The Truth About Sexual Harassment In Tech

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
The sexual harassment problem in the tech industry is well-noted, particularly since Ellen Pao's widely covered lawsuit with former employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers last year. A subject previously talked about in whispers, now more and more women are coming forward to share their personal experiences. And unfortunately, it's more grim than we thought.

A survey of 200 women in Silicon Valley, conducted and written by Trae Vassallo and Michele Madansky, sheds light on exactly how prevalent sexual harassment-related issues are. The survey, Elephant In The Valley, polled women with 10 or more years of experience in the tech industry; 77% were age 40+. What did it find?

Of those surveyed, 60% reported experiencing unwanted sexual advances at one point or another, and 65% of that number said the move(s) came from a superior. One in three women actually felt afraid for their personal safety because of this type of work situation. And 39% of women that did experience harassment never reported it, fearing it would hurt their careers.

A full 90% of women experienced sexist behavior at company offsites or conferences. Two-thirds of respondents reported being left out of important career building social events because of their gender.

Unconscious bias is also a large problem. Nearly 90% of women said they'd seen a coworker or client ask a male colleague a question that should have been addressed to them. Similar numbers (84% and 87%, respectively) reported clients or colleagues making eye contact with male coworkers, but not them, or experiencing demeaning comments from male colleagues.

But Elephant In The Valley didn't just gather numbers — it also shares the (anonymized) stories these women have experienced.

One woman writes, "Honestly, in two decades the list is just too long. This is an industry that has cougar night practically next door to my office, and thinks it's perfectly appropriate to meet there for business conversations." Another woman was invited to a networking event, "only to have the invite rescinded when I RSVP'd and they realized I was a woman — they told me, 'This is just for the guys.'" And during a fundraising meeting, one woman was asked, "How do we know you're not going to run off and have a baby?"

Holy cow.

Men in the tech industry reading this, take note: You can safely assume that every woman you work with has experienced this type of discrimination at one point or another. Look at yourselves and your colleagues' behavior, and call it out when it's inappropriate. Having women in your organization is a positive for so many reasons, including generating better quality ideas and helping the bottom line. Fixing these problems isn't rocket science, either — just order beers and water at your next networking outing, you know, if one of your coworkers is a pregnant woman.

At 200 women strong, the survey isn't huge by any means, but there are drastically fewer women in the tech industry than men, at any rate.

For the full, cringeworthy details of the survey and their accompanying workplace horror stories, visit here.
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