Sexual Harassment and the lack of an inclusive culture in startups of Silicon Valley

Kalanick’s world melted with one blog post by Susan Fowler. A detailed, dispassionate 2,910-word account by an ex-Uber engineer opened a can of worms for Uber and brought forward the misogynistic culture of the $68b company.

“When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man’s first offense, and that they wouldn’t feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he “was a high performer” (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn’t feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part.” – Susan J Fowler

Close on the heels of Uber, Justin Caldbeck, Partner at Binary Capital, put in his papers for sexual misconduct against female founders.

In another alley, a Silicon Valley tech worker had to undergo the horror of being groped by her CTO after an office party. You know what’s worse? The CEO refused to fire the perpetrator. Eventually, the woman had to move while the predator flourished because he was a friend of the founder and successfully defended his actions under the guise of a hug.

“I felt disgusted for months after that,” said Haana, who requested that the Guardian not include her full name or identify the small tech startup where she used to do marketing. “It affects me on a level that I wish it didn’t.”

There is something seriously wrong with the startup valley. Toxic work culture seems more of a norm, rather than an aberration. In a recent research study, more than 60% women face some form of sexual exploitation at work in the Silicon Valley.

Under the guise of innovation and disruption, the culture at startups conveniently excludes women. The not-so-subtle reminders are late night parties where booze flows and bonding happens over shaved heads.

It’s sad that sexism and discrimination haunt women even at high-profile technology companies, including Twitter, Apple, Oracle, and Google.

This much is clear that these technology giants overlooked an inclusive work culture while building their organisations.

Where did we go wrong? How can we fix it?  

Why do we forget that a culture that ignores half of the workforce is built to fail, even after being uber successful.  

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