a women in tech summit only to have the individuals recording it be men. There I sat, listening to CEO of Glossier, Emily Weiss, in a room full of women with their eyes on careers in tech, as camera lenses captured our vulnerable, shared experience through the male gaze. How powerful it would have been to see women cinematographers. As someone who attends one of the top film schools in the country, I know firsthand how the film industry is rampant with sexism. Couldn't Forbes have made a statement on creating opportunities for women in the tech sector? Where is their entrepreneurial spirit? I know many young women at my college who are talented cinematographers. What about their representation? I left the Women@Forbes Summit early and did not attend any other Forbes Under 30 festivities.

Because this all doesn't exist in a vacuum by coincidence, I did some research on the CEO and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes. It all came full circle. The CEO is Michael Perlis and he joined the company in December 2010. I know you don't inherit a high-profile position without some hearty past experience, so I looked into where he worked before. His former title? Publisher of Playboy, succeeding none other than Hugh Hefner. He took over Playboy from Hugh in 1989. I found an article in The New York Times archives all about Mr. Perlis. The 1992 interview is a testament to his character. In the interview, he calls himself a "feminist." I fail to see how Playboy is feminist media. He is quoted saying men have, "become a subculture like everybody else." Steve Forbes, the Editor-in-Chief, is pro-Trump and pro-life as he openly expresses on his Twitter. Mr. Forbes is certainly not a feminist. If Forbes seeks to be a feminist, forward-thinking publication, it must be inclusive from the top down. It is wrong for Forbes to exploit young people's aspirations for equality as a veil for its own corrupt values. Let it be known, Forbes, the leading business publication, is nothing but irony and false advertising.