Stain on the “Girlboss” Neologism

Exclusive: How Elizabeth Holmes's House of Cards Came Tumbling Down |  Vanity Fair

By Avalon Kelly

Elizabeth Holmes, former CEO of Theranos Blood Testing, is currently facing trial for nine counts of wire fraud and two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, with a maximum sentence of 20 years prison time and a fine of $250,000.  Following journalist John Carreyrou’s investigation of the legitimacy of Theranos’ claims that they could do blood tests with a single drop of blood, the Silicon Valley startup’s thousands of lies have been exposed to the public.  Finally this year, CEO Holmes and her business partner Ramesh Balwani face trial for this fraud.  Regardless of the seriousness of the crimes Holmes is being tried for, writers in the name of “feminism” have declared that Holmes’ trial is the result of sexism within the tech industry.  Claims that Holmes’ persecution reflects the American technology industry’s sexism are defiling modern feminist ideals, as supported by Holmes’ misrepresentation of the “girlboss” neologism and by past legal retributions for business scandals of this volume.

By causing legitimate harm through her company’s fraud, and not taking the consequences of her own actions, Holmes has warped the ideal of the modern “girlboss”, and feminists cannot fairly argue that she deserves anything but jail time for her actions.  Sheri Ackert, breast cancer survivor, received faulty results from a Theranos test, leading her to believe she may be developing a new tumor.  Another victim, Steve Hammons, changed his medication routine due to alarming Theranos results suggesting his blood thinner was way too strong (when in reality, it was doing its job perfectly).  These people and many more suffered from the faulty blood tests provided by Theranos.  Elizabeth Holmes knew her tests were not working, and continued to force employees to fake results in order to keep her business going, all while putting her consumers’ lives on the line.  Her long-standing exploitation of her products’ consumers have corrupted the “girlboss” neologism that many of her fans have used to describe her with.  Despite the fact that there is hard evidence proving her guilt in this mass scandal, Holmes plans to continue to plead innocent, and place the blame entirely on former Theranos executive Ramesh Balwani.  By not accepting the consequences of her actions and using excuses to place the blame of the fraud away from herself, Holmes has further destroyed the formerly female-empowering symbol that she stood as.  Her trial is not the result of a sexist industry, it is the result of her exploitation of power in order to manipulate her consumers, employees, and co-workers.

In 2004, Martin Grass (former chief executive of Rite-Aid) was sentenced to 8-year imprisonment for a count of conspiracy to defraud Rite-Aid and its shareholders.  Fraud cannot be tolerated in the American business system, and as a result, Grass and countless other male businessmen have received the set punishment for such a crime.  The argument that the industry’s sexism has led to Holmes’ trial is simply untrue, as she committed a large crime that men and women alike must face punishment for.  Feminism fights for equality between men and women in all social, political, and economic systems; Holmes’ trial is plainly not against feminism.  She is facing an equal punishment to the many members of the opposite sex who have committed equal crimes.  I am not claiming that the American technology industry is not sexist; the inequalities faced by women in this industry are plain to see (only 1/10 technology executive-level positions are held by women).  However, the punishment soon to be faced by Elizabeth Holmes cannot be chalked up to a result of this sexism when she so obviously faces equal punishment for the extreme level of deception and exploitation she used.

Illustrated by the due punishment Holmes faces for her crimes, as well as by the equality in punishment compared to male business executives who have also committed such an extreme level of fraudulent crimes, Holmes’ trials cannot be seen as the result of a sexist technology industry, but rather as the result of her own actions against her consumers and employees.