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Dell Apologizes For 'Shut Up, B****' Comments, but Is It Enough?
By: Melody Weister
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Dell recently made headlines across the country following an incident that occurred at a partner event in Copenhagen attended by none other than Michael Dell himself. At the conference, Danish “Inspirational Speaker” (read: International Misogynist) Mads Christensen addressed the crowd, which comprised approximately 800 Dell partners and employees. In an attempt to impress the crowd, Christensen thanked the IT profession for being, “one of the last frontiers that manages to keep women out. The quota of women to men in your business is sound and healthy,” he continued, as reported by Danish blogger Christiane Vejlø. In her post, which has been translated into English, she mentions that Christensen is an extremely conservative personality who is critical of the role of women in the workplace. Christensen did acknowledge what Vejlø describes as a “handful” of female Dell employees, but only to ask them, “What are you actually doing here?”
 
After a short break, Christensen went on to complain at length about the role of women today, in politics, in the workforce, etc., saying that they are trying to “steal the power.” According to Christensen — who clearly conducted some very scientific research beforehand — all great inventions have come from men, save one: “We can thank women for the rolling pin.” Finally, he concluded his diatribe by asking all the men in the room to promise him that they would go home and say, “Keep your mouth shut, bitch, [sic]” to their wives. All of this occurred, let’s remember, within minutes of Michael Dell leaving the stage.
 
Though the DK summit was held in mid-April, nothing was said or done regarding these remarks until an English translation of Vejlø’s Danish blog post emerged on Reddit. Then the firestorm began. As I’ve mentioned plenty of times before, the wrath of the Internet is not something a company wants to feel, and Dell caught the brunt of it after the world got wind of these comments. It didn’t take long for a formal apology to pour forth from their PR department, decrying Christensen and noting profusely that his comments “do not reflect Dell’s company values and undermine much of the work we’ve done in support of women in the workplace overall.” They then proceeded to list all the ways Dell has supported women in the workplace since the invention of the wheel.
 
What’s missing from this picture, as Vejlø noted in her post, is the reasoning behind the hiring of Christensen to speak at this event. The attendees were largely male, after all, and most if not all had the comprehension to understand Christensen’s comments. Christensen’s agenda is widely known — let’s call him the Danish Rush Limbaugh — as well as his thoughts on women in influential roles of any type. Christensen is not a comedian, but rather a conservative commentator and lecturer; his remarks weren’t made to shock and amuse the crowd, but rather intended with all sincerity. Knowing that, Dell comes off as some private boys’ club, where it’s okay to hire a speaker, and even refer to him as Inspirational, who will deprecate women in the IT world, as long as he does it in Danish and the English-speaking press doesn’t pick up on it. When that happens, a month later, only then is it time to backpedal.
 
Dell has lost significant amounts of esteem with most women in the IT world following this fiasco. After all, at least two major competitors of theirs, IBM and HP, are run by women. Not only that, knowing that Michael Dell was in attendance and did nothing, said nothing, to combat Christensen’s comments, has definitely raised some eyebrows. In my personal experience, it is difficult enough for women to succeed, let alone advance, in the world of technology. As a former wireless sales representative for a major technology box store, I’ve had men tell me that they wanted “someone qualified” to handle their mobile phone software issues or refuse to let me help them at all. We have a tough enough time without Dell trying to promote it subtly at lesser-publicized events, and then trying to cover up their prejudice after they’re caught red-handed. An apology was needed, absolutely, but it should’ve come the day after the conference, not reserved for such a time when the story started to affect their image.


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About the Author
Melody Weister is a technology aficionado, unashamed smartphone geek, and casual gamer from Montclair, NJ, where she works as a Social Media Coordinator. Follow her on Twitter: @msmelodyrose.
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