60pc of women working in Silicon Valley have been sexually harassed – study

12 Jan 201625 Shares

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60pc of women in Silicon Valley and some of whom have held positions of power in the tech industry claim to have been sexually harassed

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Some 60pc of women in Silicon Valley with at least 10 years’ experience, some of whom have held positions of power in the tech industry, claim to have been sexually harassed during their career, according to a new report.

The Elephant in the Valley study focused on more than 200 women with at least 10 years of experience working in Silicon Valley. The report was compiled by Trae Vassallo, Ellen Levy, Michele Madansky, Hillary Mickell, Bennett Porter, Monica Leas (Stanford University) and Julie Oberweis (Stanford University).

More than 77pc of those surveyed were aged over 40 and 75pc have children. Some 25pc of the women surveyed are at CxO level, 11pc are founders, 11pc in venture capital and many work in large companies, including Apple, Google and VMware.

‘What we realised is that while many women shared similar workplace stories, most men were simply shocked and unaware of the issues facing women in the workplace’
– ELEPHANT IN THE VALLEY AUTHORS

“The inspiration for this survey came out of the incredible conversation from the Ellen Pao and Kleiner Perkins Caulfied & Byers trial,” the report’s authors said.

“What we realised is that while many women shared similar workplace stories, most men were simply shocked and unaware of the issues facing women in the workplace.

“In an effort to correct the massive information disparity, we decided to get the data and the stories. We focused on five main areas including: Feedback & Promotion, Inclusion, Unconscious biases, Motherhood, and Harassment & Safety.”

The survey found that 84pc of those surveyed have been told at some stage in their careers that they were “too aggressive”, while 47pc had been asked to do lower-level tasks that male colleagues were not asked to do.

Two-thirds of the executives (66pc) felt excluded from social and networking opportunities because of their gender and 59pc said they have felt that they have not had the same opportunities as their male counterparts.

90pc of the women surveyed said they witnessed sexist behaviour at company offsites and at industry conferences.

Unconscious bias

This study also reveals that unconscious bias remains an enormous problem in the tech industry and is affecting the day-to-day duties of many female executives.

88pc of the executives surveyed said that they have experienced clients and colleagues address questions to male peers that should have been addressed to them.

‘In one review session, one male partner said of a female employee “we don’t have to worry about her bonus or promotion because she just got married. So she’ll probably have a baby and quit soon”’
– SILICON VALLEY TECH EXECUTIVE

During conversations, 84pc of male colleagues maintained eye contact with other men and not with their women colleagues.

Some 87pc of women surveyed experienced demeaning comments from male colleagues.

During interviews, 75pc of the women surveyed were asked about family life, marital status and children and 40pc felt they needed to speak less about their families in order to be taken seriously.

Of those who took maternity leave, 52pc shortened their leave because they thought that it would negatively impact their career.

Sexual harassment in Silicon Valley

Some 60pc of women working in tech companies in the Bay Area reported being subjected to unwanted sexual advances.

Drilling down into the figures, 65pc of women who reported unwanted sexual advances received the advances from a superior while half received advances more than once.

One in three of the women felt afraid for their personal safety because of work-related circumstances.

‘Experiences included being groped by my boss while in public at a company event. After learning this had happened to other women in my department, and then reporting the event to HR, I was retaliated against and had to leave the company’
– TECH EXECUTIVE IN SILICON VALLEY

When these women reported sexual harassment, 60pc admit they were dissatisfied with the course of action taken by their employers.

Shockingly, 39pc of those harassed did nothing because they thought it would negatively impact their career.

30pc did not report the harassment because they wanted to forget about it.

And 29pc signed a non-disparagement agreement with their employer.

Inside the valley of tears: stories of harassment in tech’s glittering capital

  • “Once a client asked me to sit on his lap if I wanted him to buy my products. My company didn’t do anything about it when told my boss so unfortunately I asked to be taken off that client, but it’s not like they can fire the client.”
  • “I had a fellow VC sending me flowers, gifts, even a mixtape, over the course of several months. Another portfolio CEO asked me to go through a door first so he could “watch me walk” and my superiors at the firm told me to laugh it off. I also had another VC tell me he likes married women and then put his hand on mine (I’m married).”
  • “Example: I was propositioned by a hiring manager early in my career when I was a job candidate. He clearly indicated that if I slept with him, he would make sure I was promoted as his ‘second-in-command’ as he moved up the ladder in the company. I was lucky to have the option to reject the offer.”
  • “Unwanted sexual advances were far more common when I was in my 20s and early 30s than today.”
  • “Experiences included being groped by my boss while in public at a company event. After learning this had happened to other women in my department, and then reporting the event to HR, I was retaliated against and had to leave the company.”
  • “The first time I travelled with a new CEO he made an advance. I turned him down. After that, I was never asked to travel with him again. This impacted my ability to do my job.”

Workplace harassment image via Shutterstock

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com