An Australian venture capital firm has been branded “tone deaf” after sharing a post for International Women’s Day that noticeably featured no women.
Wednesday was International Women’s Day (IWD) and, while every other company was celebrating the achievements and contributions of it’s female staff members, Sydney-based OneVentures decided to take a different approach.
In a now-deleted post on LinkedIn, the company wished its followers a “happy” IWD by sharing a photo of nine “allies” within the company – who all happened to be male staff members.
In the post, the firm said it was “incredibly lucky that everyday feels like #IWD here at OneVentures”.
Sharing some stats, the company noted that its partners and finance and operations team were a 50/50 split of men and women and it’s investment team were 55 per cent women.
“We’ve been lucky that gender camaraderie has been a core part of our organisation since our launch – OneVentures was founded by Dr Michelle Deaker, Anne Marie Birkill and Dr Paul Kelly who has been a wonderful ally on this journey,” the post read.
OneVentures chose to highlight its ‘allies’ in the firm on International Women’s Day. Picture: OneVentures/LinkedInPeople were less than impressed that nine men and not one woman featured on the company’s post. Picture: OneVentures/LinkedIn
OneVentures said it had a “team of allies uplifting and supporting the women in our firm”.
“So, this week we will be profiling some of the women leaders within our team and sharing their stories about #crackingthecode,” the post continued.
“But today, we wanted to say thank you to all the allies in our firm, as we continue to strive for equity and camaraderie.”
The post received immediate backlash, with one person blasting it as “tone deaf to the extreme”.
“I can’t decide which is worse, if you realise or realise not that your company thumbnail features nine men and 0 women,” another wrote,
In response, OneVentures said they were “sorry” he didn’t like the post, but they wanted to “recognise the men” in the company as well.
“Sorry you don’t like the post, but as we’re profiling women for the rest of the week, we wanted to create some balance and recognise the men in our team too. We are striving for equity after all.”
The company said it wanted to recognise the men on the team because it was profiling women ‘for the rest of the week’. Picture: OneVenture/LinkedIn
Screenshots of the post and response were shared to Twitter by journalist Mark Di Stefano who poked fun at the company, writing: “International Womens Day: The day to celebrate the men, to provide a little balance.”
“This is so bad I thought it was an edited image, major yikes,” another person said.
“Just endless humiliation,” one added.
OneVenture eventually deleted the post amid the growing criticism, replacing it with a statement apologising.
“A mea culpa from OneVentures. It’s evident from comments on our post this morning celebrating International Women’s Day that the post has caused offence to some of our followers,” the company said.
It claimed the intention of the image of the nine men was to “highlight the gender camaraderie that we take so much pride in” and the role male colleagues play in supporting and uplifting the “incredible” women in the company.
“In hindsight, the photograph we chose was a mistake and we can see how it could come across as insensitive,” the post read.
“For this we apologise unreservedly, and appreciate your feedback and comments to bring this to our attention.”
One of OneVentures founders Dr Deaker issued a statement following the backlash.
“We have had lots of discussions at OneVentures the last 12 to 18 hours and it’s been a time of deep reflection. We can absolutely understand the response to our post yesterday,” she said.
“We made a mistake and I’m unequivocally sorry for our misjudgement. The post certainly didn’t represent who we are and what our team believes.
“International Women’s Day is first and foremost a day to recognise the significant barriers that women face in society and business and support each other in overcoming these.
“At OneVentures, these themes are deeply embedded in our core values and amongst our entire team. Having been one of the first female founders of a VC firm and as a tech entrepreneur, and having experienced these barriers first hand, helping others overcome them is very important to me.”
However, there were those who didn’t think the apology really hit the mark, with some commenters claiming the company had “completely missed the point”.
“It’s not the photograph that was the problem, it’s the fact that you’ve taken the one day that’s about centering women’s voices and experiences and used it as an opportunity to thank men for supporting women. Completely tone deaf and ill-conceived,” one person wrote.
“Are you going to make an apology for that? It doesn’t matter how many hashtags and buzz words and stats that you use, you’re completely missing the point.”
Another claimed the post was “absurd” and reflected a “total lack of understanding for the history and critical importance of the day”.
Others took issue with the wording of the apology, claiming the phase “this post has caused offence to some of our followers” was an “abrogation of responsibility”.
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“What an exquisitely poor take. Today is not about men. You shouldn’t have referenced them in the first post and you sure shouldn’t have in your ‘mea culpa’,” another said.
Another simply said: “How not to apologise 101”.