Theranos situation highlights the advantages of being a woman in the American workforce?

From Facebook:

  • User 1: “Not sure a man could have pulled off the Theranos scam as he would have been asked questions.”
  • User 2: “Nobody wants to ask ‘How is a young uneducated American woman more capable than 100 chemistry PhDs at Siemens in Germany?'”

10 thoughts on “Theranos situation highlights the advantages of being a woman in the American workforce?

  1. This is similar to Clock Boy (TM). If a white or non-vibrant minority (read Asian) teenager put a clock in a box, it would not be deemed worthy of any attention. At age 14, white/Asian electronics geeks are already way beyond that. But young Ahmed is suddenly the Muslim Edison who gets a hug from the President. Young Mr. Mohamed says that he was “too busy” to bring his famous invention with him to the White House.

    In American society, if we didn’t have double standards, we wouldn’t have any standards at all. In the old America, the beef was that a minority/woman had to be much better than the gentleman’s C George W. Bush types in order to get anywhere, so to make up for that, in the new America they have to be much worse.

  2. 1. Wasn’t there a solar company run by a man that you highlighted a little while back? And who ran Enron?

    2. Because an industry has never been disrupted? It’s as if a college dropout could start a $100b business that all the MBA holders at AOL, MSFT and Fox were unable to catch. Imagine my surprise.

  3. I am not sure how much this has to do with being a woman versus the nature of the Silicon Valley hype machine in general to grant uncritical, glowing coverage to certain handpicked darlings who are the recipients of very large amounts of venture money. How hard would it have been for any of these “journalists” to track down some of her advisor’s scientific peers to get a balanced perspective? Lab-on-a-chip was all the rage in the early part of the ’00 decade. Where has it gone in the decade since? Why (or why not)? Why is her company relying on immunoassays (more sensitive) when LabCorp and Quest rely much more on mass spectrometry (more specific)? These are not hard questions to come up with and not hard to find the right people to answer:
    Perhaps worse than the journalist’s failings, where was the due diligence on the part of the investors, on the part of the board? Some of the board members wielded positions of great influence at some point in their lives. Is this lack of critical examination typical of how decisions were made? If this is the best our society can do when it comes to as straightforward a science as analytical chemistry, we are in trouble.

  4. I agree with Brian, it is not so much about being a woman, more just the typical hype from Silicon Valley. Granted, her story and “super candid” photos (look how serious I am about health and stuff!) probably helped propel her into the media spotlight for longer compared to another boring old white male looking like Warren Buffet. Reminds me of the Futurama episode where Bender films Single Female Lawyer Episodes. Pretty much sums it up:

    Single Female Lawyer,
    Fighting for her client,
    Wearing sexy miniskirts,
    And being self-reliant.

    PS. on a side note, maybe interesting for you Phil, the Stanford business school sex scandal:

  5. Neglected to say, the media has already done Single Female Lawyer, and Single Female Doctor, now they will move on to Single Female Scientist. Don’t judge her by the way she dresses.

    “London Zoo meerkat handler glassed her monkey expert love rival colleague in the face in a row over her hunky llama keeper”

  6. Regarding User 2 question, that’s not necessarily the issue. It’s not unheard of, and enterprises have started by someone not necessarily an expert on the matter, but with a vision and the capability of gathering the required human and non-human resources.

    Jobs and Apple are a good example.

  7. @ GermanL (#6) “… the media will move on to Single Female Scientist

    It needs to be pointed out that that meerkat-keeper at the London Zoo wasn’t so much a scientist, as a animal husbandry janitor, and that she’s the one who was the object of a vicious jealousy attack by the other party during which she defended herself as best she could. Of course, only the juiciest, eyeball-titillating bits ended up in print. Another paper mentioned her having an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and that the injured co-worker also was censored as a result of that. Things hormones in tandem with animal sex pheromones do to some women…

    Which brings me to this observation: the moment of a media-darling struggling-against-patriarchy Single Female Scientist is yet to come. The Theranos’ Elisabeth Holmes acted here—apt word!—not so much as a scientist trying to make her lab work plaster the world, as a scientific Snake Oil saleswoman, a far less sexy subject. Current single objet d’intérêt féminins du media seems to be occupied by somewhat autistic or socially maladjusted police etc investigators. That trend began with the Danish episodic TV series “Førbrydelsen” (“The Crime,” 2011), later redone for the American public as “The Killing.”

    In both the lead was perhaps not autistic, but an averbal, introverted former foster-parented ward of social services. That cautious approach evaporated wholly in later Nordic “The Bridge/Brœn” and its British copycat “The Tunnel,” in which both main leads were full-blown socially inept, aggressive policewomen paired with pensive, quiet male colleagues from across the Øresund/ the Channel, there to co-investigate horrific murders with bodies surreptitiously placed—despite massive constant surveillance!—smack across the borderline of adjoining countries. Bodies composed of mutilated halves of 2 equal gender opportunity victims just to underline the devilry of the perp(s)! (In the British remake the Aspberger’s part was courteously offered to a Frenchwoman). One can but wonder how any of them could have made it to the CSI, let alone above the WPC level—but, hey, it’s Trollywood! (a southern Swedish film city of like name).

    Parallel to that, though based on some Israeli original series, is the “Homeland” with the OCD, bipolar or autistic spectrum behavior afflicted CIA Carrie Mathison (I keep waiting for that bucket of pig blood showering her from above, after which she unleashes the full might of USAAF on the region); enough said about that.

    Still, I have an inkling that Single Female Maltreated Scientist biopic is just around the corner. Having done Stephen Hawking, and Alan Turing, and looking over box office returns (a.k.a. THE Metric), the cinema industry must be hungry for more. Marie Curie is too oldie-unsexy, and Maria Montessori merely an M.D. dabbling in children’s welfare (while possibly lesbian Lise Meitner, hounded from Germany by her Nazi physics peers, too unknown). But there is a ripe, ready candidate just waiting to be plucked from near-obscurity and exploited: Rosalind Franklin, the single female scientist whose DNA ground-breaking work was “appropriated” by a trio of later Nobel laureates, one of them a known Male Chauvinist Pig to boot! I wrote about Franklin in another context, but, as I can no longer find it online, I repost here just the concluding paragraph:

    I feel there is a movie script here waiting to happen. Brenda Maddox wrote a nice bio of Franklin, and the story as such is every bit as deserving to be told on screen as that prime example of made-for-TV scientific rivalry writ large “And the Band Played On.” Just dress Kate Winslet up in a dark wig and glasses, and we’re halfway there.

  8. @ianf LOL, great stuff, thanks for the overview of “objet d’intérêt féminins du media”. I totally agree, Rosalind Franklin is the best candidate for the Single Female Scientist category.

  9. Truth be told, German L., what surprises me the most is that no Rosalind Franklin Hollywood biopic has yet appeared. Quite apart from the Single Woman Scientist angle, that tale has everything needed for an Oscars-hugging title: the sexual tension between a twentysomething male American post-grad student, and a mature thirtysomething British scientist just arrived from Paris, hence presumably initiated into the arts of French kissing; the uncouth WASP—sophisticated Jew dimension; the radiation exposure leading to cancer and her slow dying/ never got to be a mother story; the had the FBI not withheld (the “fellow traveler”) Linus Pauling’s passport, thus he got to see Franklin’s X-ray photograph first, he’d have claimed it for the Yanks insight; the 3 males sharing the Nobel Prize without so much as a mention of Rosalind aspect; and more.

    In every single book on Hollywood that I’ve read (sample: “You’ll Never Lunch In This Town Again“), the film scripts are like currency floating through the air, constantly talked about, shuffled around, traded for stock, sex, favors; sold for the drawer, for getting it out of competitors’ reach, whatever. There are hordes of scriptwriters who never get anything done, yet live well off the development money. Ask any waiter there what’s his movie about, you’ll hear the high concept, the tagline, and the story arc together with today’s specials. It’s a town that eats, breathes and regurgitates movie treatments. So there MUST BE several dozen Franklin scripts floating around the circuit, yet none has thus far risen to the fore, warranted gossip in the trade rags. As I write this, however, I see that a play has just opened in London about the Dark Lady, with Nicole Kidman in the lead on stage for 95 minutes, so m.a.y.b.e we’ll get to see the biopic next on the silver screen after all?


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