Harassment in Tech: Getting Beyond Words & Committing to Action

Brave women and tenacious reporters. Those are the people responsible for the escalating conversation about sexual harassment in the tech community. And while it might be satisfying to see a handful of perpetrators publicly identified, the New York Times’ Katie Benner rightfully points out that it’s not just a case of a few bad apples:

“It felt like I had flipped over a healthy-looking log to find decay and bugs underneath. The story wasn’t just one man abusing his power; it was an entire problematic culture.”

Now it’s up to all of us to decide what next. Do we just tweet angrily and go back to status quo? Or will we see real commitments made, especially by those who today hold power and wealth? Being an optimist I believe we’re going to minimally see adoption of new policies aimed to prevent the most egregious abuse from occurring and proactively increase the cost of being an asshole abuser.

There are a number of groups working on different approaches – Homebrew is participating in some and happy to sign on to others. Josh Constine of Tech Crunch was one of the first to step up and start gathering input for a document he published today called “A Template for Investor/Founder Sexual Harassment Policy.” As Josh notes in his accompanying OpEd:

…traditional harassment law does not adequately shield founders since they are not technically employees of the venture capitalists. To fill this gap, venture capital firms should adopt formal investor/founder sexual harassment policies that can be consistently enforced. To support the creation of these policies, a diverse group of whistleblowers, entrepreneurs, funders, and activists have collaborated…

I contributed to the effort and am pleased with the first version, but also know that these are living documents. Josh is very open to your feedback so please do read the documents and send any notes his way.

This summer we’ve already seen several venture funds impacted seriously by the allegations but the real tribute to the women speaking out is what does the environment look like a year from now. Honor them by committing to change, not just outrage.