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Silicon Valley execs highlight tech's equality problem

'The Elephant in the Valley' website discusses sexual harassment and denied opportunities for women in the tech workplace.
Silicon Valley execs highlight tech's equality problem
Daniel Cooper
Daniel Cooper|@danielwcooper|January 12, 2016 12:51 PM

Silicon Valley is slowly taking steps to address its diversity and equality issues, but oftentimes this problem is spoken as if just hiring from a wider pool of people will solve everything. There is another issue, which is centered around the toxic bro culture that appears to permeate swathes of the technology industry. That's why a group of prominent women decided to conduct a survey that highlights the indignities that they face on a regular basis. The project polled around 200 people, each of whom has at least 10 years experience in the technology industry, and the results make you wonder if we're still living in the 1950s.

The study has been published under the title The Elephant in the Valley and includes anonymized stories from the coal face of the industry. Some of the more humiliating experiences that are mentioned include investors asking a startup founder how likely she was to "run off and have a baby." Another witnessed a conversation where a successful female employee was denied a promotion and a pay rise. The reason for the denial was because, having recently married, she was very likely to "have a baby and quit soon."

The study reports that 60 percent of the women surveyed received unwanted sexual advances by male colleagues. One in three of that figure also said that they felt threatened by male employees because of work-related circumstances. Others said that, as a lone woman, they felt at risk at various events, including one who was followed back to her car by "aggressive attendees" after speaking at an event. Another was told that the only way that they'd receive a promotion was if they slept with their boss.

The survey was spearheaded by Trae Vassallo, a high-profile Silicon Valley dealmaker who helped arrange deals for Nest and Dropcam. Despite being involved with purchases worth $4 billion, Re/code reports that she was forced out of VC firm Kleiner Perkins. Shortly afterward, she testified in Ellen Pao's gender discrimination lawsuit, saying that she had also been harassed by the same partner in the firm. Vassallo's project has been joined by several other dealmakers and experts, including Ellen Levy, Michele Madansky and Monica Leas. The full results are available at the source link are all worth checking out.

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Silicon Valley execs highlight tech's equality problem