Google Executive Celebrates Women By Interrupting Them

When we prepare executives for panel presentations, we typically focus on the message they want to convey and the manner in which they deliver it.

We focus less on how they interact with other panelists—but after reading an article about Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt in The Wall Street Journal on Monday, we’ll probably bulk up that section of our trainings.

“Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt had a lot to say Monday about the lack of racial and gender diversity in the technology industry.

In fact, Schmidt had so much to say that he often interrupted and spoke over his co-panelist, Megan Smith, the U.S.’s chief technology officer and a former Google executive. The two appeared on a panel at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Tex.

At one point, Schmidt opined on which of two questions Smith should respond to. Later, he interjected mid-sentence with thoughts on Raspberry Pi, a small computer popular with digital tinkerers that Smith was promoting.

Toward the end of the session, one woman in the audience asked the two to address how personality biases in men and women affect workplace dynamics. She noted that Schmidt repeatedly talked over his former colleague — prompting applause from a full exhibit hall.”

Eric Schmidt Google via Wikimedia Commons Gisela Giardino

It’s entirely possible that Mr. Schmidt didn’t interrupt Ms. Smith because he’s sexist. He may just be a serial interrupter. Or perhaps he was particularly excited about the subject matter. Or maybe he viewed himself as a stronger presenter than his colleague.

But as I recently wrote, men on stage with women have to be keyed into certain gender-related issues—or risk being perceived as boorish. And that’s particularly true during a presentation about the lack of gender equality in the workplace.

Mr. Schmidt’s interruptions not only stepped on his core message about the need for greater gender equality in the tech industry, but generated a bevy of negative headlines, such as these:

CBS San Francisco: “Google’s Eric Schmidt Called Out For Repeatedly Interrupting Woman Tech Leader During Diversity Talk At SXSW”

The Verge: “Google executive Eric Schmidt, man, makes total ass of himself at SXSW”

Slate: “Google Chairman Gets Called Out by His Own Employee for Interrupting a Female Panelist at SXSW”

That said, interrupting your fellow panelists can occasionally be appropriate during panel discussions. In fact, some crosstalk can help electrify an otherwise soporific conversation.

Just remember that the audience is judging not only your words and your delivery, but the manner in which you interact with your fellow panelists. Be judicious with your interruptions, save them for the moments that truly matter, and work to contain your enthusiasm every time your id feels the need to express itself.

Photo credit: Gisela Giardino via Wikimedia Commons

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