Sexual Harassment and Discrimination in Silicon Valley

October 10, 2019

As more woman are entering the tech workforce, we are seeing more incidences of sexual harassment and discrimination that have been occurring under the surface. Recently, more female employees in the Silicon Valley have come forward with their allegations of sexual harassment and sex discrimination occurring in major tech companies.

Silicon Valley in the News

Uber, one of the most valuable private technology companies in the world, faced some heat in 2017, when a former engineer named Susan Fowler alleged that she suffered from sexual harassment, complained to human resources and was ignored. It was only after a number of other female employees came forward with the same sexual harassment allegations, that human resources actually investigated. Since these claims of sexual harassment have emerged, Uber’s CEO has stepped down, as well as more than 20 high-level employees have been fired.

Additionally, multiple women have accused Justin Caldbeck, a prominent venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, of sexual harassment. Among the sexually harassing conduct the women claim Caldbeck to have engaged in are inappropriate touching, sending offensive text messages, asking to meet in the middle of the night, and asking if they would be interested in meeting him at a hotel. Many of the women were entrepreneurs that were trying to get Caldbeck to invest in their businesses at the time. After Caldbeck engaged in inappropriate behavior, the women refused to work with him. Quid pro quo sexual harassment could be the reason why there are less women entrepreneurs today.

UploadVR, a virtual and augmented reality technology company in Silicon Valley, has also faced allegations of sexual harassment. The employee who brough the lawsuit against UploadVR alleged that the company’s founders encouraged employees to have sex at work, even providing them with a room for them to engage in sexual intercourse, calling it the “kink room.” Additionally, the employee alleged that the founders would put on company parties that had strippers and prostitutes for the male employees. The plaintiff also alleges that women were frequently treated much more unfairly than their male counterparts.

These few examples of sexual harassment in tech companies, is only a small portion of the actual amount of incidences that are occurring throughout the Silicon Valley. Each day, more and more sex harassment and gender discrimination lawsuits are being filed against tech companies, which clearly indicates a problem that needs addressing.

Statistics  of Sexual Harassment & Discrimination

Researchers have conducted studies and polls to determine how big the problem is in the Silicon Valley. Polls were taken from over 200 women who had at least 10 years of experience working in the Silicon Valley. Needless to say, the results of the survey were extremely disturbing and worrisome.

Sixty percent of the respondents stated that they were victims of unwanted sexual advances in the workplace, most of which were made by male supervisors. Ninety percent of the women witnessed either sexist or sexually harassing behavior while at offsite meetings or conferences.

Gender discrimination was just as prevalent in the tech industry, as indicated by the polls. For example, 84% of the surveyed women claimed that they were called “too aggressive” in the office.

Generally in the workplace, women are often dismissed or disliked when they speak their minds or act assertively, but men are not, making it more difficult for women to move up the ranks or gain respect. Sadly, two-thirds of the survey respondents also said they were asked questions about their future plans to have a family during their initial job interview. This question alone shows that tech companies have a bias towards female employees with families or who plan to have families, that they will not work as hard as other employees.

What to Do If You’re A Victim

If you fell that you have been harassed or discriminated against at work, it’s important to report this illegal behavior as soon as possible. You should contact an employment law attorney to learn about your legal options. An employment law attorney can help you seek protection from your employer regarding these injustices.

The first step should be complaining internally at work to management or human resources to ensure that you have proof that you complained to your employer of the discrimination or harassment. Once you have complained, your employer has an obligation to investigate and take action against the harasser. If nothing is done, your complaint will need to be reported to California’s Department of Fair Housing and Employment (DFEH) and you will need to obtain a right to sue.

Are you a female employee in the tech industry or in the Silicon Valley who feels you have been a victim of sexual harassment or discrimination. If so, call the attorneys at Shegerian Conniff LLP right away. We are committed to helping and protecting women in the workplace. Contact us today by calling 310-322-7500.