Hosting a panel on gender equality in Silicon Valley seems like a great idea. It would have been an even greater idea if it actually included women in the discussion.

PayPal released the posters for their Apr. 27 panel entitled “Gender Equality and Inclusion in the Workplace,” which is hosted by PayPal’s diversity and women-in-tech group, Unity Women@PayPal.

The poster, first posted on Facebook by activist and former advertising executive Cindy Gallop, reads: “Please join us for a discussion with our senior male leaders Edwin Aoki, Sri Shivananda, Jonathan Auerbach, Franz Paasche moderated by Karthik Suri about how men and women can partner to achieve a better workplace.”

Including women in the discussion about women in the workplace would have been a good idea.  

PayPal recognized the controversy, but blamed the lack of inclusion on a miscommunication.

Nolwenn Godard, president of the group hosting the panel, responded in a Facebook post by saying the panel's intent is to bring together male allies to discuss the topic. 

The title of the panel is “Gender Equality and Inclusion in the Workplace: a Conversation with our Male Allies,” Unfortunately the full title and the intention of the panel did not make it on to the initial posters that have been the subject of commentary. We’ve since clarified the language to address the misunderstanding. As a woman leader at PayPal, I’m proud of steps PayPal has taken to help promote gender equality in the workplace. This panel is intended to emphasize that women and men need to work together to advance this cause.

This sounds alright in theory, but of the 18 people listed as part of PayPal’s leadership team, only three are female. This statistic is one piece of a largely male-driven atmosphere created in Silicon Valley, which has come under fire for cases of blatant sexual harassment.

A 2016 study revealed that 60 percent of women working in Silicon Valley have experienced some sort of sexual harassment. One women reported that a client asked her to sit on his lap if she wanted him to buy her products. When she told her company about it, they didn’t take action.

The American Association of University Women (AAUW) also performed a 2016 study that found that the gender gap in technology is widening as women are being held back by stereotypes and biases. Per the study, 20 percent or less of leading Silicon Valley companies’ technical staff are women.

Changing the mindsets and attitudes in Silicon Valley are going to take a major overhaul. The first step, however, is definitely including and respecting women’s voices in the discussion.

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