Grow­ing cho­rus de­nounces sex­ist Sil­i­con Val­ley cul­ture

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

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.

‘Despicably un­fair’

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.

Dou­ble-whammy

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.

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