On Wednesday, July 5, actor and start-up investor Ashton Kutcher sent out a public message on LinkedIn. In the message, he wrote, "Planning on hosting an [sic] live open dialog [sic] about gender equality in the work place [sic] and in tech in general." In the message then launched into a list of questions he’d like to address. For a forum centered on gender equality, Kutcher’s first few questions didn’t go over well with its intended demographic.
"What advice should we be giving to female entrepreneurs?" he stated. "What are the Rules for dating in the work place [sic]? Flirting? What are the clear red lines?" Beginning a list like this with questions about office romance felt very Roger Sterling.
Both LinkedIn and Twitter users had a field day. “Sometimes it's best to just walk away from a conversation. This is one of those times.” said one user on LinkedIn. “Your questions are obtuse and naive. They make me angry. Thousands of people will look at you as an authority on this topic, and you come off as unresearched and unaware of your own bias.” said another.
Soon after Ashton responded, “Thank you everyone for the feedback on the questions I posted on LinkedIn. Good and bad. Already a learning experience,” he tweeted.
“I’ve already offended some folks by asking the wrong questions. I’m certain given the sensitivity of the topic I will say other things wrong,” Kutcher tweeted in a separate message.
In his penultimate tweet, he said, “Hope we can find space to be wrong in the pursuit of getting it right.”
Kudos to Kutcher for back peddling. However, it does feel disheartening that in 2017 such an obvious display of sexism still needs to be called out.