Sil­i­con Val­ley tak­ing heat over sex­ual ha­rass­ment

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

Sex­ism in Sil­i­con Val­ley may be com­ing in for a reck­on­ing, prompted by women com­ing for­ward with sto­ries of sex­ual ha­rass­ment by in­dus­try big shots. Apolo­gies, res­ig­na­tions and self-re­flec­tion have fol­lowed, al­though it’s too soon to tell if they will pro­duce mean­ing­ful change.

Dave McClure, a prom­i­nent ven­ture in­vestor, said on Satur­day that he is sorry for mak­ing “in­ap­pro­pri­ate ad­vances” to­ward sev­eral women in work­place sit­u­a­tions, and is no longer lead­ing the ven­ture cap­i­tal fund he co-founded, 500 Star­tups. He re­mains a gen­eral part­ner at the firm. McClure’s apol­ogy - ti­tled “I’m a Creep. I’m Sorry” - fol­lows a New York Times re­port on sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the tech in­dus­try that de­scribed of­fen­sive be­hav­ior by McClure and other prom­i­nent ven­ture in­vestors, as re­lated by fe­male en­trepreneurs.

Re­ports of sex­ism in the in­dus­try are not new, but more women are speak­ing out on the record and nam­ing their ha­rassers. That’s even though women have faced os­tracism for call­ing out such be­hav­ior, with com­pa­nies play­ing down or out­right ig­nor­ing com­plaints. Those is­sues can be par­tic­u­larly acute for women lead­ing star­tups, as their com­pa­nies are de­pen­dent on clubby ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists for fund­ing. there are signs that this might be chang­ing as more women come for­ward.

In June, sev­eral fe­male en­trepreneurs told the trade pub­li­ca­tion The In­for­ma­tion of ha­rass­ment by a part­ner at the VC firm Bi­nary Cap­i­tal; he and an­other part­ner re­signed a week ago. The ac­cused part­ner, Justin Cald­beck, is­sued an apol­ogy, but that it­self drew crit­i­cism from oth­ers in the tech in­dus­try, in­clud­ing Google prod­uct man­ager Bren­den Mul­li­gan.

“It feels like you’re try­ing to nudge us to feel sorry for you that you need to leave your pre­cious firm be­hind. YOU CAUSED THIS,” Mul­li­gan wrote in a post on Medium. One of Cald­beck’s ac­cusers, Nini­ane Wang, wrote that she “laughed out loud” read­ing the apol­ogy post.

What is spark­ing the shift? It might be a woman named Su­san Fowler. Ear­lier this year, the for­mer Uber engi­neer also out­lined a cul­ture of ha­rass­ment at the com­pany. Uber’s CEO has since re­signed and the com­pany has promised to in­sti­tute broad changes to pre­vent such things from hap­pen­ing again. Still, it’s too soon to tell whether the in­ci­dents will lead to mean­ing­ful change. LinkedIn co-founder and for­mer CEO Reid Hoff­man lamented a “lack of out­rage and com­men­tary” fol­low­ing the rev­e­la­tions.

“This is im­por­tant, be­cause the ques­tion for women en­trepreneurs is whether peo­ple just don’t care,” Hoff­man wrote in a post on LinkedIn. “Here’s why writ­ing quickly is im­por­tant: YES, MANY OF US DO CARE. This is en­tirely im­moral and out­ra­geous be­hav­ior.” He called the at­ten­tion on Sil­i­con Val­ley’s gen­der prob­lems this year “very good crit­i­cism.” He urged ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists to es­tab­lish hu­man re­sources poli­cies - just as com­pa­nies and other in­sti­tu­tions do - “so that ven­ture cap­i­tal­ists who en­gage in such be­hav­ior face the same sort of con­se­quences that they would if their over­tures were di­rected at an em­ployee.” — AP

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