Newsweek chose an image for its latest feature on the inequality of women in Silicon Valley that seems, shall we say, counterintuitive to the article’s cause.
On Wednesday, it released a feature story entitled “What Silicon Valley Thinks of Women,” with a clip art cover image displaying a woman in a short red dress and red heels, holding a laptop while a cursor lifts up her dress. Needless to say, women in the tech world and beyond are not pleased.
Top women in the media took to Twitter just as soon as the article hit the proverbial stands, and rained a storm of judgment onto Newsweek.
Jennifer Pozner, executive director of Women in Media and News, called the image in a tweet, “Clickbait, designed to piss off women while pretending to investigate sexism in tech. Fail–but you know it.” And here’s what Jezebel had to say on the subject:
— Jezebel (@Jezebel) January 29, 2015
Image: Jezebel via Twitter
Women who actually work in Silicon Valley were noticeably ruffled by the image but were not nearly as dramatic about it as these media moguls.
Cathryn Posey, founder of Tech Superwomen, said, “I don’t know if I would have gone with that graphic.” However, she went on to say, “I also think it’s our biggest opportunity — with this data, now that we know what’s going on, we can all partner to solve it, so I think it’s a transcendental moment for the industry if we can come together on it.” And she’s right. The message in the actual story is ultimately a good one, as it raises our awareness of the sexual inequality pervading the industry. That is, if you can get past the cover image.
It should be stated that the author of the article, Nina Burleigh, likely had little or nothing to do with the image that was selected to represent the story. Her article does a decent job of explaining the gender inequality issue as it stands in Silicon Valley, and definitely calls out the sexism, harassment and male domination that exists in the field. However, she does it in a rather roundabout way, thus the piece doesn’t speak as loudly as the image that accompanies it.
In response to all the backlash the article cover received in just 24 hours, editor-in-chief of Newsweek James Impoco told the Daily Beast, “We came up with an image that we felt represented what that story said about Silicon Valley. If people get angry, they should be angry.”
Ultimately he’s saying, we’re happy that the shock value of this cover is getting so much attention. But is attention for attention’s sake a good thing in the end? After people expel all their frustration at a picture that was obviously chosen to create controversy, will they still have the energy to read the 5,000-word article? Let’s hope so for Newsweek‘s sake — and the sake of women everywhere who are trying to make their way in a male-dominated industry without having cursors lift up their dresses.