No room at the top

I have been remiss in the past in all my criticisms of Six Apart’s business practices and Movable Type coding gotchas. One thing I did not comment on favorably was the fact that Mena Trott was CEO of the company. In our environment where it’s rare to hear a woman’s name in a list of speakers, or see a woman’s face among a photograph of leaders in any field, Mena stood out as an example to all women that this environment is not completely and totally controlled by men.

Well, that was, until today when Mena wrote a very gracious note about a gentleman by the name of Barak Berkowitz who has taken over as CEO of Six Apart. I’m not sure of what Mena’s position is at this point; I believe she may be continuing on as President.

Six Apart is no longer Ben and Mena Trott, not with all the VC involvement and international growth. It is a very successful company now, and nothing wrong with success in weblogging. I guess an added benefit is that whatever criticism any of us now have of the company or products, I don’t think people will say we’re kicking the baby squirrels because of it.

But it was difficult reading about Mena stepping down as CEO because I have to wonder how much of our criticism of the recent license fees had to do with it. I work hard to see that women are promoted in weblogging, only to be critical of a company headed by one of the few women who has managed to find a position among all those cookie cutter men. Yet, paradoxically, I don’t believe that criticism should be held back just because the recipient is one of the few women that has actually made a difference.

In all my discussions about women in weblogging and technology, I’ve not asked that women get preferential treatment, or to be judged other than on our own merits. If anything I’ve asked that women get the equivalent acknowledgement and recognition, and yes, even criticism, that men get. Still, I wonder–by being critical of these rare women, do we make it easier to get pulled from, or should I say pushed from, positions that are hard for us to get to in the first place?

I hope this is a good move for Mena Trott. I wish her success in whatever role she has in the company. I am happy for her, but sad for us: there’s now one less woman at the top.

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