The kind of headline you probably don't want written about you after participating in a panel where the topic was often gender diversity: "Google chairman gets called out for cutting off a woman while talking about diversity." And that, from Mashable, was kind. The Verge was a little more blunt: "Google executive Eric Schmidt, man, makes total ass of himself at SXSW." The exchange occurred during a "How Innovation Happens" session yesterday that saw Schmidt frequently address the subject of racial and gender diversity—or lack thereof—in tech, alongside former Googler/America's CTO Megan Smith and Steve Jobs biographer Walter Isaacson. But the Wall Street Journal reports Schmidt interrupted Smith mid-sentence and "opined on which of two questions Smith should respond to." And then things got awkward.
An audience member—who just so happened to be Judith Williams, Google's global diversity manager who leads the company's unconscious bias program—then asked this: "Given that unconscious bias research tells us that women are interrupted a lot more than men, I'm wondering if you are aware that you have interrupted Megan many more times?" Cue the applause. Mashable points out that Isaacson also interrupted Smith, and that interjections aren't an unusual occurrence at such panels. "Schmidt didn’t respond to the questioner," states the Journal simply. Smith, for her part, framed unconscious bias as "something we all have and it's something we have to really debug." (Read more gender equality stories.)