Tinder sexual harassment suit highlights larger industry problems

Posted in Sexual Harassment,Sexual Harassment by Industry on July 19, 2014

Earlier this month, we wrote about a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a former employee of Tinder, the California tech start-up that launched the dating app of the same name. In that lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that in addition to being sexually harassed by her boss (with whom she had previously been romantically involved), she was also stripped of her co-founder title because she is a woman.

In a recent “Fortune” article, author Caroline Fairchild makes several astute observations about how this case highlights more widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination problems in the tech industry. The first is one we wrote about in our last post: The “boys’ club” atmosphere of Silicon Valley.

Like many sexual harassment victims, the plaintiff was reportedly met with apathy and even hostility when she brought her complaints to other senior executives at Tinder. She allegedly got the same response when she brought her concerns to the CEO of Match.com, which shares a parent company with Tinder.

There are certainly some prominent and highly successful women in the tech industry. Yet the boys’ club culture still dominates. Books such as Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” are inspirational, but it will take a much bigger and more coordinated effort to bring about a true culture change.

Fairchild also notes that the other Tinder executives both promoted and hid the plaintiff’s gender at different times, using it when it suited them and hiding it when it did not. In general business articles, her status as co-founder was either downplayed or omitted altogether. But in articles discussing how Tinder was an app that “solved online dating for women,” she was prominently featured.

There may be no easy or quick solutions to the harassment and discrimination problems in tech industry, but discussing them openly is an important first step. Hopefully, the Tinder lawsuit will get that conversation started.

Source: Fortune, “Three things I learned reading the Tinder sexual harassment lawsuit,” Caroline Fairchild, July 2, 2014