SAN FRANCISCO — More than one-half of all women working in the technology industry have experienced sexual harassment, a new study found. It’s the latest stain on the tech industry’s poor diversity track record.
The “Elephant in the Valley” study found 60 percent of women in tech have reported unwanted sexual advances. Making matters worse, 65 percent of those women said the advances came from superiors. Thirty-nine percent of women did not report these episodes “because they thought it would negatively impact their career,” while 60 percent of those who did report the incidents said they were dissatisfied by the results.
The authors of the study spoke with more than 200 women in the tech industry, most of them based in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Silicon Valley. The study centered on women with at least 10 years of experience in tech and encompassed several higher-ups — 25 percent of the women held C-suite positions at their companies.
“What we realized is that while many women shared similar workplace stories, most men were simply shocked and unaware of the issues facing women in the workplace,” the authors said.
Among other notable findings were that 90 percent of the women witnessed sexual behavior at company conferences or offsite meetings; 88 percent experienced clients or colleagues addressing their male peers in situations where they should’ve been addressed; 87 percent were subjected to demeaning comments by male colleagues; 84 percent were told they were too aggressive; 66 percent felt excluded from key networking opportunities because of their gender; and 52 percent returned early from maternity leaves due to worry that staying away could hurt their careers. And the list goes on.
Besides collecting data, the authors of the study also collected a number of personal anecdotes. “Once a client asked me to sit on his lap if he wanted to buy my products,” one woman said.
“I also had another [venture capitalist] tell me [he] likes married women and put his hand on mine. (I’m married),” another woman said.
“The first time I traveled with a new CEO, he made an advance,” said yet another woman. “I turned him down. After that, I was never asked to travel with him again. This impacted my ability to do my job.”
Similar behavior in the tech industry is not unknown, but since Silicon Valley began its big push toward diversity in early 2014, this study is one of the first to provide concrete data about sexual harrasment and related issues. The “Elephant in the Valley” team is still collecting more information for its research. Anybody who is interested in sharing a story relevant to the study can reach out by contacting the team online.