Ellen Pao is a “woman of color”

Six different readers emailed with news of Ellen Pao’s book project. This answers to some extent the question that I asked in “Ellen Pao’s new job?” (but it does cast some doubt on the merits of her lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins; if she were in fact a competent venture capitalist and therefore had sufficient skills to beat the S&P 500 by investing in young companies, why wouldn’t she have been snapped up by some greedy investors looking for yield?) It comes close to answering What should Ellen Pao’s forthcoming book be titled? (July 2015)

What I found most interesting in this Jezebel piece on Pao’s new book is the statement from the publisher: “one of the few visible, prominent women of color who have reached the C-suite in corporate America.”

The “corporate America” phrase is interesting because Reddit had roughly $8 million per year in revenue while Ms. Pao was CEO. By that revenue standard, the manager of three McDonald’s franchises would also qualify (Forbes) as a member of the corporate America C-suite. (Compare to Rosalind Brewer, responsible for $57 billion in sales at Sam’s Club.)

An Asian-American qualifying for the “women of color” category is yet more interesting because it shows the evolution of victimhood in our society. About 20 years ago a Korean-American friend was denied membership in a Harvard Law School Women of Color group. Today she would be able to join?

Title ideas from the July 2015 reader comments:

  • From VCs to Reddit: How I exposed Silicon Valley sexism
  • Pao! Right in the Kisser!
    The Sayings of Chairman Pao
    How to Get Ahead in Business without Really Trying
    How to Marry a Millionaire
    Mean In
    Rean In
  • Pu$$y Warrior, Fighting White Male Patriarchy: the Ellen Pao Story



7 thoughts on “Ellen Pao is a “woman of color”

  1. I agree. It’s a bit of a joke, isn’t it? I mean, 8 whole million dollars a year? I used to work for a small, local, testing company, the owner of which was a woman of Asian descent, and they were doing, by some estimates, around $50M/yr, and they’ve expanded quite a bit since I left a couple years ago. They do “real” work; difficult technical work; the kind that gets expensive because it’s worth it. The whole context of these social media companies just boggles my mind. All they “make” is influence, for corporations and personalities, and that only to a very arguable degree. (Let’s face it: Reddit’s biggest “product” is “Ask Me Anything,” and AMA’s are just interactive advertisements.) If they were shaping public opinion like CNN or Fox News, they’d be doing a lot more business.

  2. The most common meaning of the term “people of color” is non-white people. That’s been the case since the term gained popularity a few decades ago. There’s no reason to assume that anyone described as a person of color is a victim.

  3. Senility has its advantages – I read the book titles and thought they were funny, and then I clicked on the link and realized that I had written most of them.

    Regarding “people of color”, # 1 I cannot for the life of me understand why “people of color” is good but “colored people” is bad.

    #2 As far as I can tell, most Chinese and Korean people make perfectly good Americans and fully integrate not only into American society but the UPPER echelons of American society within a generation or two (and often intermarry and disappear into whiteness). Therefore, in my book they do NOT qualify as “people of color”. The most salient characteristic of “people of color” is that they are unable (for whatever reason) to integrate into the broader American society and therefore many remain mired in poverty and dysfunction even after many generations in the US – the shorthand term is “underprivileged”. In what universe could Ellen Pao, with her multiply Ivy degrees and her (former) VC job be considered “underprivileged”?

    However, there is a “flight from white” – in the past, light skinned blacks would try to “pass” as white which was the privileged identity (whereas actual whites would try disqualify others (even the Irish at one time, let alone Jews, Italians, etc.) from belonging to the exclusive “white” club) , but now, all the advantages – affirmative action admissions, preferences in hiring, etc. accrue to being non-white so people who are actually white try to slot themselves into other identities – Hispanic, American Indian, even black.

  4. Jackie: You’ve come up with your own definition of the term. According to you the term refers to poverty and has nothing to do with race or color.

    Also, I think that you’re assertion about Irish-Americans is false. The bigotry and discrimination that they faced a century and a half ago is well documented, but it’s almost certainly a myth that they were considered to be non-white people.

  5. If “color” only meant color, then there would be no reason to give preferences in admission, jobs, etc. to any particular color. The whole framework of preferences exists because “people of color” are supposed to be “underprivileged” and in need of help. I didn’t create this framework – I agree it’s stupid. The problem is that if you give help based on poverty only, there are a lot more poor whites than poor anything else and God forbid colleges,etc. give preferences to poor whites.

  6. The US ethnic/social nomenclature is completely messed up. When writers talk about “people of color”, “minorities” , “blacks” , “hispanics” it is almost always assumed they are talking about underprivleged/disadvantaged persons. So when the average person hears the word hispanic, they are already picturing in their heads some wetback. Now, when you read “Asian” , do you think of someone disadvantaged? someone of color?

    Take the case of ‘hispanics’. The US definition includes practically everyone south of the border who speaks spanish. Argentines, Bolivians, Mexicans, Uruguayans, etc all fall into the same category. Nevermind that most Argentines who come to USA are, as a group, more successful than all other ‘hispanics’, and even more successful that the natives: “The Argentina community in the USA is made up of 243,000 people, according to a local census. 58% are homeowners and most live in Florida. They value security and the possibility of long-term planning. 40% of those aged 25 years or older who live here have a university degree (compared with 14% of other Hispanics and 30% of Americans). The average household income of Argentines is $ 63,000 per year, far more than the $52,000 average income of American households.”

    source: http://www.clarin.com/sociedad/argentinos-estados_unidos-ganan-bien-son-el-doble-que-los-90_0_1454854572.html

    So are Argentines hispanics? What does a Guatemalan have in common with an Argentine, other than language? Is hispanic even an ethnicity? or are we really talking about native Americans of mixed heritage who happen to speak spanish (in the case of Mexicans, Guatemalans, etc) ?

    Social Justice Warriors. Please explain.

  7. You’re over-thinking the issue, Jackie. The term refers to non-white people. Some institutions may give what you call “preferences” to some non-white groups and not give them to other non-white groups. That has nothing to do with the meaning of the term.

Comments are closed.