Several high-profile cases in the news in recent months seem to reflect attitudes about the treatment of women changing for the better in Silicon Valley. These are the most notable examples:
- Dave McClure, the founder of the start-up incubator 500 Startups, resigned after admitting to sexual harassment. Later investigation revealed that the company had covered up an earlier sexual harassment charge against him by keeping the investigation confidential.
- Binary Capital imploded after several women lodged sexual harassment charges against Justin Caldbeck.
- Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned after former company engineer Susan Fowler published a blog detailing a history of sexual harassment at Uber.
Anita Hill, an attorney and professor at Brandeis University, is one of my heroines. She had the courage in the early 1990s to accuse her ex-boss Clarence Thomas of inappropriate sexual behavior toward her when he was her supervisor. When she learned that he was nominated for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, she felt she had to testify to his lack of moral character during his confirmation hearings. She came forward and spoke the truth of her experience. While she was not able to stop his confirmation, she did give a voice and a name to the abusive behavior that women have always been subjected to by powerful men—sexual harassment. Her testimony opened a door for women to work together with male allies to make the workplace safer and more inclusive for all women.
So many talented women entrepreneurs with great technology business ideas cannot raise the capital needed to start their businesses from Silicon Valley investors. Likewise, many women in Wall Street firms cannot make partner, or otherwise advance, no matter how well they perform. Even with lots of publicity, such as the recent gender discrimination lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, programs put in place to help women advance, diversity programs on unconscious bias, and millions of dollars spent to settle class-action gender discrimination cases, not much has changed on Wall Street for women. What keeps the glass ceiling in place? New research reveals some root causes that could open pathways to change.