Lyndsay Kirkham was sitting down to her birthday meal with her family when she felt the food start to rise.
The editor and coder allegedly overheard a conversation between two men she believed to be IBM employees discussing why they don’t like to hire women. She live-tweeted what she heard.
WARNING: Some tweets contain graphic language
Kirkham captured the conversation between two men and a woman detailing their reasoning for hiring older women over young women and the general aura of sexism that exuded from their thoughts.
“It was a little louder than conversational to be honest,” she told CityNews. “Since they felt it was OK to be that loud I felt I should share that with my listeners and those who follow me on Twitter.”
She anticipated deflections of her argument. IBM hired a female CEO, Virginia Rometty, in 2011 and 26 per cent of the company’s senior managers and 22 per cent of its executives are women, according to the the National Association for Female Executives.
But the numbers don’t add up for Kirkham.
Kirkham tweeted that she planned to take a photograph of the people in the conversation and submit it to IBM’s human resources department, but she has since decided against that out of a respect for their privacy.
And though she said she has not heard any official feedback from IBM, her tweets did prompt an outpouring from current and former employees.
Messages of support and commiseration are mixed with criticism and threats, but Kirkham told CityNews she is glad to have sparked a conversation about the issues facing women in the world of technology.
“The number of stories from men and women in the technology industry that has been shared with me in the last three days has been incredible,” she said.
“One woman (who works at IBM) told me she’s going to take it internally.
“I just hope people keep talking. That’s what my takeaway is.”
A lawyer CityNews spoke to said one could face legal recourse for tweets. It’s one thing if you overhear a conversation in public but it could be another thing if you tweet about it.
Kirkham would have been safer if she didn’t identify the company in her tweets.
If she hadn’t mentioned the company name, she would face no risk of being sued.
“These are quite serious allegations,” Barry Sookman, partner at McCarthy Tétrault’s Technology Law Group, said. “I’m sure (IBM) will take them extremely seriously and I suspect they’ll launch a full investigation.”
IBM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.