On Nov. 7, software engineer David Heinemeier Hansson reported on social media that AppleCard had offered him a higher spending limit than it did his wife, Jamie Heinemeier Hansson. Much higher, in fact—20 times higher. And as David noted on Twitter, although the couple has been married for years and had filed joint tax returns, and although Jamie had a better credit score than he did, his wife’s request for an increased credit limit was denied.
In the replies to his tweets, other AppleCard users claimed to have had similar experiences—husbands with arbitrarily high credit limits, wives with suspiciously low ones. The algorithm Apple and its credit partner, Goldman Sachs, used to assign applicants a credit limit must be sexist, they speculated. On Saturday (Nov. 9), the situation piqued the interest of the superintendent of the New York State Department of Financial Services, who promised on Twitter to look into it.
Throughout the hubbub, there was one person whose voice was notably absent: Jamie. (She doesn’t appear to be on Twitter.) Though an admittedly private person, she wanted to set the record straight in her own words.
Today she published a statement on her husband’s website. Reading her words shows that the incident is, to her, both deeply personal and indicative of systemic injustices that women and many other groups face, in the financial system and beyond, including anywhere algorithms make important decisions.
We’ve published some excerpts here; read the statement in its entirety here.
My name is Jamie Heinemeier Hansson. Since my husband, David, tweeted about an unfortunate and ridiculous situation with AppleCard that involves me, I have been (or my credit-worthiness has been) the subject of lots of speculation. Unlike David, I am an extremely private person who does not post on social media. I am slightly mortified to have my name in the news. However, lest I be cast as a meek housewife who cannot speak for herself, I would like to make the following statement:
I care about equality. It’s why I told David he could tweet about this situation, even though the credit limit extended, or not extended, does not matter for my livelihood. It matters for the woman struggling to start a business in a world that still seems to think women can’t be as successful or creditworthy as men. It matters to the wife trying to get out of an abusive relationship. It matters to minorities harmed by institutional biases. It matters to so many. And so it matters to me.
I care about justice for all. It’s why, when the AppleCard manager told me she was aware of David’s tweets and that my credit limit would be raised to meet his, without any real explanation, I felt the weight and guilt of my ridiculous privilege. So many women (and men) have responded to David’s twitter thread with their own stories of credit injustices. This is not merely a story about sexism and credit algorithm blackboxes, but about how rich people nearly always get their way. Justice for another rich white woman is not justice at all.
Finally, I hear the frustration of women and minorities who have already been beating this drum loudly and publicly for years without this level of attention. I didn’t wish to be the subject matter that sparked these fires, but I’m glad they’re blazing. I may be silent on social media, but I am not silent. The debates and conversations David and I have about the world, and my observations, are often the source of his tweets. We are raising three boys together, and you better believe they hear a mother who is just as opinionated and just as equal as their father. On this topic David and I are thoroughly united, and I’m glad his large platform and my AppleCard issue have sparked a national conversation around institutional biases, blackbox algorithms, and the broken system that is our credit industry. This is not a story about me. Brilliant women are all over social media, using their voices to strive for a better way forward. Listen to them.
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