There's certainly no shortage of awareness that Silicon Valley has a gender problem. A push for transparency in diversity data by big tech companies a couple of summers ago and the high-profile sexual harassment trial by Ellen Pao against VC firm Kleiner Perkins shone a bright spotlight on the issue of women's treatment in the industry. Has all the attention made a difference?
Co-authored by tech industry veterans Trae Vassallo, Ellen Levy, Michele Madansky, Hillary Micelle, and Bennett Porter, along with Stanford academics Monica Leas and Julie Oberweis, the report is a deep dive into what it's really like to be a woman in tech. And it's pretty ugly.
A parade of ugly statistics...
To gather data for their report, the authors asked more than 200 women in the industry to share their stories of sexism, focusing on issues like feedback and promotions, attitudes toward motherhood, and harassment. Here are some of horrifying statistics this effort turned up:
- 90 percent witnessed sexist behavior at company offsites and/or industry conferences.
- 88 percent have had clients or colleagues address their male peers instead of them.
- 84 percent of respondents have been told they were too aggressive.
- 75 percent were asked about their family situation, including marital status and children, in interviews.
- 66 percent felt excluded from networking opportunities because of their gender.
- 60 percent reported being the target of unwanted sexual advances from a superior.
- 60 percent who reported sexual harassment were dissatisfied with the outcome.
- 47 percent have been asked to do lower-level tasks, like ordering food, that men are not asked to.
... and uglier stories.
But while these numbers are pretty shocking, they might not be as terrible as some of the first person accounts of sexism included in the report. Here are a few:
"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 I told my boss, so unfortunately I asked to be taken off that client."
"I had a fellow VC sending me flowers, gifts, even a mix-tape, 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 likes married women and put his hand on mine. (I'm married)."
"At Company X we had a joke that there were only two reviews for women - you are either too reticent or you are too bossy - no middle ground."
"I was once invited to a networking event, only to have the invite rescinded when I rsvp'd and they realized I was a woman -- they told me 'this is just for the guys.'"
"When I am with a male colleague who reports to me the default is for people to defer to him assuming I work for him... I have also had male colleagues say to me that once a woman is pregnant she is irrelevant."
"I was asked during fundraising meetings 'how do we know you're not going to run off and have a baby?'"
"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 authors are hoping that ignorance is behind some of the bad behavior highlighted in their report. "What we realized is that while many women shared similar workplace stories, most men were simply shocked and unaware of the issues facing women in the workplace," they commented. But with so much public discussion of the issue already, one has to wonder if more awareness alone is really going to make much difference.
Still, it's an intriguing project full of eye-popping information. It's also a collaborative effort, so other women who have had similar experiences can share their stories on the website. Or, if you're looking for more insight from the authors, check out this interview with Trae Vassallo and Michele Madansky on Re/code.
Are you shocked by this report or is it pretty much old news to you?