'We Need Less Ally Theater': Little Has Changed for Women in Tech Since the #MeToo Movement

Tami Abdollah

Tami Abdollah was dot.LA's senior technology reporter. She was previously a national security and cybersecurity reporter for The Associated Press in Washington, D.C. She's been a reporter for the AP in Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Times and for L.A.'s NPR affiliate KPCC. Abdollah spent nearly a year in Iraq as a U.S. government contractor. A native Angeleno, she's traveled the world on $5 a day, taught trad climbing safety classes and is an avid mountaineer. Follow her on Twitter.

'We Need Less Ally Theater': Little Has Changed for Women in Tech Since the #MeToo Movement
Photo by Ales Nesetril on Unsplash

One woman reported being locked in a conference room while a coworker masturbated between her and the exit. Another 50-year-old female tech professional, with a PhD in engineering, said her entire professional life has been "filled with harassment, sexual or otherwise." Then there was the founder who was invited to join an investor in a hot tub to help close a deal.

It seems that the era of #MeToo hasn't significantly changed things for women in tech, according to a new report released Tuesday by Women Who Tech, a nonprofit founded to draw attention to gender bias in VC funding and support women in tech.

Courtesy of Women Who Tech

Nearly 50% of female founders and workers in technology have experienced harassment, roughly the same three years later. When female employees reported harassment to human resources, 85% said their harasser faced zero repercussions at work.

For female employees, harassing behaviors ranged from offensive "jokes" (75%) to unwanted physical contact (54%) to sexual slurs directed at them (51%) to being propositioned for sex (35%). Eighteen percent of female employees said they were propositioned for sex in exchange for a promotion, an increase of 5% from 2017.

Among the surveyed female founders, 65% reported being propositioned for sex (up 9% from 2017), 59% reported unwanted physical contact (down 3%), 32% were groped (up 7%), and 24% sent graphic photos (up 14%).

The report was the result of 1,003 interviews conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies over more than a month via an online survey.

Tech founders who are women of color reported being harassed 46% of the time by a potential investor, while 38% of white women founders had the same experience.

"We were invited to an opulent private club (with hot tubs, which the investor kept inviting one of our female founders to use with him after we finished — implying we could close sooner if she'd agree to go)," a female founder anonymously reported during the survey.

Courtesy of Women Who Tech

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies and a member of Women Who Tech's advisory board, called the data "disturbing" and added that "we need less ally theater and more people in positions of power to recognize that power, not abuse it, and support women in tech."

A smaller percentage of women said they trust their companies to handle harassment allegations over time in 2020 compared to 2017.

Women who didn't report the harassment said they were scared to lose their job, or had "seen what happens when people do report and I don't want my life made harder." Another woman said she was embarrassed and worried it would impact her job with her supervisor and coworkers.

The report also dealt with the ability to raise money, with nearly 50% of female founders saying they would raise more money if they were a man.


Do you have a story that needs to be told? My DMs are open on Twitter @latams. You can also email me at tami(at)dot.la, or ask for my contact on Signal, for more secure and private communications.


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