For many tech companies and large corporations making news these days, it is less for their accomplishments than for the way employees in positions of power are treating women in the workplace. Back in 2012, Ellen Pao filed a lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins casting a (very bright) spotlight on gender discrimination against women in Silicon Valley. Although unsuccessful, her case led to many more stories and lawsuits about gender inequality and sexual harassment in some of the country’s most prominent and well-known companies.
Think about some of the headlines you’ve read recently: Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick resigned amidst serious allegations of sexual harassment by Susan Fowler. Fox News has been dealing with widespread allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination by several of its broadcasters and executives. Google has been accused of paying women less than men for similar jobs. Dave McClure, the founder of 500 Startups, resigned from his position after being accused of hitting on a job applicant. Another partner at his company left claiming the company covered up a separate harassment incident involving McClure. Add another Silicon Valley scandal to the list.
After what the Los Angeles Times newspaper calls a report “detailing accusations of sexual harassment from multiple female tech entrepreneurs, Justin Caldbeck has resigned from Binary Capital,” a small venture capital firm in San Francisco.
Although Caldbeck was not well known by many people outside of Silicon Valley, the information disclosed by the women demonstrates the imbalances and inequities that still exist for working women, at least the ones working in these particular industries. The New York Times reports that “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.”
Lawsuits may not be filed against any of the businesses or individuals. Many of the women are not employees of Caldbeck or Binary. They are women who were seeking capital for their businesses. The women shared information about some of what they experienced, including:
One former employee did file a lawsuit because she claimed Caldbeck was harassing and threatening her, trying to convince her to keep quiet. Other women are unsure about what laws protect them since they are not employees. They worry about losing their jobs, their companies, and any leverage to secure capital in an environment dominated by males. Fear of being labeled is one reason that keeps these women quiet.
How do we change this culture? According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, in the wake of the latest allegations against Caldbeck, venture capitalists are calling for “their industry to adopt a Decency Pledge.” Such a pledge would encourage venture capitalists and firms to police themselves, to understand that as soon as you start discussing business, “there is no such thing as an innocent or appropriate sexual proposition or remark.” There are also suggestions from business insiders that reporting misconduct should be encouraged just as it would be in any other industry.
Sexual harassment and sex discrimination are not unique to Silicon Valley, startups or venture capitalists. Here in New York City and the nearby counties, workers in all industries may find themselves in a difficult situation. If you are an employee of a large corporation, restaurant, medical office or retail establishment, contact Leeds Brown Law, P.C. for help with your discrimination claim. If you are being sexually harassed, discriminated against because of your gender or otherwise being mistreated by your employer, call Leeds Brown to find out how to file a claim for damages. Your consultation is free so call today. 1-800-585-4658.