12/13/17 | Gender

Sexism in Silicon Valley: Enough.

Silicon Valley is the world capital of transformation, shaping the technologies that change how we live, work and play.

And yet here are some of the headlines that have screamed across the globe in recent months: “Silicon Valley’s Sexism Problem,” “Why Is Silicon Valley So Awful to Women?” and “Women Engineers on the Rampant Sexism of Silicon Valley.”

The media doesn’t publish such articles without a news hook, and Silicon Valley, sadly, has been serving up plenty of them.

Like the Uber fiasco – the allegations of sexual harassment and discrimination that, among other legal and ethical scandals, cost CEO Travis Kalanick his job.

In 2017 alone, prominent investor Dave McClure resigned from the technology incubator he co-founded after accusations he made sexual advances to a job candidate, Binary Capital partner Justin Caldbeck took an indefinite leave of absence after six women accused him of hitting on them while they were pitching him for potential investment, and Google engineer James Damore was fired after circulating a memo that asserted women are less biologically inclined to work in tech-related fields.

This was on top of earlier accusations of sexual harassment accusations at GitHub, Tinder and other companies. And the “Elephant in the Valley” survey that revealed a host of shocking findings about the issues facing women in the workplace, including that 60 percent of the 200 women interviewed had experienced unwanted sexual advances and that two-thirds felt excluded from important social and networking opportunities.

It’s mind-boggling to me that sexism is very much alive and well in 2017, and so much so in the place I’ve called home for more than 20 years and consider the embodiment of innovation and social progressivism.

Fact: Among the hundreds of startups we’ve represented, it’s rare to find a woman among the executive leadership.

Fact: I’ve seen eminently qualified women lose out on promotions to men more times than I care to count. (Twenty-one percent of American tech executives are female, compared with 36 percent in other industries, according to PayScale).

Fact: Men interrupting women, talking over them or punishing them for speaking out continues to be a thing.

It’s been years since I experienced discrimination, but I’ve heard too many war stories from too many colleagues and friends.

So am I surprised that Uber board member David Bonderman thought it was acceptable to joke that the addition of a second woman on the board would result in “more talking” (yuk yuk)?

Or, that in my own profession this story recounts how an “All-Male PR Panel Tells Women They Can Fix Sexism by ‘Speaking Up More Loudly?’ “

It’s time to stop the madness.

Every company in the Valley – established firms, startups, VCs, everybody – must adopt a strict zero-tolerance policy for sexual discrimination in all its obvious and subtle forms.

That includes wage disparity. Though several large firms in the Valley, including Facebook, LinkedIn and Apple, claim to have eliminated their gender wage gaps, inequality persists. According to recruiting firm Hired, women are paid less than men for the same job at the same tech company nearly seven out of 10 times. That’s shameful and must stop.

One of the answers to improving women’s status in tech is to get more women into tech. While women make up 47 percent of the overall work force, they represent only 23 percent in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) professions, according to a government report.

Concrete Action

This is why our company and our client Distil Networks, along with Foundry Group, TechStars, Cooley, Yesware, Help Scout, Cloudability and Full Contract, recently announced the creation of the Women Forward in Technology Scholarship Program. The annual program will award several $3,000 scholarships to female undergraduate and graduate students committed to a STEM career. (For more details, see the press release.)

Concrete action is needed to solve Silicon Valley’s sexism problem once and for all. Surely, a region that has given the world everything from the microprocessor to ubiquitous mobile computing, intelligent robots and self-driving cars is smart enough to fix this.

About the Author

2131_120516_dg_0867-Edit-2-240x240.jpgJoanna Kulesa is founder and CEO of Offleash, a San Mateo-based agency that provides expert public relations, social media and content marketing services to enterprise technology companies.


The Switch Editorial Team.

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