While the #MeToo movement has seemingly permeated all parts of society, a recent study shows that not all industries have equally benefitted from its message.
This year, Women Who Tech surveyed more than 1,000 Employees, founders, and investors to explore whether they experience sexism and/or racism in the workplace. Their responses were compared to a similar 2017 survey the nonprofit conducted to determine whether the tech workplace has improved over the past three years.
Female Founders Face High Levels Of Harassment
Out of the surveyed individuals, 44% of female founders reported suffering harassment. Founders who were women of color suffered even higher rates of harassment at 47%.
41% of the reported harassment was sexual in nature, with a majority of those harassed being propositioned for sex. This number increased from the 2017 survey by 9%.
Increased Difficulty Securing Funding
The tech world is dominated by white men, which can make it difficult for women to get their foot in the door and to secure necessary funding from investors. Without this funding, they are unable to launch and grow successful businesses.
Unfortunately, some investors take advantage of this need by requesting sexual favors in exchange for funding. 40% of the founders who reported harassment said that they were harassed by an investor. Of those, 59% were directly propositioned for sex in exchange for funding. Such sexual harassment is illegal under California law.
About half of the female founders were expressly told that they would have raised more money if they had been men. Female CEO DeShuna Spencer reported suffering sexist remarks from investors. She was told to not share her age because she would have a hard time securing funding past the age of 30 because the presumption was that, at that age, women were focused on babies instead of business.
Male And Female Founders Disagree On The Prevalence Of Harassment
Male and female founders report differing opinions on the #MeToo movement’s success. Almost 70% of male founders said that the #MeToo movement had a positive impact on how women are treated in the tech industry. Only 34% of white women and 24% of women of color shared that optimism. Most female founders do not believe that there has been a positive shift over the past few years.
Harassment Goes Underreported
Men may partially overestimate the success of the #MeToo movement due to an alarming underreporting of harassment by their employees. In Women Who Tech’s 2017 survey, 55% of harassed women said that they reported the incident to senior leadership. In the 2020 survey, only 45% of harassed women reported the incident.
Many female tech employees lack confidence in senior leadership and their Human Resource department’s response to reports of harassment. Due to the industry’s male dominated culture, harassment victims may fear retaliation if they speak out, thus suffering in silence. If anyone is experiencing sexual harassment in the tech industry, they should contact an experienced employment lawyer for a free consultation to learn what their options are.