Survey: 60% Of Women In Tech Report Unwanted Sexual Advances In The Workplace
Stories and even court cases about the uphill battles women working in technology face are nothing new. Now, a new survey puts data behind the challenges women in Silicon Valley encounter.
There are several disheartening results in the survey titled The Elephant In The Valley, which focuses on the experiences of female executives in Silicon Valley. A total of 222 women responded to the survey, all of whom had worked for at least 10 years in the tech mecca. Of the women who participated, three-quarters held titles of vice president or above, three-quarters had children and three-quarters are 40 years of age or older.
Two of the co-authors of the survey, Trae Vassallo and Michele Madansky, discussed the results of the survey with Kara Swisher, the executive editor of Re/code, on the latest episode of the outlet’s podcast. According to the interview,
the Ellen Pao trial was the event that really got the survey in motion. Vassallo, a former general partner at Kleiner Perkins, was subpoenaed to speak in the trial and share her experi
ences with discrimination and harassment. Following her testimony, Vassallo said that countless women began sharing their own personal stories of harassment with her. She soon partnered up with Madansky to shed light on the issue.
“It is just to get some underlying data without that finger pointing to say that it is not the exception—it is the rule,” explained Vassallo. “It is happening all over the place and it’s not happening just to women who you could point to and say that there are some issues where they caused it. The women in this survey are incredibly experienced. They are CEOs, they are founders, they are VPs of organizations.”
According to the survey, 60% of women who work in technology have been on the receiving end of unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. Of these women, 65% reported having received such advances from a superior.
“This isn’t asking your co-worker on a date. These are power play situations where you are turning someone down in a sexual way and there is some sort of meaningful impact on your ability to do your job,” stressed Vassallo.
Additionally, 66% of women surveyed said that they have felt excluded from key networking opportunities or social events, with 90% saying that they have witnessed sexist behavior at company offsites or industry conferences.
“The real bonding happens at the after party and we are not invited—nor do we want to go in some cases,” said Madansky.
Beyond the more blatant examples of sexist behavior in the workplace, Vassallo and Madansky broadened their survey to include other, more subtle instances. The duo explained that they didn’t just want to focus on conscious biases, but also unconscious biases that women face every day. Of the women survey, 88% said that they have had clients or colleagues address questions to male peers that should have instead been addressed to them. Another 84% experienced people not making eye contact with them but making eye contact with their male colleagues.
The survey also focused on one ongoing, major issue for women in the workplace: family. Of the women surveyed, 75% were asked about family life, marital status and children in their interviews and 40% said that they felt the need to talk less about their families in order to be taken more seriously. In recent months, both maternity and paternity leave have been graced with a good deal of media coverage between Mark Zuckerberg announcing his two-month paternity leave and Marissa Mayer announcing her two week break after giving birth to twins. The survey found that 52% of the women shortened their maternity leave because they thought it would negatively impact their career.
Ultimately, however, the most distressing statistics are those regarding the resolutions of these experiences and the few number of women who reported harassment in the workplace. Of those harassed, 39% did nothing because they thought it would negatively impact their career and 30% did not report these occurrences because they wanted to forget about them. Of those who did report, 60% were dissatisfied with the course of action.
Vassallo and Madansky say their survey can help bring awareness to the problem.
“We think that just getting the story out there and just letting people know how prevalent some of these behaviors are will just spur the conversation,” said Madansky. “Maybe 2016 will be the year of the conversation?”