The Tech Sector’s Problem with Women

A survey released this week indicates that the vast majority of women in Silicon Valley have experienced sexual harassment or sexist behavior in the workplace. In Elephant in the Valley, a survey of over 200 women, most with over 10 years’ experience in the Bay Area tech industry, 60 percent of respondents said they had been subjected to unwanted sexual advances, while 60 percent of those who had reported sexual harassment were unsatisfied with how their organization had handled their complaint. One in three said circumstances at work had made them fear for their personal safety. The survey was published along with anecdotes from the respondents that illustrate just how unpleasant these experiences have been:

Experiences included being groped by my boss while in public at a company event. After learning this had happened to other women in my department, and then reporting the event to HR, I was retaliated against and had to leave the company.

The first time I travelled with a new CEO he made an advance. I turned him down. After that, I was never asked to travel with him again. This impacted my ability to do my job.

The survey also found that petty acts of sexism are rampant in the sector.

A full 88 percent of these women said they had experienced clients or colleagues addressing questions to male peers that should have been addressed to them, while 87 percent had received degrading comments from male colleagues and 84 percent had been told that they were too aggressive at work. In addition, 47 percent said they were asked to perform menial tasks like note-taking or ordering food that their male colleagues were never asked to do.

The women also said that their family lives influenced their careers in ways that were unfair. Three quarters of respondents said they had been asked about their family live, marital status, and children in job interviews—which is legally sketchy and definitely discriminatory if their employers aren’t asking male applicants the same questions—while 40 percent said they felt a need to speak less about their family in order to be taken seriously. Meanwhile, 52 percent of those who took maternity leave said they took less leave than they would have liked because they feared it would hurt their career, which squares with the finding of a major survey on women in the workplace from last September that most women (as well as men!) thought taking lengthy parental leave would hinder them professionally.