It's no longer the women who are resigned
July 1, 2017 10:00 AM   Subscribe

Two years ago, Ellen Pao lost her discrimination lawsuit against VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Many women in the startup world became discouraged about speaking out about their experiences, but that has changed radically. In February former Uber engineer Susan Fowler published a blog post detailing harassment at Uber(previously). This inspired an investigation, and others began to share stories of other horrible practices at Uber, eventually leading to founder Travis Kalanick resigning last week (and the resignation of a board member who couldn't help making a sexist joke during a meeting to discuss the allegations). Binary Capital partner Justin Caldbeck resigned shortly thereafter following several women coming forward to report inappropriate behavior toward them while fundraising; Binary has since announced it is shutting down its most recent fund, and two other partners have resigned. On Thursday, VC and Shark Tank investor Chris Sacca published a Medium post about his realization that he has "more work to do". Less than 24 hours later, the New York Times published a report of multiple women coming forward on the record with corroborating documentation to name Chris Sacca and a number of other high-profile VCs in further allegations of sexism, harassment, and inappropriate behavior.

Women in tech are finally being taken seriously. Not addressed in the recent weeks of chaos, however, are the even worse stats for people of color in tech, and the many types of harassment, dismissal, and microaggressions they face when fundraising and working in the industry.
posted by olinerd (34 comments total) 49 users marked this as a favorite
I am a (white) woman founder in the Bay Area and I've been watching this with fascination and, to be honest, a sort of hope. I've never seen the conversation going like this. The women coming forward are incredibly brave, and I am so grateful to them.

Also, didn't link in the post because some friends are involved with these, but a few groups working to make tech less of a hellish place for women and minorities to be:
Project Include
Project Alloy
Kapor Capital's Founders' Commitment

There is also the Decency Pledge proposed by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman in light of the Binary Capital fiasco.
posted by olinerd at 10:06 AM on July 1, 2017 [19 favorites]

I'm also in the startup world, but not as a founder, and I too am really grateful for all these women being so brave to speak up. It encourages me to speak up more at work.
posted by Monday at 10:18 AM on July 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

This also helps explain some of the weirdness I'd experienced as an engaged WoC online, ever since the Sacca Medium was brought to my notice.
posted by infini at 10:22 AM on July 1, 2017

One of the best things that has happened to the Startup Sauna ecosystem here in Finland has been making a minority (ethnicity/culture/language but not "colour") woman the CEO. I've watched her grow and make us all proud over the past year. Though old enough to be her mother, I'm even more of a visible minority and the past year has seen a difference for us all, genderwise, in what was a boyzone on a tech campus. I have very high hopes for this young generation in their twenties.
posted by infini at 10:27 AM on July 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

I know both Chris Sacca and Dave McClure and I'm just really disappointed. It's not just offensive behavior, it's stupid. Your job is to manage money for LPs. You are very well paid to do that. That job gives you power over entrepreneurs you meet. Why fuck that all up by making any sort of pass at someone? Both men have gone out of their way in careers to try to help women and underrepresented minorities, so I like to believe it's complicated and people make mistakes. But there's just zero excuse for mixing sex and investment.

There's something a bit fishy about 500 Startups saying McClure is "no longer in charge of day-to-day operations". I wish the NYTimes had dug deeper. McClure is still listed as the only General Partner of the fund, which means he has all the legal authority. Given the way funds are structured that's hard to change. Also whatever 500 Startups did they did it very recently, and didn't even notify the LPs. Not some orderly fixing a problem.

I don't know Marc Canter, I'm glad to say, but he seems like a real ass. That quote in the article about how he harassed a woman to make her go away is just jaw-dropping. He took off swinging on Twitter too, calling various women liars. Those tweets are deleted now.

It does feel like we're at the start of a change where women feel more able to speak up and they get at least some support. OTOH it's a vulnerable position and I fear very little will change for real.
posted by Nelson at 10:28 AM on July 1, 2017 [7 favorites]

[One comment deleted. For info on the July Best Post Contest, check that Metatalk. There's no tag required to participate. If you think a post is really great, please flag it with the Fantastic flag.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:29 AM on July 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

“I was getting confused figuring out whether to hire you or hit on you.”

What about women in professional roles is "confusing"? Goddamn.
posted by sockermom at 1:40 PM on July 1, 2017 [12 favorites]

I found the NYTimes article simply delightful as it called out these gentlemen by name with very clear evidence of their wrongdoing. It's not just that their names will be burned permanently with a link to this article on the web and will appear with every web search moving forward - but I guarantee that all of their mothers and their mother's friends read the NYTimes. What I'm sure was once an opportunity to "kid brag", has now become complete family humiliation. The holidays could simple not come soon enough for the awkwardness and embarrassment that this article will cause.

Perhaps a small token of schadenfreude, but a delightful one. And certainly, well deserved.
posted by Toddles at 1:52 PM on July 1, 2017 [7 favorites]

Oh gosh, I do know one of those guys. Way back 35 years ago in college and just after, and yes he was an incredible asshole. He was well-known for it. For some reason I thought he had grown out of it. My god it's just so stupid.
posted by maggiemaggie at 3:53 PM on July 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

I guarantee that all of their mothers and their mother's friends read the NYTimes. What I'm sure was once an opportunity to "kid brag", has now become complete family humiliation. The holidays could simple not come soon enough for the awkwardness and embarrassment that this article will cause.

Perhaps a small token of schadenfreude, but a delightful one. And certainly, well deserved.

yeah, their mothers sure do deserve to share in the humiliation for their sons' crimes. if you can't shame a man, there's always his closest female relative to serve as a substitute.

and definitely a man who doesn't give a shit about women's thoughts and feelings will change his tune when his mother gets upset with him. sure it didn't make any difference throughout his entire childhood and life to this point, but it's bound to be different now.

seriously, not even the pretense of "all of their mother and fathers"?
posted by queenofbithynia at 3:59 PM on July 1, 2017 [30 favorites]

I'm not spilling over with happiness that this conversation is happening because GUESS WHAT? The entire conversation is being dominated by these same techbro douchebags and their "I deny everything" blog posts and their bullshit distancing statements and their revolting "I used to be such a guilty, clueless young man but now I am uber fucking woke" and their bullshit pledges and pop-up organisations.

I have yet to hear "Hey. Women who have lived this thing. What can I do to make amends and improve shit for you?"

So shut the fuck up and sit the fuck down. And maybe use your power to invite someone else to the podium, motherfucker.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:16 PM on July 1, 2017 [35 favorites]

Oh my, the comments in that NYT article from far too many men (and even, more sadly, some women) castigating and taking to task the women in the accompanying photo for dressing provocatively and using their sexuality to get ahead.

One moment while I BARF!!

Three women in little-to-no makeup, wearing, alternately, long pants and a Zeppelin t-shirt, shorts and a shirt (hi, it's summer), and a regular skirt wihile seated with her legs crossed, none of this sexually provocative, sexually coded, nor about sexuality in any way, are deemed to be intentional sex objects for men. What the actual fuck?!?

Zuckerberg in a hoodie, jeans, and sneakers is utterly non-sexual, the "hip" thing, but these women doing their jobs, full stop is some kind of planned wily harlotry to get ahead?!? This is beyond offensive, this is a profound, boiling sickness in our culture.

Sure, as a cis-hetero man this apalls and enrages me, but way before that, as a human being this is utterly devastating. This deep-in-the-bone societal cancer deforms, limits, and destroys each and every one of us, male, female, trans, agender, keeping each of us from remotely attaining our best, authentic selves and getting anywhere close to discovering our possibilities. The weasely back-tracking and minimizing of the powerful men quoted/reported upon in the article is...beyond disheartening, as even when called out nationally there is clearly no price really to be paid, no consequence to effectively, again, nationally saying Yeah I did it, it was wrong, no wait, fuck it, I didn't do it plus haha she's a crazy witch anyway whatever.

The outright sexual objectification of women in this industry, in our culture, in this world, must STOP. We are adults. We can and by God should have our sexualities without having regressive patriarchal power games and struggles de facto woven into them, let alone having sexuality and these power dominations brought into every. single. aspect. of. life.

It is far, far past time for all of life, and women's possibilities, to stop being determined by what is seen through the lenses of regressive, sex-obsessed, infantile violent man-babies.


On preview: Per DarlingBri I will now sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up.
posted by riverlife at 5:35 PM on July 1, 2017 [16 favorites]

Dave McClure wrote a statement / apology: I’m a Creep. I’m Sorry.
posted by Nelson at 5:55 PM on July 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

DarlingBri, totally with you. That said, it is at least something to see resignations happening as opposed to just the born-again blog posts. (Which I agree are tiresome and also utterly laughable when only published in response to a bunch of bad PR) I can only hope even more resignations and oustings - real ones, not just removing someone "from day to day operations" while they remain on payroll - starts to set a precedent for zero tolerance for this shit.
posted by olinerd at 6:49 PM on July 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

That apology is...kind of gross. He's still painting himself as just an ignorant dummy who didn't know the rules even though he should have learned how to behave appropriately by now, as though he were some sort of well-intentioned but regrettably dumb man-child who is now learning his lesson.

No. If you don't see something wrong with hitting on people over whom you have considerable power -- if you don't see the fundamental fucking problem with propositioning someone for sex while they're propositioning you for a fucking investment -- that itself is the character flaw.

It's not that he just didn't know the rules. It's that he didn't have basic empathy for women as people. I guarantee you he could understand, to pick literally the first of a million examples off the top of my head, the plot of that episode of the Simpsons where Mr Burns tries to buy Bart's loyalty with an inheritance. Like he understands as a human that economic power is a thing, and that wielding it to coerce people makes you the fucking villain. Because literally everyone understands that.

It just doesn't count if they're women.

And that's the best case scenario. It so strains credulity that otherwise functional adults wouldn't understand how power works that you sort of wonder if exercising that kind of power wasn't actually the point.

If anything, that apology shows he doesn't understand why this was actually creepy.

So gross.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:59 PM on July 1, 2017 [20 favorites]

I'm really glad we're seeing some consequences for some of the grosser aspects of sexual harassment in silicon valley this year.

Unfortunately it's premature to conclude that women are being taken seriously. I mean, basically this is a collection of VC and pre-IPO organizations being skittish about bad press. And don't get me wrong -- I'll take it. I'd rather have this behavior called out and condemned than not.

But I'll believe women (of any color) are being taken seriously when I see them in senior positions, when they're not interrupted in meetings I'm sitting in, or excluded from meetings they should be in, or undermined behind their backs, or put in their place to their faces... when their startups are funded, and when they're the ones with so much fucking capital that they're the ones out there funding startups. Not when their blog posts about being hit on go viral.
posted by mrmurbles at 8:49 PM on July 1, 2017 [18 favorites]

The thing is
posted by infini at 11:13 PM on July 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

I know both Chris Sacca and Dave McClure and I'm just really disappointed.
I don't know Marc Canter, I'm glad to say, but he seems like a real ass.

I'm sure the people who know Marc Canter are "really disappointed" and trying to give him the benefit of the doubt too.

I don't know any of these people, and they all seem like real asses.
posted by corvine at 4:40 AM on July 2, 2017 [11 favorites]

Also, the Hacker News thread on this is...someone mentioned above the self-congratulatory bullshit, all the handwringing about "we had no idea" and "we have to do something to make sure this kind of thing can't happen" from all of the people who have consistently told women to STFU.

You can believe women. That's it. Just fucking believe women. That's all you need to do.
posted by schadenfrau at 4:41 AM on July 2, 2017 [6 favorites]

deemed to be intentional sex objects for men

Not surprising at all. See: The number of men who insist that a woman who wears a cross-body bag with the strap between her breasts is doing it on purpose to draw attention to them, making it okay to do things like take surreptitious photos and post them online for their buddies.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 5:04 AM on July 2, 2017 [5 favorites]

Scott Barstow's reply to Sacca's self-congratulatory, further-woman-demeaning drivel

So far, only pandering comments to Sacca's little screed have been tagged "recommended by author."
posted by wonton endangerment at 9:53 AM on July 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

It's funny: at the top of the org chart we consistently find people who were hired despite imperfections, but at the bottom of the org chart false positives are such a bugaboo that everybody has to pass a flaming gauntlet of trivia and humiliation in order to get a chance to work somewhere.
posted by rhizome at 11:33 AM on July 2, 2017 [13 favorites]

Shedding Light on the “Black Box of Inappropriateness”: Cheryl Yeoh writes details of "My Personal Account of Sexual Assault from Dave McClure".

Employee email claims 500 Startups leadership delayed acknowledging McClure’s harassment, as new allegations surface. Details from a resignation email from Elizabeth Yin, the former lead of the 500 Startups accelerator in Mountain View.
posted by Nelson at 5:53 PM on July 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

that wielding it to coerce people makes you the fucking villain

I wouldn't count on some of these guys believing that in their hearts either, really.
posted by atoxyl at 6:43 PM on July 3, 2017

I'm sure they delayed acknowledging the accusations because they didn't want a bunch of liars glomming onto the issue, which is totally unlike lying about not funding a startup due to "culture fit" when they were really just friend-zoned.
posted by rhizome at 6:50 PM on July 3, 2017

From an unrelated contextual experience (publically funded design project, not VC) the man who thinks he is in a position to dictate terms lets it go to his head, and feels invincible with this sense of power to choose where to bestow. All sorts of personal history and loserliness in his life is suddenly transformed by this godlike ability to favour one mortal over another.

While it does cost the recipient, especially if she's a WoC, in the short term, I'm reaching the conclusion after three decades of professional practice, that in the long term, the loser remains a loser. Perhaps this would not have been so true in the era before ubiquitous social media and internet speeding up the communication cycles and the spreading of knowledge - hence the decades of VC crap now emerging into light of day.

Perhaps that's the upside to this moment in our collective history.

Further, as a WoC, I can say that it is not so that we all work in isolation, unrecognized for our abilities and talents, and allies recognize and come forth when there is dire need, even if they had remained silent earlier for the variety of reasons that are already being mentioned in this thread.

I suspect the push has come to shove and this is only the tip of the tsunami not a blip that will die down. There are far too many other factors at play in contemporary societal zeitgeist for this to not become the hill on which many will now choose to climb on.

This pebble is still sending ripples on the surface of the pond.
posted by infini at 1:40 AM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing a wave of retirement announcements among general partners
posted by rhizome at 2:04 AM on July 4, 2017 [1 favorite]

rhizome's observation is the tl;dr to mine
posted by infini at 6:14 AM on July 4, 2017

Too tl;dr I think. I struggled whether to put "retirement" in quotes because I didn't want it to read as sarcastic, like they were still going to be working in VC or something, but wanted to convey that there are probably still scandals to be had and a bunch of dudes are probably going to be let off with "retirement."

Unfortunately, I don't think it will make much of a difference for at least two reasons: the VC (not necessarily Internet) industry depends on certain forms of status quo (e.g. predictable M/A or IPO processes) which will drive them to preserve the culture as much as possible, limiting damage only to that which has already been publicized. Nobody wants to fix missing stairs; the Bob Packwoods will remain.

Secondly, women/POC will continue to get short shrift as the VC industry still shies away from business relationships with them under the specter of false accusations and liability.
posted by rhizome at 8:29 AM on July 4, 2017

Otoh, this gives a visible stage and valid viable, desirable, and feasible reasons for the emergence of n number of credible alternative funding options. Money has no colour or gender, and if anything, there will be those who'll see the value of these spotlighted WoC founders and businesses. Sometimes the reason might be as PR political as gender mainstreaming but that's an entirely different conversation covering EEO & E policies as well as affirmative action. A can of worms that. And not necessarily in a bad way.
posted by infini at 9:54 AM on July 4, 2017

Sexual harassment ‘victim’ was San Francisco business rival in disguise :

Uzzaman and Fenox then sued the anonymous blogger in San Mateo County Superior Court for defamation, and subpoenaed Comcast for the identity of the subscriber using that IP address. On July 12, Comcast revealed that the address was Hill’s, according to the complaint. Uzzaman and Fenox added Hill as a defendant in their lawsuit last week.
posted by pwnguin at 9:03 AM on July 26, 2017

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