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May 14 2012

Dude, You Can Keep Your Dell (Updated)

Dell Computers recently held a company event in Denmark. It was a large and important enough event that Michael Dell himself spoke.

Dell’s Danish arm hired, as emcee and entertainer for the day, a performer named Mads Christensen, who is a well-known provocateur in Danish media circles. According to Vejlo and a few English-language Danish blogs, he’s primarily known for making racist, sexist, and other inflammatory comments in public.

He continued the streak that day. Vejlo live-tweeted the event and Christensen’s comments as they unfolded: for example, his opening line, roughly translated as, “There are almost no girls in this room, and I am happy. Why are you here at all?” “Gender quotas are still fairly healthy in your industry,” he went on.

On innovation, the emcee who directly followed Michael Dell on-stage commented that “All the great inventions are from men; we can thank women for the rolling pin.” And he ended his comments by saying IT was the last bastion for men, and that they should let the mantra “shut up, b–ch” hiss out from between their teeth. All to laughter and applause from that collection of some 800 IT professionals, overwhelmingly male. Dell’s Danish director, Nicolai Moresco, reportedly praised Christensen’s performance onstage as he thanked the emcee for his comments.

But there is totally no hostile atmosphere pushing women out of the computer industry. You can tell because of Dell’s reaction.

Oh, wait. Moresco’s response was a classic notpology of the “I’m sorry you feel that way” variety. Dell’s official response was of the “We’re really very good about women so we don’t have to do anything to address this” sort. Glad that makes gender-based attacks commissioned by the company all okey dokey then.

Or if you don’t want to take the company’s word that everything is nifty and women are just overreacting to being called bitches at work, you could ask the commenters on that c|net article. They’ll be happy to tell you that women are just inherently different, prefer gossipy office environments to work, never had any interest in computer science to begin with, need to put up with harassment or learn to handle it better themselves because guys make mean jokes at each other sometimes, and that we only ever complain:

Because it keeps the perpetual-grievance, professional-victim types in business.

If you treat individuals as individuals and judge them on their merits and character, it destroys the Entitlement mentality pushed so hard by those who know they can’t make it on ability and demand pet-group set asides.

No, we have to keep collectivist identity politics alive. Better to patronize and call into question the accomplishments of those who earn their way if it keeps the handouts flowing to those who don’t.

You know, because once you’ve objected to something, you’re disqualified from pointing it out when something similar happens again. Because someone talking about how women, as a group, shouldn’t be in the room at an IT event is treating individuals as individuals. Because it’s only collectivist identity politics when someone who isn’t the societal default talks about something based on their identity.

But there is totally no hostile atmosphere pushing women out of the computer industry. None at all.

Update: Dell has issued an apology via Google+.

Dell response regarding insensitive comments from Mads Christensen

During a Dell-hosted customer and partner summit in Copenhagen in April, well-known public speaker and moderator, Mads Christensen, made a number of inappropriate and insensitive remarks about women. Dell sincerely apologizes for these comments. As members of our Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) know, Dell is an enthusiastic and committed advocate of women in business and IT. These comments do not reflect Dell’s company values and undermine much of the work we’ve done in support of women in the workplace overall.

Empowering women and their businesses is something close to our hearts at Dell and is the motivation behind our Women Powering Business initiative and DWEN – a network and annual conference that helps bring female founders, CEOs and innovative leaders together, share best practices and open up new business opportunities around the world.

Over the last few years, we’ve launched several internal and external initiatives designed to accelerate the increasingly powerful role women play in driving economic growth. We’re proud that some of that work resulted in awards and recognition by various women’s organizations. This year, as an example, Dell received recognition as one of The Times Top 50 Employers for Women in the UK for the second year in a row.

Once again, we apologize for this unfortunate event. Going forward, we will be more careful selecting speakers at Dell events.

18 comments

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  1. 1
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Damn, I’m sorry I bought one last year.

    But this is gold:

    If you treat individuals as individuals and judge them on their merits and character,…

    in defense of somebody who said this:

    “There are almost no girls in this room, and I am happy. Why are you here at all?”

    Yeah, calling adult women “girls” and telling them they’re in the wrong place anyway because of “girl cooties” (probably) totally looks at the individual.

  2. 2
    MatthewL

    It makes me glad never to have owned a Dell.

  3. 3
    Otrame

    The obvious response to this: “Girls” don’t buy Dells.

    (Sensible people don’t anyway. They are popular with large corporations because they are cheap. They are cheap for a reason.)

    Men and women who object to this should boycott. And I truly hope that every single woman who was in that room is looking for another job.

  4. 4
    leftwingfox

    Yeah, Dell squandered it’s good reputation for customer service and reliability years ago. I’m honestly not sure if there are any other big name PC makers that have not at this point; HP has good laptops and workstations, but their consumer desktops…

  5. 5
    mcbender

    What the fuck. I will never buy another Dell; admittedly, I wouldn’t have anyway, but still.

  6. 6
    Sercee

    The only Dell I ever bought (because it was cheap and I couldn’t afford better at the time) suffered two full system failures in the first month, put me through 12 hours of horrible outsourced customer service where they argued with me about the problem until it turned out I was right and they sent me the new pieces, then crapped out with no hope of recovery months before I finished paying for it. I build my own systems better than they do and I have no formal training. I vowed never to allow one into my household again, and this story just cinches that irrevocably.

  7. 7
    Christoph Burschka

    all great inventions came from men

    Huh. Who wrote the first computer algorithm or the first compiler again?

  8. 8
    bubba707

    I’d love to see women start a compuyer company. I bet the product would be the best on the matket.

  9. 9
    sithrazer

    I swore off Dell products after helping a friend upgrade a factory-built one that was getting on in years.

    Pro-tip: ‘Tin snips’ are not an acceptable tool requirement for swapping out a PCI card.

    This is just one more strike against Dell.

  10. 10
    JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

    @bubba707 — I don’t know about “best on the [sic] matket” but the Linux OEM ZaReason was founded and is still run by a woman, and I’ve been quite satisfied with their products. (I’m typing on one right now.)

  11. 11
    Rabidtreeweasel

    Translation: We’re sorry we got caught.

  12. 12
    jamessweet

    Translation: We’re sorry we got caught.

    Maybe, maybe not. It may have just taken some time for it to trickle to the right people and get a proper response issued.

    I can tell you for sure, the company that I work for, the senior management would completely flip out over something like this, they would be legitimately mortified, and heads would roll. This company has worked very hard to cultivate diversity, and consistently receives awards and accolades in that regard (if only our stock were doing so well, heh!). I do believe it really is important to the people who run the company.

    I also cannot say for sure that a fiasco like this could never happen. Back around the turn of the millenium, one of our international divisions basically pulled an Enron before Enron did, i.e. used borderline-fraudulent (and unquestionably-unethical) account practices to inflate profits and hide losses, resulting an apocalyptic collapse. We just didn’t go the way of Enron because it wasn’t company-wide; it was just the operations in one country. If that can happen, obviously it’s conceivable that some boneheads would book a rabidly misogynist comedian and have it go forward before the higher-ups could put the kibosh on it.

    This may be cynical ass-covering… or it could equally well be a corporate screw-up, where the people at the top are legitimately horrified that this took place (and would have been even if they didn’t “get caught”). A lot of big multinationals these days really do care about diversity — or, if I’m being as cynical as possible, I would say that the people in charge are smart enough to realize that it’s much simpler to actually get it right than to fake it and then try to cover it up later.

  13. 13
    julian

    But there is totally no hostile atmosphere pushing women out of the computer industry. None at all.

    It’s all in your head/a few bad apples/you overreacting/*insert dismissal of choice*.

  14. 14
    Christoph Burschka

    but the Linux OEM ZaReason was founded and is still run by a woman, and I’ve been quite satisfied with their products. (I’m typing on one right now.)

    Nice! I considered them some years back and their laptops seemed really cool. I went with HP instead, but if they sold any with cheaper AMD cores, they’d probably be my first choice.

  15. 15
    Eskeptrical Engineer

    This kind of thing just makes me feel tired. No matter how hard I work, no matter how good I get, being both a woman and an engineer makes me somebody’s punchline.

  16. 16
    sithrazer

    *bookmarks ZaReason for later*

    Too bad all the laptops they offer standard on their website seem to be Intel only.

  17. 17
    Stephanie Zvan

    Eskeptrical Engineer, that was so succinctly spot on, I had to write a blog post around it: http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/05/15/but-its-satire/

  18. 18
    Nandy

    Sociological Images posted an ad from a 1967 issue of Cosmopolitan that encouraged women to consider careers in computer programming. The ad (which is still quite sexist) suggests it is women, not men, that are “naturals” at programming.
    I only point it out because it is such a stark contrast to… well, apparently to the mindset of everyone in the Danish division of Dell. The contrast nicely breaks the assumption that men succeed in IT based on their inherent man-skillz, which makes all the rest of what the Dell apologists say that much more infuriating.

  1. 19
    Dell emcee celebrates an anti-female hostile workplace - CIO Symmetry

    [...] that Moresco and Michael Dell had very little involvement in the hiring of Christensen, this is a publicity nightmare for the company. It’s important to note how Dell has responded to complaints — which is [...]

  2. 20
    Live Geek or Die | Care2 Causes

    [...] I like to think that such things have changed, but they haven’t. At least, not that much. I’m sure we all remember the first grade girl who was bullied for liking Star Wars. Nerdy girls are still considered suspicious, like we only get down with nerd culture for the attention. God forbid girls dig programming and blowing up shit! Comic books constantly give women the short shrift (but, importantly, not always). Blatant misogyny is tolerated in at least one major tech company. [...]

  3. 21
    Live Geek or Die | Speculative Thinker

    [...] I like to think that such things have changed, but they haven’t. At least, not that much. I’m sure we all remember the first grade girl who was bullied for liking Star Wars. Nerdy girls are still considered suspicious, like we only get down with nerd culture for the attention. God forbid girls dig programming and blowing up shit! Comic books constantly give women the short shrift (but, importantly, not always). Blatant misogyny is tolerated in at least one major tech company. [...]

  4. 22
    Sailfish wetsuits make men fast, women sexy

    [...] MSI and their booth babe contest? ASUS had their boot babe moment too. Dell did a very good job of making their Denmark event an unwelcoming place for women. I can see the logic behind using non-relevant sex(y women)  to attract customers for companies [...]

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