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Requests for sexual favors. Trapped in a conference room by a male coworker. These and much more shocking examples of the types of harassment women in tech have experienced were documented in a new survey released Tuesday by the networking nonprofit Women Who Tech with funding from Craigslist founder Craig Newmark through his charitable foundation.
“For too long the tech industry has been filled with a lot of men in tech who are perpetuating what people call the boy’s club, and it’s time to end that,” Newmark told Business Insider.
The survey shows an industry that, despite pledges to do better, still struggles with creating an equitable environment for women.
The survey questioned over 1,000 startup founders and employees, mostly women, between February and March, spanning into the early stages of the U.S. outbreak of COVID-19. Although the study doesn’t account for how the sudden ubiquity of working from home may have impacted harassment, it does raise troubling questions about what kind of working environment women will return to when the pandemic ends.
The women in the study reported anecdote after anecdote of harassment. For instance, one female employee described an incident at work where “he asked if he could rub my feet and if I would take explicit photos.”
Another said she had been “kissed on the back of the neck without my knowledge or approval while sitting at my desk.”
And another reported being “locked in a conference room while a co-worker masturbated between me and the door.”
The surveyed distinguished between female startup founders and female employees of tech companies.
It found 44% of women founders said they had experienced harassment. For female founders of color, the rate was even higher at 47%, and LGBTQ founders reported a rate of 65%. Frequently the source of the harassment was a potential investor, the woman said in the survey.
For instance, one founder in the survey said she and another another female founder were invited by an investor to an “opulent private club” with hot tubs. The investor “kept inviting one of our female founders” to use the hot tubs with him as they discussed a funding deal “implying we could close sooner if she’d agree to go,” the founder reported in the survey.
Of the female founders who said they experienced harassment, 41% said it was sexual in nature.
But not all of what they reported was harassment. They also faced discrimination. Nearly half of the female founders in the survey said they had been told they would raise more money if they were a man.
‘Free lunch doesn’t stop harassment’
Among female tech employees, almost half said they had been harassed, and 43% of those said the harassment had been sexual. Sexual harassment most frequently took the form of offensive jokes, “sexual slurs,” and unwanted physical contact. More than a third said they had been propositioned for sex.
Of the women who reported harassment incidents to HR, 85% said the person they reported faced no repercussions. And 45% of workers said they faced negative consequences after reporting.
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Source:: Business Insider