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03 Jul 2017

Taking down the sexist culture of Silicon Valley

Too little, too late!

Silicon Valley's insidious environment isn't really a secret, but this week has been tumultuous.

It all started with allegations of sexual harassment against Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital, who reportedly harassed at least six women working with him.

Since then, several women have revealed their tales of horror with established names in the tech-startup industry.

Is this going to be the long-awaited mass awakening?

In context

Too little, too late!
What exactly is happening?


What exactly is happening?

Many female entrepreneurs came out in recent-times to share stories of being harassed, molested, groped by the powerful investors.

At a tech gathering, Susan Wu had to tolerate as Chris Sacca of Lowercase Capital touched her without permission.

Meanwhile, Rachel Renock and her female partners had to stand by as an investor asked them to put "more attractive photos" of themselves in their presentation.

Susan Fowler

"It's been going on for a while": Susan Fowler effect

The women of Silicon Valley will remember Susan Fowler as a hero, a former employee who managed to take down the chief of Uber.

It shook the industry, but it wasn't news for the women inside. The only difference this time was that the victim wasn't sharing her experience only with friends and family.

Fowler came on record and possibly started a powerful trend.

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So why were they quiet?

The victims are often amateur entrepreneurs, trying to raise seed funds, even before they have entered Silicon Valley.

The harassers, the investors, hold the key to their dreams, and consequently, a certain power over them.

There's no support system for these women in the male-dominated industry either, where members tend to look out and cover up for each other.

Not the first time

It's not as if they never tried

Dave McClure of 500 Startups made unwanted advances towards Sarah Kunst. When she spoke to his colleague about it, 500 Startups terminated communication with her.

Lisa Curtis took to Facebook to share details of sexist comments by investor Jose De Dios. Soon, another investor called her and asked her to take it down, else she was told no one would give her money again.

What can be done to better the situation?

Now what?

What can be done to better the situation?

One way is for established women entrepreneurs to provide juniors an adequate support system like they have, but the challenge is making it accessible to those who need it.

Then there's this new concept: a 'Decency Pledge', a code of conduct for the entire industry. But do people need a 'pledge' to be decent?

In the long run, balanced gender representation is key.

Can it be improved?

Y Combinator: Empowering female entrepreneurs right from entry

To counter the sexist environment, Y Combinator's Female Founders conference, an annual gathering of aspiring and established female entrepreneurs is focusing this time on "Uber in the room".

The tech incubator program also provides protection to its protégés. "We will speak up on the founders' behalf, always," says co-creator Jessica Livingston.

It has also launched an anonymous forum where victims can let others know.

So will this awakening take hold?

How long do I wait?

So will this awakening take hold?

In some heartening-news, McClure has stepped down with a post titled "I'm a Creep. I'm Sorry". This came a day after Sacca admitted to his misbehavior.

But is it a one-time thing or will this wave leave permanent marks? We'll have to wait and watch.

One thing is certain: depriving those bright women of opportunities will leave the industry much behind its potential peak.

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