Tech companies in Silicon Valley are used to making headlines when introducing a new product or service, but recently, the headlines have had nothing to do with their latest innovations. A number of stories have emerged from Silicon Valley over the last year that paint a troubling picture of what it’s really like for women that work for major tech companies. As it turns out, it’s not as exciting or glamorous as it may seem.
Silicon Valley in the News
Uber is one of the most valuable private technology companies in the world, but it faced backlash earlier this year when a former engineer named Susan Fowler alleged that her sexual harassment claims had been ignored by the human resources department. After Ms. Fowler came forward, many other sources followed, and the company was forced to launch an internal investigation into the matter. Since the story first emerged, more than 20 high-level employees have been fired and the company’s CEO was forced to step down from his position.
Justin Caldbeck, a prominent venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, also made the news when multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. The women claim that Caldbeck touched them inappropriately, sent offensive text messages, suggested meeting up with them in the middle of the night, and asked if they would be interested in meeting him at a hotel. Some of the women were entrepreneurs that were hoping Caldbeck would invest in their business. They reported that after having these experiences, they no longer attempted to do business with him. If more women have had similar experiences with other investors, this could explain why there are so few female entrepreneurs in the tech industry.
UploadVR, a virtual and augmented reality technology company in Silicon Valley, was also named in a sexual harassment lawsuit earlier this year. The plaintiff alleged that the company’s founders encouraged employees to have sex at work, even going as far as reserving a room for them to do it in, which was known as the “kink room.” The lawsuit also describes how the founders would host company parties and invite strippers and prostitutes to entertain the male employees. In addition, the plaintiff alleges that women were frequently discriminated against and treated unfairly by their male counterparts.
Keep in mind that this is just a small sample of the countless reports of discrimination and harassment in Silicon Valley. There are many other lawsuits that have been filed against investors and companies in the tech industry, so clearly there is a major problem that needs to be addressed.
Sexual Harassment & Discrimination Statistics
How big is the problem in Silicon Valley? Last year, researchers polled over 200 women currently working in the Silicon Valley. All of the women that participated in this poll had at least 10 years of experience, making them veterans in the tech industry. The results of this survey were alarming to say the least. Sixty percent of the women reported that they had been victims of unwanted sexual advances, most of which were made by male supervisors. Ninety percent of respondents also admitted to witnessing sexist or sexually harassing behavior while at offsite meetings or conferences.
But, sexual harassment isn’t the only problem. Women also have to fight against unfair stereotypes that often hold them back in the tech world. For example, 84% of the survey respondents claim to have been told that they were being “too aggressive” in the office. Women are often viewed negatively when they speak their minds or act assertively, but men are not. This makes it difficult for women to speak up, earn the respect of her superiors, and move up within the company. Two-thirds of the survey respondents also said they were questioned about their plans to have a family in the future during their initial job interview. This shows that tech companies assume that women with families will not work as hard as other employees, which is a myth that has been disproven time and time again.
Now that the issue of discrimination and harassment in Silicon Valley is getting more attention in the news, many believe that tech companies will be forced to change their ways to prevent public backlash. But, change doesn’t happen overnight, so you need to know what to do in the event that your rights are violated at work.
What to Do If You’re A Victim
If you have been harassed or discriminated against, it’s important to report this illegal behavior as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to call an employment law attorney right away to learn about your legal options. An employment law attorney can guide you through each step of the process to help you seek justice against your employer.
The first step should be filing an internal report so that you have proof that you notified your employer of the discrimination or harassment. At this point, your employer should launch an investigation and take action against the perpetrator. But if nothing happens, your complaint will need to be escalated to California’s Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFEH). An investigator from the DFEH will contact you to learn more before deciding whether or not to move forward with your case. If the DFEH accepts your case, they will attempt to resolve the issue between you and your employer in mediation, but this is not always effective. In the event that no agreement can be reached, the DFEH may choose to file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Have your rights been violated while working for an employer in Silicon Valley? If so, speak to the employment law attorneys at Shegerian & Associates right away. We are committed to helping our clients seek justice and protect their rights in the workplace. Contact us today by calling 1-800-GOT-FIRED.