Growing chorus denounces sexist Silicon Valley culture
A growing chorus of voices denouncing sexist culture is echoing through male-dominated Silicon Valley, knocking a number of internet industry executives from their perches. Accusations concerning the lack of women in tech jobs and unfair, or downright crude, treatment endured by some in the industry have simmered for years, occasionally reaching a boil.
Now increasing numbers of women are going public with complaints of gender-based discrimination-in some cases leading men to step down. Uber’s embattled chief executive Travis Kalanick resigned last month, yielding to pressure from investors seeking to clean up the company’s allegedly toxic corporate culture.
His departure capped a rocky period for the global ridesharing giant, which has been roiled by disturbing reports of cutthroat workplace conditions, harassment and discrimination. Before Kalanick’s departure, Uber said it had fired 20 people after examining 215 claims of discrimination, harassment, unprofessional behavior and bullying.
June also saw venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck take an indefinite leave of absence from Binary Capital in Silicon Valley in the face of allegations he made sexual advances towards female entrepreneurs interested in funding.
“To say I’m sorry about my behavior is a categorical understatement,” Caldbeck said in released statement. “The power dynamic that exists in venture capital is despicably unfair.” In his statement, Caldbeck referred to the influence gap between male venture capitalists and female entrepreneurs as “frightening,” and called the environment “gender-hostile.”
A few days later, tech sector investor Dave McClure confessed to being “a creep” for making “advances towards multiple women in work-related situations, where it was clearly inappropriate.” “I selfishly took advantage of those situations where I should have known better,” McClure said in an apology posted online. “My behavior was inexcusable and wrong.”
The public apologies came in the wake of a New York Times article in which a dozen women in the technology world denounced what they saw as a culture of harassment, some pointing specifically at McClure or Caldbeck. “It’s important to expose the type of behavior that’s been reported in the last few weeks, so the community can recognize and address these problems,” Stitch Fix founder and chief executive Katrina Lake was quoted as saying in the Times story.
Women in Silicon Valley face a double-whammy, said French entrepreneur Eliane Fiolet, because the tech companies as well as the world of finance here are male dominated. Fiolet-who settled here and cofounded successful technology website Ubergizmo-estimated that women represent a scant 10 percent or so of the tech sector. Concerns about a lack of diversity in Silicon Valley have caused tech giants to implement programs to cultivate richer gender and racial mixes on company campuses.