Women in Tech Speak Frankly on Culture of Harassment
By KATIE BENNER THE NEW YORK TIMES JUNE 30, 2017
Their stories came out slowly, even hesitantly, at first. Then in a rush.
One female entrepreneur recounted how she had been propositioned by a Silicon Valley venture capitalist while seeking a job with him, which she did not land after rebuffing him. Another showed the increasingly suggestive messages she had received from a start-up investor. And one chief executive described how she had faced numerous sexist comments from an investor while raising money for her online community website.
What happened afterward was often just as disturbing, the women told The New York Times. Many times, the investors’ firms and colleagues ignored or played down what had happened when the situations were brought to their attention. Saying anything, the women were warned, might lead to ostracism.
Now some of these female entrepreneurs have decided to take that risk. More than two dozen women in the technology start-up industry spoke to The Times in recent days about being sexually harassed. Ten of them named the investors involved, often providing corroborating messages and emails, and pointed to high-profile venture capitalists such as Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital and Dave McClure of 500 Startups.
The disclosures came after the tech news site The Information reported that female entrepreneurs had been preyed upon by a venture capitalist, Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital. The new accounts underscore how sexual harassment in the tech start-up ecosystem goes beyond one firm and is pervasive and ingrained. Now their speaking out suggests a cultural shift in Silicon Valley, where such predatory behavior had often been murmured about but rarely exposed.
The tech industry has long suffered a gender imbalance, with companies such as Google and Facebook acknowledging how few women were in their ranks. Some female engineers have started to speak out on the issue, including a former Uber engineer who detailed a pattern of sexual harassment at the company, setting off internal investigations that spurred the resignation in June of Uber’s chief executive, Travis Kalanick.
Most recently, the revelations about Mr. Caldbeck of Binary Capital have triggered an outcry. The investor has been accused of sexually harassing entrepreneurs while he worked at three different venture firms in the past seven years, often in meetings in which the women were presenting their companies to him.
Several of Silicon Valley’s top venture capitalists and technologists, including Reid Hoffman, a founder of LinkedIn, condemned Mr. Caldbeck’s behavior last week and called for investors to sign a “decency pledge.” Binary has since collapsed, with Mr. Caldbeck leaving the firm and investors pulling money out of its funds.
The chain of events has emboldened more women to talk publicly about the treatment they said they had endured from tech investors.
“Female entrepreneurs are a critical part of the fabric of Silicon Valley,” said Katrina Lake, founder and chief executive of the online clothing start-up Stitch Fix, who was one of the women targeted by Mr. Caldbeck. “It’s important to expose the type of behavior that’s been reported in the last few weeks, so the community can recognize and address these problems.”
The women’s experiences help explain why the venture capital and start-up ecosystem — which underpins the tech industry and has spawned companies such as Google, Facebook and Amazon — has been so lopsided in terms of gender.
Most venture capitalists and entrepreneurs are men, with female entrepreneurs receiving $1.5 billion in funding last year versus $58.2 billion for men, according to the data firm PitchBook. Many of the investors hold outsize power, since entrepreneurs need their money to turn ideas and innovations into a business. And because the venture industry operates with few disclosure requirements, people have kept silent about investors who cross the lines with entrepreneurs.
Some venture capitalists’ abuse of power has come to light in recent years. In 2015, Ellen Pao took her former employer, the prestigious venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, to trial for allegations of gender discrimination, leveling accusations of professional retaliation after spurned sexual advances. Ms. Pao lost the case, but it sparked a debate about whether women in tech should publicly call out unequal treatment.
“Having had several women come out earlier, including Ellen Pao and me, most likely paved the way and primed the industry that these things indeed happen,” said Gesche Haas, an entrepreneur who said she was propositioned for sex by an investor, Pavel Curda, in 2014. Mr. Curda has since apologized.
Some of the entrepreneurs who spoke with The Times said they were often touched without permission by investors or advisers.
At a mostly male tech gathering in Las Vegas in 2009, Susan Wu, an entrepreneur and investor, said that Mr. Sacca, an investor and former Google executive, touched her face without her consent in a way that made her uncomfortable. Ms. Wu said she was also propositioned by Mr. Caldbeck while fund-raising in 2010 and worked hard to avoid him later when they crossed paths.
“There is such a massive imbalance of power that women in the industry often end up in distressing situations,” Ms. Wu said.
After being contacted by The Times, Mr. Sacca wrote in a blog post on Thursday: “I now understand I personally contributed to the problem. I am sorry.” In a statement to The Times, he added that he was “grateful to Susan and the other brave women sharing their stories. I’m confident the result of their courage will be long-overdue, lasting change.”
After the publication of this article, Mr. Sacca contacted The Times again to amend his original statement, adding: “I dispute Susan’s account from 2009.”
Many of the women also said they believed they had limited ability to push back against inappropriate behavior, often because they needed funding, a job or other help.
In 2014, Sarah Kunst, 31, an entrepreneur, said she discussed a potential job at 500 Startups, a start-up incubator in San Francisco. During the recruiting process, Mr. McClure, a founder of 500 Startups and an investor, sent her a Facebook message that read in part, “I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you.”
Ms. Kunst, who now runs a fitness start-up, said she declined Mr. McClure’s advance. When she later discussed the message with one of Mr. McClure’s colleagues, she said 500 Startups ended its conversations with her.
500 Startups said Mr. McClure, who did not respond to a request for comment, was no longer in charge of day-to-day operations after an internal investigation.
“After being made aware of instances of Dave having inappropriate behavior with women in the tech community, we have been making changes internally,” 500 Startups said. “He recognizes he has made mistakes and has been going through counseling to work on addressing changes in his previous unacceptable behavior.”
Rachel Renock, the chief executive of Wethos, described a similar situation in which she faced sexist comments while seeking financing for her online community site. While she and her female partners were fund-raising in March, one investor told them that they should marry for money, that he liked it when women fought back because he would always win, and that they needed more attractive photos of themselves in their presentation.
They put up with the comments, Ms. Renock said, because they “couldn’t imagine a world in which that $500,000 wasn’t on the table anymore.” Ms. Renock declined to name the investor. Wethos raised the $500,000 from someone else and is still fund-raising.
Wendy Dent, 43, whose company Cinemmerse makes an app for smart watches, said she was sent increasingly flirtatious messages by a start-up adviser, Marc Canter, as she was trying to start her company in 2014. Mr. Canter, who had founded a software company in the 1980s that became known as Macromedia, initially agreed to help her find a co-founder. But over time, his messages became sexual in nature.
In one message, reviewed by The Times, he wrote that she was a “sorceress casting a spell.” In another, he commented on how she looked in a blue dress and added, “Know what I’m thinking? Why am I sending you this — in private?”
Mr. Canter, in an interview, said that Ms. Dent “came on strong to me, asking for help” and that she had used her sexuality publicly. He said he disliked her ideas so he behaved the way he did to make her go away.
Some entrepreneurs were asked to not speak about the behavior they experienced.
At a start-up competition in 2014 in San Francisco, Lisa Curtis, an entrepreneur, pitched her food start-up, Kuli Kuli, and was told her idea had won the most plaudits from the audience, opening the door to possible investment. As she stepped off the stage, an investor named Jose De Dios, said, “Of course you won. You’re a total babe.”
Ms. Curtis later posted on Facebook about the exchange and got a call from a different investor. He said “that if I didn’t take down the post, no one in Silicon Valley would give me money again,” she said. Ms. Curtis deleted the post.
In a statement, Mr. De Dios said he “unequivocally did not make a defamatory remark.”
Often, change happens only when there is a public revelation, some of the women said. In the case of Mr. Caldbeck and Binary, the investor and the firm have apologized, as has Mr. Caldbeck’s previous employer, the venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners, which had received complaints about him.
“We regret we did not take stronger action,” Lightspeed said on Twitter on Tuesday. “It is clear now that we should have done more.”
Lindsay Meyer, an entrepreneur in San Francisco, said Mr. Caldbeck put $25,000 of his own money into her fitness start-up in 2015. That gave Mr. Caldbeck reason to constantly text her; in those messages, reviewed by The Times, he asked if she was attracted to him and why she would rather be with her boyfriend than him. At times, he groped and kissed her, she said.
“I felt like I had to tolerate it because this is the cost of being a nonwhite female founder,” said Ms. Meyer, who is Asian-American.
But even after she reached out to a mentor, who alerted one of Binary’s investors, Legacy Venture, to Mr. Caldbeck’s actions, little changed. Legacy went on to invest in Binary’s new fund. Binary and Mr. Caldbeck declined to comment.
“We failed to follow up on information about Mr. Caldbeck’s personal behavior,” Legacy said in a statement. “We regret this oversight and are determined to do better.”
This is neither shocking nor surprising as basically it is Prostitution or Extortion, either/or they are both illegal. That said these are from the stories of women who refused. Let's hear from the Women who said yes and now hate themselves, or don't or now admit they didn't care. And yes they exist.
I think Bill Cosby could have saved a lot of legal bills had he just become a VC.
***ETA since I wrote the blog I read that a Silicon Valley VC has resigned amid "rumors" of an "alleged" sexual assault. The article in The Guardian is here. At this point the only men who seem to be able to sit in a room with a Woman and not rape/abuse/assault a woman is Gay. No wonder the right wants to exclude them as well as they are clearly guardians of the gate to pussy. I am worn out with this shit. Utterly worn out.
Then I read this article and went: "Well we have come nowhere baby!"
It’s Not Just Mike Pence. Americans Are Wary of Being Alone With the Opposite Sex.
Claire Cain Miller The New York Times JULY 1, 2017
Men and women still don’t seem to have figured out how to work or socialize together. For many, according to a new Morning Consult poll conducted for The New York Times, it is better simply to avoid each other.
Many men and women are wary of a range of one-on-one situations, the poll found. Around a quarter think private work meetings with colleagues of the opposite sex are inappropriate. Nearly two-thirds say people should take extra caution around members of the opposite sex at work. A majority of women, and nearly half of men, say it’s unacceptable to have dinner or drinks alone with someone of the opposite sex other than their spouse.
The rest of the survey and article are here
I thought perhaps Americans are so sexually repressed and obsessed with religion that may be the problem but alas then I read about Australia. No, not the Cardinal from the Vatican returning to Australia regarding sexual assaults of Children although that too is another issue that needs discussion, this is about their rape problems on College Campuses
Australia Grapples With Campus Assaults, and Reprisals Against Victims
By JACQUELINE WILLIAMS and DAMIEN CAVE THE NEW YORK TIMES JUNE 21, 2017
CANBERRA, Australia — Female students who have spoken out about sexual assault and harassment on Australian university campuses have returned to their dorm rooms to find them flooded with water.
Others came home to defaced dorm doors or mattresses that had been urinated on.
When Emily Jones, a third-year student, asked a group of men to stop encircling women during a barroom tradition — in which men drop their pants and sing when the Australian song “Eagle Rock” is played — she was ostracized by friends and condemned by the news media for joining the “fun police.”
“Rather than being happy to make a compromise because so many women were feeling unsafe, they’d rather just keep having a good time,” Ms. Jones, 22, said in an interview on campus here. “I was very disheartened.”
Australia has some of the highest rates of reported sexual assault in the world, according to the United Nations, and over the past year a steady stream of on-campus assaults, ritualized misogyny and cruel retaliation have prompted a national conversation about gender, power and accountability.
A January report by the advocacy group End Rape on Campus Australia found that universities had frequently failed to support victims of sexual assault and harassment. In some cases, the report said, they actively sought to cover up sexual assaults to avoid reputational damage.
And while the problem is global, each new scandal here — just this week, a young woman accused a Greens party member of date rape — has led to more women speaking out, as well as an angry response from what many Australians consider a core element of this country’s identity: its hypermasculine culture.
“It is standard, in fact, that when a student exposes sexism or misogyny in their own university they are almost always met with horrendous backlash and ostracism, including reprisals,” said Nina Funnell, a victims’ advocate and writer. “That’s incredibly common in Australia.”
Australian university officials — especially at the two elite universities facing the most criticism, Australian National and Sydney — insist that they are tackling the problem head on.
Sydney University recently set up a rape hotline and improved training for staff, said Tyrone Carlin, deputy vice chancellor. A.N.U. introduced a sexual consent training course for all first-year students this year, said Richard Baker, pro vice chancellor of the university.
Investigating the Response to Sexual Assault in Australia
How are universities and other institutions in Australia responding to sexual assault and sexual harassment? To inform our coverage, we’re asking readers to contribute their stories.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is also conducting a survey of 39,000 students at 39 Australian universities to map the full extent of the problem.
“All universities are putting in an enormous amount of effort,” said Belinda Robinson, chief executive of Universities Australia, an association of the country’s universities, which helped finance the survey. “This whole-of-sector approach is a world first.”
But many students question the universities’ commitment. They say that it is still common for complaints to linger without a university response; for men accused of, say, rating women’s bodies on social media to receive little punishment; and for there to be little coordination at a national level.
The activists say their demands are reasonable: a university hotline that offers help from a trained trauma professional, required sexual consent training and a clear and transparent system for adjudicating complaints.
In the United States, where sexual assault on campus continues to be a problem, mandatory consent education has become increasingly common. Databases of sexual assault cases at universities can be easily tracked online, and because of Title IX — a 1972 federal law mandating equal access to higher education — every American educational institution receiving federal funding is required to have a Title IX coordinator, whom victims can contact to report sex discrimination, sexual harassment or violence.
In Australia, many students say that requests for similar policies have been thwarted or delayed even as reports of sexual assault reached a six-year high last year.
At A.N.U. and Sydney, the problems have long been obvious. Last year, in an open letter to Sydney University officials, women who served in student government wrote: “For an entire decade we have been raising the issue of sexual assault and harassment on campus with the administration. For an entire decade we have been met with resistance to change.”
At Sydney University, for example, the Safer Communities Working Group set up more than a year ago in part to deal with sexual assault is seen by some students as window dressing.
“I was pretty hopeful, maybe naïvely, coming into it, thinking we could bring students’ concerns there and they would be addressed,” said Anna Hush, 23, a philosophy student who was part of the group last year. “But it was much more them telling us what they were doing rather than us contributing to decisions being made.”
Katie Thorburn, 22, the student government co-women’s officer at Sydney University, said that school officials initially resisted a pilot program for sexual consent education, then bristled at questions about why they ended up choosing a voluntary quiz in which students could skip questions to reach the end.
“They’re tougher on plagiarism,” Ms. Thorburn said.
A Sydney University spokeswoman said they would review that concern as the program was used more widely.
Some men on campus acknowledged a wider problem — “the treatment of women as sex objects first,” as Harry Licence, 20, a second-year media and communications student, put it.
In the most recent scandal, a student at St. Paul’s, an elite residential college, posted a screed on Facebook comparing sex with large women to “harpooning a whale” and offering advice on how to “get rid of some chick” after “rooting” her.
Mr. Licence, who has friends at St. Paul’s, said that wherever privileged students from all-boys schools are concentrated, there is a lack of experience with treating women as equals.
“I think there are significant issues that come from living within that bubble,” he said.
In Canberra, Ms. Jones is still dealing with the consequences of that insularity.
The “Eagle Rock” incident happened on the dance floor of a bar in her former residential college, Burton and Garran, during a mixer last August. Ever since she wrote in April about the criticism she received after speaking out about it, she has not felt welcome there.
Residents of her dorm started blasting “Eagle Rock,” a 1971 Australian rock song often played at rugby games and bars, down the hallways. Some of her friends stopped talking to her and ignored her in the dining hall, common tactics, experts say.
Karen Willis, executive officer of Rape and Domestic Violence Services, Australia, said other standard acts of retaliation include flooding, urinating on mattresses and insults on social media.
At A.N.U., officials have been grappling for more than a year with sexist incidents, especially in its residential colleges, most of which are independently governed living quarters, similar to American fraternities and sororities.
Last year, university officials discovered a secret online group started by students at John XXIII, a prestigious Catholic residential college, who were sharing pictures of students’ breasts and rating them on Facebook.
In March, four male students there were caught chanting graphic sexual rhymes about “nailing” women.
In both cases, the students were disciplined, and some suspended. Burton and Garran Hall has also officially prohibited the encircling of women when “Eagle Rock” is played.
Jane O’Dwyer, an Australian National spokeswoman, said the university was working to address a nationwide problem. “It’s a cultural issue in Australia,” she said. “We have a hypermasculine society.”
That culture, advocates say, means serious cases still go unpunished.
“We all know women who have been raped,” Ms. Jones said. “What ends up usually happening to the perpetrator is they just either do nothing or move them to another college. It reminds me of the way the Catholic Church moved the priests along.”
The End Rape on Campus report, based on public records at 27 of the country’s universities, found that 575 complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault made to Australian universities in the last five years resulted in only six expulsions.
Australian National officials say they are still trying to improve their response to the problem.
“The university is reviewing all of its policies and procedures to see if we can further enhance their transparency and fairness,” Professor Baker said.
But the universities have a long way to go if they want to cleanse the toxic atmosphere that drove a Sydney University student to the brink last fall.
After she wrote a column in the student newspaper about sexual harassment and assault on campus, the student, Justine Landis-Hanley, was barraged with shaming comments on social media. Classmates stopped speaking to her, she said, even refusing to make eye contact.
Then the personal photos that decorated her dorm door started disappearing, one a day.
“What hurt so much was the fact that people I lived with, whom I had come to think of as my family, would purposely try to make me feel like scum,” she said. “They were trying, albeit in a pretty pathetic and cowardly way, to run me out of my home.”
Finally, when there was only one picture left, Ms. Landis-Hanley took it down herself.
As she wrote on Facebook, “I was taken to hospital that night for being suicidal.”
At this point I am not sure what I can lend to this discussion. My Mother was Australian and in my youth I spent quite a bit of time in the Country and loved it. I have been many times but have not in the last decade as the rise in racism led me to rethink returning and frankly I was over it as the distance from the rest of the world was the last thing I needed. I have long lost contact with my family who still live there and while I think of them in passing, we were just like most of the people I have known, intense acquaintances that I have loved in passing.
I cannot comment on the men in Australia today but how are they different than the men on American College campuses? They aren't. They just finished the third Vanderbilt rape trial and I am actually tired of talking about this subject. But what is says that Men and Women fear each other. When you have fear you have rage and when you have rage you have violence. I cannot stress enough that we keep pretending Millennials are the answer no they are the mirrors to the culture at large. They rebrand Taxi and Limo services, they act violent and abusive and are racist and smug. They are all of us. They will not solve this they will simply bury it and pretend it is a problem of someone else or another age. What.ever.