Asking for advice is part and parcel of anyone’s career, whether you’re looking to get your foot in the door at a first job or seeking better strategies for managing a team of 10.
But while such requests are often met with helpful guidance, one young teen received a startling – and, frankly, sickening – response when she reached out to someone in her field of expertise for a word of advice.
Lydia Jones, an 18-year-old tech entrepreneur from the north of England, took to Twitter to share what happened when she contacted a fellow tech entrepreneur, Vishal Morjaria, to ask his advice on finding startup mentors.
“So I professionally asked for help and it ended this way,” she wrote. “The tech industry needs to wake up.”
Jones shared screenshots from a conversation she had with Morjaria over Facebook, which started innocently enough with Morjaria appearing to share advice on how to advertise for a mentor.
However, upon learning that Jones was only 18, Morjaria felt it appropriate to ask whether she was single – and the conversation went rapidly downhill from there.
“Does your bf not help you?” Morjaria asked, displaying both a complete lack of professionalism as well as a healthy dose of casual sexism.
When Jones responded that she was gay, Morjaria bleated, “Oh that’s cute!!” before asking the teen whether she was “quite open” about her sexuality.
Then, when Jones responded that yes, she was, he cemented his fate as Man We Would Least Like To Meet with the question, “so men don’t turn you on at all?”
Even worse, when Jones tried to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand by asking, “I thought you were a businessman?” he replied, “I’m also a human being too right? I’m a young successful business man for sure.”
The grim conversation certainly highlights the issue of sexism that has been prevalent in the tech industry for years.
Just last week, a Google employee was fired for writing an eye-wateringly sexist report on women in tech, in which he attributed the low numbers of women in the field to their “gregarious” and “agreeable” natures, which meant they had “a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up and leading”.
And a recent report from the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll revealed that one in 10 women working in tech receives unwanted sexual attention in their jobs.
Speaking to Mashable, Jones said the problem will persist until we have more women in top positions in the industry.
"In my opinion, this vibe won’t really change until we have a female founder or CEO of a platform on the same scale as a Airbnb or Twitter," she said. “But it should not have to be that way for women to be heard.”
And unfortunately, Morjaria himself has completely the missed the point about why the messages he sent to Jones were inappropriate, as well as being a clear marker of the sexism in the industry.
"In the end I didn't say much else because I found out that it wasn't appropriate to ask her even though she said she was open," he said, gallantly. "I understand how the digital and text word can be misunderstood but if this was said in person it wouldn't have been a big deal."
"If you heard me talking in person you'd know I'm a nice person and I'm a very open conversationalist,” he added.
Sorry, but we’re not convinced.