White House tech chief hits Hollywood for gender bias

Hollywood is forgetting to include women scientists in its major blockbusters, according to a top White House tech aide.

There were plenty of women who helped the United Kingdom crack the Enigma code and beat the Nazis, but they weren’t represented in the Oscar-nominated “The Imitation Game,” U.S. Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith opined on Tuesday.

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“Jobs” — the biopic about the Apple founder starring Ashton Kutcher — left many of the female developers who helped start the computing company off the screen, she added during remarks at a tech policy conference in Washington. 

“If you look at the Rolling Stone’s photographs about who made the Macintosh with Steve, seven men and five women appear in all those photos,” Smith, a former Google executive, said at the State of the Net conference. “But in the scene of the movie from Hollywood, accidentally no women were cast in that scene.”

That’s a problem for Smith, the first ever female CTO for the government, and it contributes to a pervasive gender disparity in the tech field.

She pointed to the so-called Bechdel Test — a common tool to judge a movie’s gender diversity that asks whether there are two female characters who speak to each other about anything other than a man.

“Most movies can’t pass that, especially in science and technology,” she added.

When women and other minorities don’t see themselves represented onscreen, that only makes it harder for them to break into the fields that are largely dominated by white men, she worried.

Washington has been especially focused on gender and racial diversity in the tech sector, after internal reports released by Silicon Valley’s biggest names over the past year that have shown they are overwhelmingly staffed by men, especially white and Asian men.

On Monday, lawmakers in both chambers and both houses of Congress launched a new Diversifying Technology Caucus to promote more minority voices in the sector.