“Marketplace Tech’s” Molly Wood is leaving journalism after two decades, including the past four years as the host of this show. More recently, Molly has been co-host of the Marketplace podcast “Make Me Smart” and host of the new show about climate change solutions, “How We Survive.”
And since she’s a reporter who’s asked pretty hard questions of her guests over the years, we felt it was only fair that listeners had the opportunity to submit questions for her.
Marketplace’s Kimberly Adams kicked it off with a question from Kira Davis, who tweeted, “What was Molly’s career path? And how did she end up in tech, finance journalism?”
Molly Wood: I started out as, like, a hard-news journalist — and some sports — and moved to the [San Francisco] Bay Area in 1999. And if you moved to the Bay Area in 1999, you were doing tech. And that was at a time when a lot of these businesses and business models were just developing. And so it ended up being this sort of, like, incredible economic education in capital formation, venture capital, the inevitable march toward monopoly. And then, of course, I was lucky enough to land at Marketplace, which really finished off the economics part of that equation.
Kimberly Adams: That actually leads pretty nicely into our next question from Jorge Martinez, who asks, “Over your years in the tech industry, what positive changes have you seen on how we treat women in this industry?”
Wood: Well, I think that is a mixed bag. It is, certainly there is more conversation than there used to be about women in the tech industry. That’s no question. But I will say that over 20 years of tech journalism, I can’t say that there’s been a sea change. I think it’s still in the, you know, lots-of-work-to-be-done stages. There are still a lot of empty stalls in the women’s bathroom at tech events that I go to. And there is still, unfortunately, a lot of harassment and mistreatment. You only have to look as far as Blizzard and Activision to see that, you know, the culture of bro technology has not come nearly far enough.
Adams: And this is just me asking, has there been any acceleration in change in recent years with the #MeToo movement?
Wood: I think what is positive, and I’m sure you can agree, is that the freedom to speak up exists now in a way that it didn’t before, and to demand the space and to demand the hearing. And to really be able to say out loud, “This is unacceptable.” Not in every scenario, not in every company, certainly. But I think there is a lot more awareness. And there’s more of an ability to quickly put a stop to behavior when you see it happening.
Adams: John Meeker says, “Tell us about your new gig and whether your Twitter feed will change because I still want to hear from you and enjoy your sense of humor.”
Wood: Awww, well, I mean, the good news is that I’m going to be a little more journalism-adjacent now. So I think it’s possible that my Twitter feed might get a little livelier — not that I’ve been holding in a lot of thoughts, but I’ve probably been holding in some thoughts.
Adams: Let the rage flow.
Wood: There might be a little more rage, a little more Molly rant situation. And as for the new gig, yes, I will be investing. I’ll be hopefully scouting and giving money to early-stage startups. And my focus will be on climate solutions and climate tech. But I’ll also still be podcasting. So you can look to my Twitter feed for more information on all of that.
Adams: Another Twitter user who goes by @ClassyInSD asks, “Is it true that when Kai Ryssdal enters a room, he’s accompanied by the rich and warm scent of pumpkin spice?” Also —
Wood: Yes, yes, 100%. Yes, that’s why he hates pumpkin spice so much. It’s like how, you know, when you wear perfume and you get really, you get so sick of the smell of the perfume by the end of the day?
Wood: That’s why he’s mad about it. He excretes it.
Adams: Also, what tech do you think will be most transformative?
Wood: Well, at this exact moment, I’m feeling superoptimistic about nuclear fusion as an unlimited source of carbon-neutral power. I think that it’s the hard-science stories that give you the most hope. We’re on the cusp of really true revolutions in health sciences, in biotech, in, you know, just taking out viruses now, one by one, with [messenger RNA] vaccines, and, of course, with energy transformation.
Adams: And so I’m guessing the social media side of things are the stories that make you a little more pessimistic.
Wood: A little more pessimistic? Yes. I mean, you know, common truth, right? Someone said that recently at an event I was at, that we have to have a common truth, and this information divide is so dangerous, and the ways in which information gets out and is attached to advertising is so, frankly, predatory and manipulative. I do have hope that the younger generation, you know, people who are kids right now, that they’re building up an immunity to social media, I hope. That there is more critical thinking, more awareness, less interest, frankly, in Facebook. You know, these are forces that have only been informational forces, that have only been part of our society for less than two decades. It’s still pretty new. And we just sort of maybe haven’t learned how to use it yet, deal with it yet, discard the things that are not good for our society. It’s just a question of how bad it’ll get before we build up that immunity.
Adams: Here’s another question from Aarti Shahani, who asks, “What’s the silver bullet to rebalance power in the tech industry? … Like, if you were advising lawmakers on where to focus?” What would you suggest?
Wood: Really simply, in this country, this is like a large philosophical answer, I know. But we’re having a conversation right now about holding elites to account. That really is all this comes down to. Like, there are companies that are so big that they’re breaking laws and we’re not stopping them. Like the, you know, the current [Federal Trade Commission] Commissioner, Lina Khan, has made the argument that existing antitrust law, some of it needs to change, but that existing antitrust law is enough to take on the companies that represent illegal monopoly. We just have to be able to do it. We have to enforce our tax laws, if there is a silver bullet to rebalance power, because we’re speaking as fantastically as possible. It’s accountability. It’s rules that everybody can believe in.
Adams: OK, this is from me. What are you going to miss the most about “Marketplace Tech”?
Wood: It is so great to have a place to put your ideas every single day. It’s a short show, but it feels like unlimited real estate to build a body of work to get ideas out. Like it was pretty wonderful to have a thing that was just like a daily radio representation of the inside of my brain.
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