On October 22 during the “Reverse” Demo Day (investors were pitching to entrepreneurs) Jorge Cortell, the CEO of a healthcare startup, publicly shared a controversial opinion, described by people as a creepshot:
Not surprisingly, the tweet caused a storm of comments and articles and very quickly people accused him of sexisim.
One of the most interesting comment threads can be found on Valleywag, from both defenders and the offended alike (Cortell called the comment thread “knee-jerk reactions”).
As some commenters have brought up, the internet has allowed bullying and public shaming without facing the issue or consequences in real life. The ability to diss someone on Twitter is quite powerful but cowardly at the same time. I’m not sure what this tweet was exactly.
A display of power?
The one thing it sure was not was display of professionalism.
This is a man who is the CEO of a worldwide leader in open source healthcare organization who thought that composing and sending that tweet into the world was OK.
Aside from sheer unprofessionalism of the tweet, there are a number of assumptions that come through in those 140 characters (feel free to disagree with them of course):
- Assumption #1: Entrepreneurs could not possibly be seen in heels
- Assumption #2: Women who wear heels are dumb
- Assumption #3: Women who wear heels, therefore, cannot possibly be entrepreneurs
So here are my questions: Is Mr. Cortell basing this on his personal life experience, that women who wear heels are not very smart and do not need any brains to get ahead in life?
Does he hire only women in flats assuming that they are therefore smart?
The wildfire that the tweet caused did not lead Cortell to an apology. Instead his attempt at settling the argument was saying that it could have been a man wearing those, which would be equally “absurd” and stating that wearing heels is not good for your health and therefore wearing heels makes you “dumb.”
There will always be heel haters, men and women alike. But amid the Cortell supporters came through a parade of other health-related comments pointing out things that are not healthy, which Cortell might possibly, in fact, do. like eating pizza, drinking coffee, smoking, having an alcoholic drink, etc. Multiple people inquired if Cortell had a library of pictures of people doing those other unhealthy things to which he indirectly responded by saying he encourages a healthy lifestyle in all of his employees. I wonder if that involves policing of unhealthy habits or premiums for eating salad and wearing flat shoes.
With the “self-inflicted health hazard = dumb” logic, would that mean that every CEO who smokes fits into the “dumb” category? Probably not.
I found reading the tweet, some of the comments, and Cortell’s responses personally offensive — as it seems many other people did too.
So, here’s a little feedback for Jorge Cortell.
I will not go ahead and say that I am smarter than you are. And as someone who is very open about her shoe addiction, I will probably fall into your “not smart” category quite quickly.
But here is what my shoes will not tell you: I have a double major BA with honors and specialized post-grad education. I am also an entrepreneur (no, not in fashion).
High heels are a personal choice – I like them, they elevate my confidence level, improve my posture, and unlike ballerina flats, high heels do not give me knee joint pains.
The language with which you write lacks intelligence regardless of Twitter’s character limitations. And your points are archaic and very poorly defended. Heels are not a deathly health decision, nor are they in any way a signifier of intelligence.
Here are some very smart and very well off women who have been seen in heels (just to name a few):
- Diane Sawyer, Anchor of World News, ABC, Walt Disney. The heels come with the job description.
- Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo!
- Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
- Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, President of Argentina, according to The Sun never leaves home without high heels.
- Theresia Gouw Ranzetta, an investor at Accel Partners, a venture capital firm, who as the author of the Valleywag, Nitasha Tiku, points out was one of the investors pitching at the Demo Day.
I think it is safe to say that making assumptions based on someone’s footwear is prejudice. If you had a problem with that specific style of shoe you should have been clear about that.
The brave thing to do would have been to try to get to know the wearer, perhaps challenge your theory on her lack of intelligence (do you actually know what she does?).
If, on the other hand, you have a fear of women who are more successful than you are, as some other people opined, well, you’ll just have to learn how to live with that and, most importantly, how to keep it to yourself.
So, dear Mr. Cortell, tweeting such a statement was, in your own words, dumb.
I do hope that you will learn something from this experience and will, like many people have pointed out, issue an apology.
Not only to the woman who’s creepshot you took but women in general.
Originally published on theAWSC.com