Elon Musk's joke about 'TITS' won't help tech's problems with women

Elon Musk’s joke about ‘TITS’ won’t help tech’s problems with women

Elon Musk

The world’s richest man Elon Musk has highlighted just how much of an issue sexism and a boys’ club culture in the tech industry really is, after he made a joke about starting a university called ‘TITS’.

Musk posted on Twitter that he was thinking about starting a university called Texas Institute of Technology and Science, adding it will have “epic merch” and be “universally admired”.

When someone asked whether it should instead be called Texas Institute of Science and Technology, with the ‘science’ coming before ‘technology’, Musk replied: “Nope, T is def first”.

Yes, Elon Musk, who is worth $300 billion, is making jokes about ‘tits’ on social media.

In case there was any doubt about what Musk was referring to, when one Twitter user, Morgan Sarkissian, wrote “It’s official @elonmusk likes and supports boobies”, Musk quickly wrote back “What gave it away!?”

Musk may believe that his joke is harmless and just a bit of fun, but there’s no denying he is one of the most powerful people on the planet, and perhaps the most powerful person in tech – an industry that faces massive problems when it comes to women in its workforce.

Musk is working to revolutionise transportation both on earth and in space as the founder of Tesla and SpaceX, and is one of the most recognisable faces across the world. His jokes about women’s bodies will not help when it comes to getting more women into STEM and retaining them once they’re there.

As Australia’s chief scientist Dr Cathy Foley noted in a speech last month, ninety per cent of women at university or TAFE in Australia are studying qualifications unrelated to STEM careers, highlighting how the pipeline for women in STEM is not matching up to the need for a more diverse workforce.

“When your country is building its future on high-tech STEM-related industries, that’s a problem,” Foley said.

Last year, Tesla released its first diversity and inclusion report, that highlighted the vast majority of its workforce in the United States is male, at 79 per cent. When you look at leadership positions, the representation of men goes up to 83 per cent. Women hold just 17 per cent of “director” and “vice president” positions.

“Increasing women’s representation at all levels, especially in leadership, is a top priority in 2021,” the report from Tesla said.

“We are taking active steps to increase our outreach to women and build an inclusive culture that supports their development and retention.”

No matter how many “active steps” Tesla says it is taking to attract more women into its workforce and create an “inclusive culture”, it’s quite clear in an industry like tech, culture starts from the top. These kind of jokes about women are not helping.

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