Sexism and sexual harassment have long been a problem in tech, especially in Silicon Valley. Fortunately, that tide is beginning to turn.
Within the past year, several investors and executives have lost their jobs because of inappropriate conduct toward women, as detailed in a report by Quartz. Some notable names include executives at Uber and prominent members of large VC funds such as Binary Capital.
Whistleblowers are getting better at revealing the elite men who abuse their powers. According to the Washington Post, one prominent firm in Silicon Valley is creating a blacklist of influencers who use their money and industry clout to intimidate women and make unwanted advances.
As the voices against sexism in tech grow louder, male entrepreneurs and investors must denounce the status quo and take deliberate action to create more inclusive work environments.
Large-scale sexism is not new.
As higher valuations become more common, participants in the tech sector must understand that allegations of shocking behavior are not new -- just more visible.
These firms have known the people they were backing all along. They knew the behavior of some of the young, wealthy men involved in tech was unacceptable, but until now, the ramifications have been few.
Thanks to the growing intolerance of this behavior, influencers in tech must now account for factors such as a history of sexual misconduct. Tech used to exist in a bubble, but with today's 24-hour news cycle, that private world is now open to the public. Companies must champion fair treatment for women -- not only because it’s the right thing to do, but also because doing otherwise would be PR suicide.
Related: Why Gender Diversity in Tech Matters
Pulling up the roots.
These issues have no place in the future of technology. Correcting the culture will take time, but with a deliberate approach, tech entrepreneurs and investors can start building a better work environment for everyone.
1. Institute a zero-tolerance policy.
Companies must not tolerate any sexual misconduct, especially for those on boards and in C-suite offices. Investors of all sizes must recognize that a lack of action implies tolerance, harming their investments in the long term and damaging that company’s chances of success.
Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy since 2013, is working to change the image of a company that once relied on sex appeal to sell domains. In an interview with The New York Times, he discussed the importance of women in technology and his personal drive to eliminate sexist business practices. "We have published not only our diversity numbers, but also whatever the pay equality is between the two," Irving stated. "We’ve done an analysis of how many women actually matriculate into more senior engineering roles."
2. Ensure equal pay and recognition.
Woman are equal contributors in life and in technology. Companies must provide the same pay and recognition at all levels of responsibility to women as they do men. This begins in schools, encouraging female participation in coding classes and business plan competitions, and expands into equal encouragement of new startups -- regardless of the founder's gender.
Several major companies, including Facebook and Apple, committed last year to ensuring equal pay between men and women, per Huffington Post. These policies empower employees and create stronger internal structures.
3. Set consistent hiring standards and job expectations.
Consider both male and female employees for all open positions. For any key hire, outline the responsibilities and compensation before the interview, and do not waver from those parameters based on the gender of the candidate.
In my new venture, one of our first and most important hires will hopefully be a particular woman with vast experience in the domain name space. To have her on board for our early phases and key decisions would be a tremendous asset for our company. Businesses that tolerate sexism often overlook the best candidates, unwittingly sending them to their more forward-thinking competitors.
4. Write a public policy with a system to address concerns.
Employees must be allowed to share anonymous concerns of workplace sexism and harassment. Do not leave things for HR to interpret on a case-by-case basis. Set detailed processes that take complaints seriously and follow through with investigations, both for the good of the employees and the business.
Company culture begins on day one at the top. The initial hires, the roles the individuals play, how strong their voices are and how they are compensated create the backbone for success. Follow these strategies to build an inclusive culture that will last beyond the today's sexism purge in the technology sector and extend into the future.