More than half of women in tech report experiencing harassment at work
Image: Sfio Cracho/Shutterstock

More than half of women in tech report experiencing harassment at work

17 Aug 2017

In the wake of the recent anti-diversity manifesto controversy at Google, the subject of women in tech has been a major talking point.

Last week, Google dismissed engineer James Damore, the author of a manifesto criticising its diversity policy, but discussion of the issues that women in tech are up against continues.

Non-profit organisation Women Who Tech was founded in 2008, with the aim of bringing women in technology together to break down gender barriers in the sector. Its goals are simple – get more women-led start-ups funded, mobilise a network for female workers and improve conditions for women in tech.

It organised a survey in partnership with Lincoln Park Strategies, anonymously polling 750 women and 200 men in tech in order to spot workplace culture trends that inhibit an individual’s success.

The survey asked questions regarding the impact of factors such as gender, sexual orientation and race, and their potential impact on the success of individuals in tech.

A culture of harassment

The findings echoed many of the anecdotes shared by women and minorities in the industry, with 53pc of women experiencing harassment compared to a meagre 16pc of men. The most common form of harassment was sexist in nature, at 72pc, with offensive slurs and sexual harassment in second and third place. 57pc of women who were sexually harassed experienced unwanted physical contact.

65pc of female company founders polled were propositioned for sex in exchange for company funding, introductions and jobs. Almost a quarter of female founders surveyed who were sexually harassed were groped.

None of the male founders polled were propositioned for sex in exchange for business opportunities. Instead, most of the harassment directed at male founders was in relation to their professional character.

Reporting this harassment to HR is seemingly a rarity, with only 16pc of women who experienced it doing so. 68pc of the women who filed reports were unhappy with how their workplace dealt with their issue, and, in 64pc of cases, the harasser in question faced no consequences for their unprofessional behaviour.

Sexual orientation and race play a role

Gender is only one of the issues here, with the results also showing sexual orientation and race as factors.

For LGBTQ workers, the risk of being harassed is markedly higher than their heterosexual colleagues, with 55pc of LGBTQ respondents having experienced it, compared to 42pc of straight respondents. 40pc of women and 25pc of men suppressed conversations about their sexual orientation.

Tech workers of colour are less likely than white colleagues to think the company they work for will take harassment reports seriously.

It’s clear from both this survey, and wider discussions around the issue of diversity in tech, that there is a lot of work to be done in this industry to create better conditions for women and minorities alike.

Ellen Tannam
By Ellen Tannam

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects. She keeps her library card close at hand at all times and is a big fan of babies, chocolate and Sleater-Kinney.

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