It pleases me to say that I was the first person to tell Pip Marlow about the blockbuster film “Mad Max: Fury Road.”
“I haven’t seen it, to be honest,” she said. “But I saw the original ‘Mad Max,’ years ago.”
Presented with such an opportunity—to waste the time of the executive in charge of Microsoft’s overall business in Australia with a hardcore geek’s synopsis of a post-apocalyptic action movie—one would think I’d start babbling on about stunt performers, tricked-out muscle cars and electric guitars that shoot fire. Instead, I told Marlow about a minor controversy that erupted around the film’s release in the United States: A blogger representing the so-called “Men’s Rights” movement decried the film as a “feminist piece of propaganda posing as a guy flick,” and lamented the fact that Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa character—the levelheaded and quite literal driver of the plot—has a stronger, more authoritative presence in the film than Mad Max himself. “Nobody barks orders at Mad Max,” the writer blustered, before putting a cap on all that crazy by calling for men—all men! Everywhere!—to boycott the film.
Marlow patiently listened to my explanation of the controversy, chuckled lightly, then had her own, awe-inspiring Imperator Furiosa moment.
“I think it’s fantastic that women have role models in the media, women who we can look to as strong characters,” Marlow said. “I love to hear the stories of butt-kicking. The only story line shouldn’t be about women being saved. We can be participants in our own rescue. Now I’m going to have to go see the movie.”
That’s probably not necessary. In a way, Marlow has navigated her own fury road: She’s achieved a leadership position in an industry that is still largely male-dominated. In a March 2015 article in the Huffington Post, writer Emily Peck reported that only 26 percent of America’s computing jobs are held by women—a number that’s dropped from 35 percent in 1990. Other STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions are faring better, Peck said—for example, more than half of America’s biological scientists are women.
And things are scarcely better in Australia: According to an editorial that Marlow herself wrote for Australian Financial Review last March, only one in four key management personnel in Australia is female. “Even in the boardroom–where representation has mercifully picked up from a tragically low base–men still account for four in five directorships,” she wrote.
Though some decisive forward strides have been made these past few years, the tech industry—indeed, the entire business world—still has a blind spot where gender equality is concerned. And Marlow has successfully piloted a steadfast course right into the heart of it. Forget Imperator Furiosa: I want to know where this warrior of the wasteland came from, and ride along with her caravan for a bit.
Read the full story.