Lydia Jones may be young, but she’s already established herself as an entrepreneur.
The 18-year-old shows ambition beyond her years, as she’s the creator of an upcoming smartphone app called Trooops. The app will match users to content, basically providing a personalized feed that goes beyond what typical social media platforms provide.
To promote Trooops, Jones joined a Facebook group for London-based business owners. She was hoping to get some advice from more-experienced business professionals. Unfortunately, she received some unwelcome attention from one of the group’s members.
Jones messaged Vishal Morjaria, asking for connections to startup advisors in London. At first, Morjaria seemed to be responsive and helpful.
Gradually, however, his responses took on a sexist tone.
“How young are you?” Morjaria asked. “Are you single?”
When Jones responded that she wasn’t single, Morjaria dropped this bombshell: “Does your bf not help you?”
Jones is gay—not that her sexuality was important to the conversation in the first place. However, Morjaria pressed on, referring to Jones as “cute” and asking, “So men don’t turn you on at all?”
Unimpressed by the direction of the conversation, Jones asked Morjaria if he was really a businessman, implying that his responses were unprofessional. Morjaria didn’t seem to get the hint.
“Haha I am [a businessman],” he replied. “I’m also a human being too right? I’m a young successful business man for sure.”
Jones posted the exchange on social media, noting that the London tech scene “needs to wake up.”
Her posts quickly spread, with many responses referencing similar experiences.
“Good for you for shining a light on the sort of thing that happens,” wrote Twitter user Jenny Mulholland.
Currently, the role of women in high-tech fields is an especially sensitive topic. Former Google engineer James Damore was fired in early August for spreading a 3,300-word memo on Google’s diversity policies. The memo included assertions that women aren’t represented well in technology due to biological factors.
That ignited a firestorm of controversy. Google CEO Sundar Pichai condemned parts of the essay, while Damore filed a complaint against the company with the National Labor Relations Board.
“We also strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves,” Google spokesperson Ty Sheppard stated. ” … But like any workplace that doesn’t mean that anything goes.”
At the same time, female representation in Silicon Valley seems to be getting worse.
According to the 2017 “Startup Outlook” report from Silicon Valley Bank, more than 70 percent of the area’s 941 startups did not have a single female board member in 2017, which is up from 66 percent in 2016.
The discrepancy isn’t confined to one small part of California. In 2015, women held 57 percent of all professional occupations, but only 25 percent of computing occupations, per the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
Of course, there are numerous factors behind the trend, but as Jones’ story shows, some men don’t take female entrepreneurs seriously or treat them as equals. Until that changes, some women may face an uphill battle when trying to build careers in technology.