There’s no denying that Ashton Kutcher is a passionate guy when it comes to the things that he believes in — his emotional testimony to Congress over sex trafficking nearly had us in tears. He also had us cheering when he petitioned for diaper changing stations in men’s rooms. Still, even those with the best intentions get it wrong from time to time, and Kutcher’s latest approach to discussing equality in the workplace has people none too happy with the actor.
The trouble began when the 39-year-old took to LinkedIn to reveal that he was “planning on hosting a live open dialog about gender equality in the work place and in tech in general” on Facebook next week.
To help lead the discussion, Kutcher kicked things off with a series of brow-raising questions, many of which hit a serious nerve with his audience. The venture capitalist’s nine debate starters included such inquiries as “What are the Rules for dating in the work place? Flirting?” “What are the clear red lines?” “What advice should we be giving to female entrepreneurs,” and “Should investors invest in ideas that they believe to have less merit so as to create equality across a portfolio?”
Needless to say, it didn’t take long for Twitter to fire back, and businesswomen like Paradigm CEO Joelle Emereson took the lead, pointing out that “these are definitely *not* the right questions” to be asking ourselves.
Seek & Spark CEO Emily Best was also quick to highlight the negative connotations she believes were brought forth by inquiries suggesting that female entrepreneurs were somehow less than their male counterparts. “You think women have worse ideas? That we’re not here in equal numbers trying to get funded? Sigh.”
Meanwhile, Niamh Kellett, co-founder of Mixtape Marketing, explained that the issue with Kutcher’s dating-related questions, saying that “It suggests women in the work place are mere objects to admire” because “the ‘you tell us where the line is’ attitude suggests it’s our problem.”
Kutcher heard the feedback loud and clear, and was soon doing damage control on Twitter. While he says he’s still planning to host the discussion, since “We have centuries of ground to make up in a short order and I don’t want the basics to be off limits. Some clearly don’t yet get the basics,” he concedes that he made some mistakes in his initial post. “Thank you everyone for the feedback on the questions I posted on LinkedIn,” he wrote, kicking off a series of tweets on the matter. “Good and bad. Already a learning experience.”
He continued on to say, “I’ve already offended some folks by asking the wrong questions. I’m certain given the sensitivity of the topic I will say other things wrong. Hope we can find space to be wrong in the pursuit of getting it right.”
The full discussion about gender equality in the workplace is now set to take place on Kutcher’s Facebook page on Monday morning.
What are the questions Kutcher should have asked? Tweet us @BritandCo.
(h/t ET; photo via Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty)