Google executive guilty of “manterruption”

by Chloe Taylor18 Mar 2015
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman at Google, was reprimanded by the company’s diversity manager at the South By South West (SXSW) music and technology festival in Texas for “manterrupting” another delegate.

The tech giant’s former chief executive was speaking on a panel with Megan Smith, the US government’s chief technology officer, when a member of the audience confronted him for frequently interrupting her during the discussion on racial and gender diversity.

The audience member in question was Schmidt’s colleague at Google Judith Williams, head of global diversity and talent programs. Williams runs workshops at Google to educate staff about workplace prejudice and discrimination.

According to The Wall Street Journal, at one point Schmidt “opined on which of two questions Smith should respond to” and “interjected mid-sentence with thoughts on Raspberry Pi”.

However, before the incident, Schmidt had referred to the lack of women pursuing degrees in computer science a “tragedy”.

The Wall Street Journal reported that he did not respond to Williams’ accusations.

Earlier this year, Jessica Bennett wrote in Time magazine about “manterrupting”: the “unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man”, which many have aligned with Schmidt’s behaviour at the event. 

Williams told the panel’s audience that ideas she puts forward at meetings often get ignored – only to have a male colleague make the same suggestion afterwards, a trend which Bennett dubbed “bropropriating”.

Diversity figures at Google show that its global workforce is 70% male.

But Schmidt’s actions seemingly conflict with Google’s mission to increase gender diversity in its workforce.

“All of our efforts, including going public with these numbers, are designed to help us recruit and develop the world’s most talented and diverse people,” Google’s website says.

The company’s Equal Employment Opportunity report detailed that just three of its 36 executives and senior managers are women.

In an effort to encourage employment for women at Google, the organisation has established ‘Women@Google’, an employee resource group made up of over 4,000 female employees committed to providing networking and mentoring opportunities, professional development, and a sense of community to women in 27 countries.


  • by Amanda Rochford 18/03/2015 10:48:11 AM

    I love these terms: mansplaining, bropropriating, and manterupting. It happenes all the time and is very annoying, disrespectful, not to mention deflating. Most of the time these behaviours are subconscious but that doesnt mean they shouldnt be called out and changed.

  • by HR Dude 18/03/2015 11:39:14 AM

    Talk about airing your dirty linen in public. Is a really hard thing to look at this behaviour without being able to compare it to how Schmidt communicates with his other colleagues.

    It can be necessary to interrupt someone you're interviewing if they go off topic, or stray into an area for personal gain (spruiking products/ projects).

    Regardless, if we assume that there was unconscious bias that caused him to cut off the speaker, then challenging him in a public forum like that is unlikely to cause a change in behaviour.

  • by Tristan Amadio 18/03/2015 12:18:59 PM

    I do not think that bad manners is a gender-based trait. Why assign a sexism label to something that is just decorum (or lack of), which I'm sure happens to all professionals, regardless of gender.

    Sorry if I've "sisterrupted".

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