3 must reads about tech’s gender discrimination problem

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New reports about harassment in Hollywood spark national conversation

In recent weeks dozens of women have shared their stories about the abuse they encountered while working in Hollywood. Many of these victims — actresses, producers, and editors — disclosed how disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein exploited women for decades.

Since then the scandal has launched a national discussion about sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace. For those working in tech, the issue is nothing new. The industry’s problems are well documented.

Of course, harassment in tech — like in other spaces — is complex and daunting, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t solvable. Here are three must-read articles on the subject by those in the industry and what can be done to change things for the better.

Cultivate stories, create a paper trail

 
After Weinstein’s harassment became public other women around the world began speaking up about their own encounters with the film executive. The moment served as an important reminder about how powerful it can be for victims to speak out in large numbers.

“When one woman breaks the silence, others are empowered to tell their stories,” @SoniaoSsorio, president of @NOW_NYC.

When it comes to tech, a groundbreaking exposé by about investors accused of harassing women had a similar effect. It led to more stories (notably, one by the NYT) on the subject and more women publicly coming forward.

Later as a result industry heavyweights, like 500 startups founder Dave McClure and Lowercase Capital’s Chris Sacca, apologized and resigned from their positions. The Informant’s report (and the others that followed it) showcased what can happen when abusers are held responsible. More importantly, it put a brave face on a pervasive issue that transcends companies and cities.

Ensure accountability is the norm

 
Holding offenders accountable is important. However, creating a space where individuals aren’t given the freedom to abuse people is even more crucial.

Popular podcast Too Embarrassed to Ask tackled this issue in its summer episode. Paradigm CEO Joelle Emerson and Evertoon CEO Niniane Wang discussed how stakeholders create safe work environments by encouraging diverse voices at all levels.

“It’s not about those individual harassers, it’s about creating a culture where there’s accountability for that type of thing. When a culture is created by any homogeneous group, there’s going to be less,” @joelle_emerson of @prdgm.

She’s not wrong. A 2017 study from Pew Research found that while women viewed gender discrimination as a  problem, men were less likely to agree. If the industry is to create sustainable change it will need input from all individuals, not just those at the top.

Concentrate on finding supporters

 
In 2015, Ellen Pao sued her employer, venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins, for gender discrimination. The trial grabbed headlines and pushed the industry’s bro culture into the spotlight.

In an interview with Time magazine she described what women dealing with harassment in the workplace can do. When encountering sexism or racism sometimes leaving is the best thing an individual can do for their career, she advised. Look for allies that will support you and your career goals.

“Get out. These are people who are just not going to accept you. You’re not going to get promoted. You don’t have to prove yourself because there’s no way to do that. If you don’t have other opportunities, try to find someone else to work with within the company.”

The ability to quit and start a new job is a financial risk, not every person can take. If it’s not possible to leave, here are organizational allies that can help you in working towards better goals. Some of these organizations include Project Include, Code 2040, Paradigm and Ally Skills Workshop.

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