Tales From the Valley: Bias, Sexism & Worse
Most women in the technology industry have likely come up against unconscious biases and skewed company cultures, but what about slights that are purposeful, even illegal? Unfortunately, it turns out they are a common occurrence as well.
According to a new survey, entitled Elephant in the Valley and first reported on by Re/code, the majority of women working in the Valley have been a witness to or victim of discrimination, sexism and sexual harassment.
Results from the survey were released this week, chronicling the experiences of more than 200 women, primarily based in the Bay Area and with at least ten years of experience. Seventy-seven percent of the women were over 40 years old, 75% have children and 25% are CXOs, coming from companies ranging from startups to big names like Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL), Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and VMware Inc. (NYSE: VMW). (See A Vast Valley: Tech's Inexcusable Gender Gap.)
The survey was inspired by the Ellen Pao lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, in which she sued her former employer for gender discrimination. Pao ultimately lost the suit, but her trial cast a light on the ugly side of working in the Valley -- something, it turns out, a lot of women can relate to. (See Women in Tech Coming Into Focus.)
The results include a number of disheartening personal stories about being unwittingly and purposefully left out, discounted and -- at worst -- sexually harassed in the workplace. It also includes a number of staggering stats, such as:
- 84% of women have been told they are too aggressive, half of them hearing it on multiple occasions
- 66% felt excluded from key social/networking opportunities because of gender
- 90% witnessed sexist behavior at company off-sites and/or industry conferences
- 88% have experienced clients/colleagues address questions to male peers that should be addressed to them
- 75% were asked about family life, marital status and children in interviews (which, by the way, is illegal)
- 60% of women in tech reported unwanted sexual advances, 65% of which came from superiors, and -- of those that reported it -- 60% that reported them were dissatisfied with the course of action
"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," one woman shared (and, yes, this was last year, not from a Mad Men episode).
The survey results are disheartening, albeit probably not surprising to many women in the industry (although most likely to many men). The authors, including former KPC&B partner Trae Vassallo, who was one of Pao's key witnesses, are still collecting stories with the hopes of shedding light on the issues -- an important first step to rectifying them.
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading