Sexual harassment is pervasive in Silicon Valley

Posted in Sexual Harassment,Sexual Harassment by Industry on January 21, 2016

It’s no secret that California’s tech industry can be kind of a boys’ club. Many companies in Silicon Valley (and beyond) tend to have far more male employees than female ones. This unbalance sometimes leads to problems including gender discrimination and, of course, sexual harassment.

In fact, a recent report shows that the sexual harassment problem is far more pervasive than many people realize (or are willing to admit). A survey titled “The Elephant In The Valley” was distributed to women in Silicon Valley who have worked locally in tech for at least 10 years. About 222 women responded to the survey, and the results should serve as a wake-up call to company executives and human resources departments.

Approximately 60 percent of survey respondents said that they have received “unwanted sexual advances” at work or work-related functions. Much of the time, these advances were made by one of their superiors. Commenting on that finding, one of the report’s authors said: “This isn’t asking your coworker on a date. These are power play situations where you are turning someone down in a sexual way and there is some sort of meaningful impact on your ability to do your job.”

It is also important to note that the survey respondents were not entry-level employees. In fact, approximately 75 percent of survey respondents are executives at the level of vice president or higher.

Sadly, the majority of sexual harassment among this group was never reported. About 30 percent of respondents said they didn’t report because they just wanted to move past the harassment. Another 39 percent stayed silent out of fear for their job or career trajectory. Among the women who did report the harassment incidents, some 60 percent said that the situation was not resolved adequately.

That last paragraph really speaks to why sexual harassment remains such a problem. Imagine how different each workplace would be if victims of harassment were encouraged to speak up and speak out. Imagine the difference if victims who did report harassment were believed and supported instead of being treated like a liar and a troublemaker.

Until or unless Silicon Valley (and all other parts of the country) become willing to foster such work environments, sexual harassment will continue to be an all-too-common problem.