The miserable lack of diversity in Silicon Valley is so exhaustively documented by now that we’ve nearly run out of ways to point it out. It’s most conspicuous at the top echelons, where the money is invested and recouped—and longtime VC John Doerr just made the problem glaringly obvious.
Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is one of tech’s most powerful (and luckiest) investment firms, and senior partner John Doerr is currently giving a talk at the software-themed self-satisfaction festival known as TechCrunch Disrupt. The issue of diversity came up:
KPCB's John Doerr: "We have two new partners who are so diverse that I have a challenge pronouncing their names." #TCDisrupt— Kim-Mai Cutler (@kimmaicutler) September 22, 2015
Yowza, OK, let’s sit down, pour a tall glass of cool Soylent, and unpack this. Not only does John Doerr, man in charge, think that “diverse” is something a person can be (rather than a contextual situation), he didn’t even take the time to fucking learn the non-Anglo Saxon names of two new colleagues.
TechCrunch’s Kim-Mai Cutler (good luck with that one, John!) says one of the partners in question is Swati Mylavarapu. Swati seems easier to pronounce to me than “Doerr” (Door? Do-er? Drrrrrrrrhhhh?), and it would probably take little of his tremendous investment brain to correctly pronounce Mylavarapu.
To be fair to KPCB though, I know one of the new female partners, Swati Mylavarapu, and she's pretty cool.— Kim-Mai Cutler (@kimmaicutler) September 22, 2015
I don’t know who the other un-pronounceable is, but the staff listing is here. And it’s beside the point, really. Maybe the point is that... non-white tech workers... might feel uncomfortable... or unwelcome... working for someone... who would refer to their ethnicity... in... this.... way.
Update: KPCB partner and apparent messenger of John Doerr emailed me to say that he, according to this tweet, was trying to make a joke:
@kimmaicutler Friends, my apologies. It was an unfortunate joke that was not funny. I have deep respect for my partners Swati and Muzzammil.— John Doerr (@johndoerr) September 22, 2015
To which I say, from one one white man to another, no harm no foul, John!