On Friday, Klout, the San Francisco company that tracks and scores influence in traditional and social media, quietly apologized for its contribution to the prevalent notion that coding–and Internet entrepreneurship in general–is a man’s world. Back in 2010, trying to be clever and stand out in a crowded field (indeed, trying to show some clout!), the fledgling company posted a sign at a Stanford career day that read “Bro Down and Crush Code.” A simple play-on-words substitute for “Throw down”, “Bro Down” seemed innocuous and funny to company recruiters at the time. But it struck many as emblematic of the gender discrimination charge commonly leveled at Silicon Valley and its ilk. In retrospect, Klout may as well have asked, “Got Balls?”
The happy news is that, in an industry so forward-focused that the past seems hardly to have happened there, Klout has singled itself out by engaging profitably in hindsight and saying, essentially, “Our bad.” Its CEO, Joe Fernandez, wrote eloquently last week: “Looking back, it’s clear how uninviting and offensive that language is to many people, not just women. It’s not something we’re proud of. We are sorry about the message that was conveyed then. We don’t support or condone sexism at Klout, and our culture today has matured from what it was then.” He also mentions that Klout’s staff now boasts 30% women, without mentioning specifically how many are engineers. 30% is not bad: only 27% of engineering grads at Stanford were women as recently as 2010. And if you turn on C-SPAN and get a glimpse of the US Senate, 30% still looks downright progressive. But as Klout knows better than most: women are powerfully influential. By any measure, Klout just raised its own score.