After Chris Sacca’s Apology to Women Founders
Those saying tech doesn’t have a sexism problem have had a tough time outshouting news to the contrary lately. Among the accounts that have surfaced over the past few months: an alleged kink room at one startup; alleged sexual advances by a prominent VC; and an actual 2013 email sent from Uber’s then-CEO on company sex rules for a staff celebration.
That’s just a sampling of stories, of course. That sampling doesn’t include the bombshell blog post by former Uber employee Susan Fowler, which led to an independent investigation into how women staffers were treated differently Uber — and led to Travis Kalanick’s resignation. Not to mention a host of other experiences of women and people of color.
For former investor and entrepreneur Chris Sacca, the sheer number of stories has pushed tech — and him — to an important turning point. On Medium today, he posted an apology to female entrepreneurs acknowledging what he says is his role in contributing to an environment that pushed opportunity further from the reach of women and people of color.
As more and more brave women have come forward to share their own tales and experiences from the hostile environment of the tech world, it has become clear to me there is a much bigger underlying issue in this industry, and I am realizing at times I was a part of that.
Over the last week, I have spoken with friends, friends of friends, heard from people from my past including stories of how I’d behaved, and read incredibly thoughtful and courageous essays. I’ve learned that it’s often the less obvious, yet pervasive and questionable, everyday behaviors of men in our industry that collectively make it inhospitable for women.
Of course, no blog post can change a culture overnight. That said, culture is a critical issue for any company, especially in tech. That’s why it’s worth taking a look at the responses both men and women gave to Sacca’s post. Their tweets provide a range of easy, actionable suggestions that are useful for any organization looking to change its habits, attract new talent and grow.
Understanding the problem is an important step, and numbers can help you concretely understand any number of situations. If you’re looking to persuade, you’ll want to speak a business audience’s language: numbers.
You might also be interested in some new research from one of our PhDs around the gender gap in VC funding: https://t.co/EhA2ANz21r
— Columbia B-School (@Columbia_Biz) June 30, 2017
Look in the mirror.
Ask yourself, “What can I do?” There’s likely some way you personally can make a positive change.
Thanks for this. To be reflective and brutally honest with yourself is the first step in changing for others as well. ??
— Yael Wissner-Levy (@yaelwiss) June 30, 2017
Rethink the stock photos.
Those who appreciate diversity, consider it at every level.
Even small things like using women, non-binary and not-men in stock photos helps increase visibility. https://t.co/SaVTEnkFpX
— lauratellsjokes (@lauratellsjokes) June 30, 2017
Ask for diversity.
Make an effort to work with companies that have diverse boards and leadership teams. Those companies will work harder to find diverse talent.
Appreciate the step. Def lot of work to be done. I always start by looking for the 50% leadership metric in any org, board, co etc.
— Ben (@benja) June 30, 2017
Call out bad behavior.
Culture is a set of behaviors and habits that are discouraged or reinforced.
Yes, please speak up and call out bad behavior when you see it. I was witness/subject to lots in another tech setting this wknd. Toxic.
— Lilly Irani (@gleemie) June 30, 2017
Reconsider the hot tub.
Sure, casual, free-flowing conversations are often the most productive. But if not everyone is comfortable, you’re not just stifling conversation — you’re stifling opportunity.
I don’t think it sounds unwelcoming for women per se but I’ve used you+travis in hot tub as example of how women have a hard line to walk
— sarah kunst (@sarahkunst) June 30, 2017
Bc that is a situation that the participants or their partners could easily feel isn’t kosher between genders
— sarah kunst (@sarahkunst) June 30, 2017