Y Combinator head honcho Paul Graham sparked accusations of sexism last week, when he mused to subscription-only tech publication The Information, “God knows what you would do to get 13 year old girls interested in computers?”
Jessica Lessin, editor-in-chief of The Information, stands by the quote’s accuracy, although Graham claims he was misquoted, and also that he thought he was participating in a profile about his wife and Y Combinator co-founder Jessica Livingston as opposed to a stand-alone Q&A.
Unsurprisingly, a variety of techies have stepped into the blog-o-sphere to voice their defense — or indictment — of Graham.
Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures calls for a “broader conversation” of under-represented women in tech. He writes that The Academy For Software Engineering (AFSE)– a NYC-based institution for pre-teen and teenage coders — enrolls only about 20% females, but says the females he has worked with at the school are “incredible.”
Wilson also notes that Harvey Mudd — one of the nation’s most respected engineering universities — currently enrolls an equal amount of men and women CS majors, the result of years of effort.
MIT student Taylor Rose also defended Graham in a post on Medium, writing, “[Graham] never says anything directly misogynistic nor is YC more gender-biased than other Silicon Valley companies or accelerators. He’s pointing out a long-existing issue in the technology sector. It’s the national lack of female participation in the tech world that’s a problem, not comments made during an interview.”
Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, meanwhile, takes the chance to kick ol’ Paul Graham while he’s down, noting, “I want to hear Paul Graham’s thoughts on gender equality and inclusive participation in the Valley as much as I want to hear Charlton Heston’s thoughts on gun control.”
O’Donnell goes on to note that since 2010, nine of his 20 investments as a VC have been with female founders. So…y’know….Charlie’s doing his part…
This most recent tech controversy is due in no small part to Graham’s alpha status; Y Combinator is the world’s highest-profile accelerator, having launched at least 37 companies worth over $40 million. Although the furor seems to be dying down, Graham writes on his blog that he will be posting an essay about female founders shortly.