John Gruber shared a link about Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg and her new “billionaire” status. He cites Bloomberg’s David de Jong quoting author David Kirkpatrick: “Did she do a billion dollars worth of work?”
I thought Gruber’s criticism of the statement was fair, and thought-provoking:
Would Kirkpatrick have asked this of a man? And if he had, would Bloomberg have run the quote?
It’s probably true that women such as Sandberg are subjected to a greater, unfair amount of speculation regarding the appropriateness of the rewards for their work.
In my opinion, that’s how Gruber’s link should have ended. But he added:
I searched Google for the phrase “Did he do a billion dollars worth of work?” and the only hit was this tweet from Jezebel editor-in-chief Jessica Coen, retweeting this tweet from Alex Leo pointing out the absurd gender bias in this article.
The implication, by my reading, is that the lack of Google results for the searched phrase: “did he do a billion dollars worth of work?” is evidence of a gender bias against women who have earned a billion dollars.
My problem with this line of reasoning is that the naturally contrasting search: “did she do a billion dollars worth of work?” also yields nearly no results. The vast majority, if not all of the results for that search are related to news from the past day related to this issue.
I don’t doubt that people are more critical and dismissive of a woman who has earned herself a billion dollars, but Gruber’s search example doesn’t support the claim. I wonder if there is a search that would support the claim? On Twitter, Gruber pointed out that there are fewer female than male billionaires. So perhaps it’s insufficient to measure disdain for female earnings by searching on the scale of billions? A paraphrased search on the scale of millions yields zero results, and zero for men as well. So “nobody” is complaining about the worthiness of folks, male or female, who earn a million dollars.
I agree with Gruber’s premise, but his own evidence doesn’t support it. I would rather see flimsy evidence omitted from an argument I agree with, because it offers a weakness for naysayers to attack.
Alex Serriere, on Twitter, offers a simplified search that does support Gruber’s premise, albeit indirectly:
@danielpunkass @gruber I think these searches sort of prove the point: “did he do enough” 347k results, “did she do enough” 1.9m results.
Of course I concede that none of this is scientific, but as far as off-the-cuff Google searches go, I find Alex’s results far more compelling and supportive of the argument at hand.