Sexual harassment in silicon valley

Sexual harassment in Silicon Valley has affected 60 percent of the senior women in technology, according a recent survey. The survey, Elephant in the Valley, surveyed more than 200 women of power and influence in the Bay Area. According to the respondents, nearly 60 percent of these women stated that they had received unwanted sexual advances in the workplace. 65 percent of those advances came from a superior, and 1 in 3 stated that the advances made them fear for their safety.

The authors of the survey wrote that they were inspired by the conversations generated by the Ellen Pao trial. Writing on their website the authors stated, “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. In an effort to correct the massive information disparity, we decided to get the data and the stories.”

Treo Vassallo, an investor and advisor who participated in the Ellen Pao trial was also one of the authors of the survey. She testified against Kleiner Perkins during the trial , vividly recalling her own experience being sexually harassed by a former partner at the VC firm. Afterwards, she stated that a large number of women approached her with their own horrifying stories of harassment. Moved by what she heard from others, Vassallo wanted to be a catalyst to continue to conversation and bring change.

Part of the problem could be that women are the minority in the tech world. Nearly 80 percent of reported sexual harassment crimes are committed by men against women, especially when men are senior to them. The purpose of this survey is to make these numbers more visible. The hope is that by bringing these stories to light, and exposing the data that has been collected, the male-dominated culture of sexual harassment will be tempered within the workplace.

 

Article via Cnet, 11 January 2016

Photo: Trae Vassallo, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers by Dow Jones Events [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Former Reddit CEO urges women and minorities to “Speak up” against discrimination

In March of 2015, Reddit’s former CEO Ellen Pao lost a widely publicized discrimination case against venture capital giant Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers. Despite the loss, Pao’s advice for tackling sexism and racism in Silicon Valley is to continue to “Speak up.”

Pao published an essay about her battles with discrimination in law and tech on Lena Dunham’s website Lenny.

“Unfortunately, some people just don’t treat men and women, white and minorities, heterosexuals and LGBTQs as equals. We could all work harder and better than everyone else, but we weren’t getting a fair shot to rise to the top,” Pao observed after entering the tech industry.

Yet, according to Pao, it’s (gradually) getting better. She cites women and minorities’ willingness to share “others’ bad behavior, data, and their own experiences publicly” as the main source of progress, and encourages people to continue to take part in public conversation about issues affecting them.

Pao’s high-profile discrimination case, though unsuccessful on surface-level, initiated conversations that lead companies like AppleGoogle and Twitter to actively pursue diversity in their workforces.

Reddit users complained that Pao was engaging in censorship when she shut down five forums associated with online harassment. After receiving a petition with over 200,000 signatures for her to step down, Pao resigned from her position of interim CEO.

“I was called the ‘most hated person on the Internet’; a recent article even called me a ‘pariah of Silicon Valley’,” Pao admits. In the face of such hostility, she continues to advocate boldness and offer solidarity: “Don’t be silent… You are not alone. There are millions of women and men who are supporting you and want you to succeed.”

Article via CNET, November 10, 2015

Photo: Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network 2014 – Austin via Dell Inc. [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Moving toward world peace through hackathons

Hackathons have proven to be a great way to use tech for good. Often described as a great equalizer, technology can be leveraged to bring voice to people that society often ignores. Social activists are turning to hackathons to help spread their message and develop solutions, instead of waiting on the government to initiate change.

One such activist is Hera Hussain, founder of the advocacy group Chayn. Chayn is a volunteer-led, open source project that leverages technology to empower women against violence and oppression so they can live happier and healthier lives. They offer tools to help abused women build a domestic violence case without a lawyer, and advise about how a person can be tracked on and offline, among other things. This organization is all about individuals empowered to make change. One of their main ways to get the community involved is hackathons.

Hussain says that hackathons are events that bring together important parts of society that isolate themselves when it comes to women’s issues. “You either have events that just focus on women…” Hussain says, “or you have events that are completely dominated by men and are either forgetting that women exist or have separate issues. There’s very little middle ground that uses an integrated women lens as part of a broader focus of solving societal challenges.”

Bringing together these problem solvers is crucial to making real progress in the future. Hussain states that Chayn is about solving problems with, and not for, women in different communities. This organization is dedicated to allowing women to choose what they want to do with their lives while being treated equally during the process. Hussain says, “We always come back to independence and happiness as our two biggest goals..”

Article via Good Magazine, 22 September 2015

Photo: Hacking for Women’s Empowerment via Bread For The World [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]


Microsoft sued for gender discrimination

Former technician Katherine Moussouris sued Microsoft this Wednesday for gender discrimination. She alleges that Microsoft paid and promoted female employees less than male coworkers, and that women in the company were also ranked consistently below men. Moussouri proposed the class action lawsuit after working at Microsoft between 2007 and 2014.

The lawsuit states that the tech company’s practices and policies “systematically violate female technical employees’ rights and result in unchecked gender bias that pervades its corporate culture.”

This suit occurs as other tech giants, recently Twitter and Facebook, also battle gender discrimination lawsuits. Public interest in women’s role in the workplace has increased since Ellen Pao filed a high-profile lawsuit against the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for unequal treatment on the basis of gender.

Microsoft released a statement in response to Moussouri’s allegations: “We’re committed to a diverse workforce, and to a workplace where all employees have the chance to succeed.”

 

Article via CNET, 16 September 2015

Photo: Microsoft via Thomas Hawk [Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs]