Hundreds Of People Told Us How Sexual Harassment In Tech Derailed Their Careers


Rose Wong for BuzzFeed News

“At every single job, I have had one of the [superiors] harass me.”

“I had a boss ask me if a coworker ‘made me wet.’ I had a coworker masturbate to porn in front of me along with threaten to find where I lived along with then harm me.”

“I was the only female on the 12-person management team. I was talked over in meetings along with had my area of expertise ‘mansplained’ to me. I made a complaint to HR along with they said they would certainly address This particular. A few weeks later I was let go.”

These are just a few examples coming from the nearly 800 responses to an online BuzzFeed News survey This particular summer which asked people to tell us about their harassment along with discrimination experiences from the tech industry. Their stories were sobering: More than 500 respondents said they’d been targeted with harassment along with discrimination — i.e., racism, sexism, ageism — while working in tech. Most said which the experiences had far-reaching implications for their careers along with personal lives.

Tech is usually one of several fields — including entertainment, media, academia, along with politics — which have been rocked by an outpouring of sexual harassment along with discrimination allegations in 2017. Silicon Valley’s harassment problem is usually exemplified by stories of blatant prejudice, like ex-Google employee James Damore’s anti-diversity memo, along with abuse, like the allegations of systemic sexism detailed in Susan Fowler’s Uber blog post along with the alleged behavior of certain powerful venture capitalists whom female entrepreneurs accused of harassment along with intimidation. This particular kind of mistreatment was reflected from the hundreds of responses to our survey along with in dozens of follow-up interviews we conducted. Our respondents also detailed the insidious, death-by-a-thousand-cuts effects of harassment along with discrimination which are harder to put a finger on. (Although most survey responses were about sexism, our respondents also reported additional types of discrimination.)

These are not a few unusual stories; rather, they are part of a tech workplace culture which, since its inception, has often treated women like second-class citizens. along with This particular’s which systemic, day-to-day harassment which eventually wears so many people down. As one woman who’s worked in tech for years told us: “This particular’s guys defending the ‘grab the pussy’ remark. This particular’s being told you improve a male colleague’s view coming from where he’s sitting. … Most of This particular isn’t anything you can report or if you do, you’ll just get gaslighted along with told This particular’s not truly what you think This particular is usually.”


BuzzFeed News received responses coming from a swath of people who identified as women, men, members of the LGBT community, along with people of many different races along with ethnicities. The results of our survey aren’t scientific: We did not verify individual claims, beyond reaching out to people who left us their contact information along with agreed to be contacted; because of the topic, verification is usually difficult. however the scope along with the common themes which we saw in so many of these stories paint a portrait of an industry with deeply rooted problems, along with they also reveal the extent to which people who have experienced harassment along with discrimination find their lives irrevocably changed.

We heard coming from people at companies large along with smaller, coming from people who worked at companies in Silicon Valley along with in smaller towns from the middle of the country. Women were overrepresented in our survey: 76% of our respondents identified as female. from the tech industry as a whole, according to Equal Employment Opportunity Commission data, 64% of employees are male. People who identified as a racial or ethnic minority were 26% of our survey responses; EEOC data show which around 29% of tech workers identify as Asian American, African American, or Hispanic (Hispanic people can be of any race). Twenty percent of respondents identified as members of the LGBT community.

“The day-to-day systemic stuff is usually what people stop wanting to go to work for.”

One veteran of the industry said which early in her career, she was “almost raped” at a conference, however “This particular’s the day-to-day of how I am treated over along with over again by certain men” which’s made her feel most hopeless. “The day-to-day systemic stuff is usually what people stop wanting to go to work for.”

At a conference a few years ago, she said was seated next to a teenage junior employee at her company whom people kept assuming was the CTO — instead of her. “which’s what women have to look forward to,” she said. “People assuming a 19-year-old man is usually the CTO over a woman.”

“I feel like I’m fighting all the time to be taken seriously along with be included,” said one woman founder, who claims she was essentially forced out of her own company by a male cofounder she’d asked to join her business. “This particular’s hard to tell if someone’s truly discriminating against you because you’re female. You think you’re crazy.”

Such situations can be incredibly harmful to people’s emotional well-being. “Discriminatory experiences are often associated with increased stress, anxiety levels, depression, along with reduced levels of self-esteem,” Erin Eatough, assistant professor of psychology at Baruch College, told BuzzFeed News. “These behaviors which people are exposed to are extremely relevant to their psychological health.” In fact, according to Eatough, these kinds of gray-area aggressions can still wreak havoc on an employee’s mental health along with job performance — even though they may be more difficult to detect than, say, an incident of assault.

Still, many survey respondents told BuzzFeed News which plenty of harassment from the tech industry is usually not subtle at all. “I worked for a company which was the cliché of everything wrong with startups,” wrote one woman. “I was harassed by an HR/Talent Director so horribly I had to work coming from home for a week. Coworkers asked my significant additional what I looked like naked. I was talked down to along with paid less than everyone else at the company. … After giving my notice, no one coming from the executive team would certainly speak [to] or even look at me, along with [they] lied to the rest of the company about why I left.”

“I had my breast touched at a work event,” wrote another woman. “I was reprimanded for saying, ‘hey, which could be construed as sexual harassment.’ I quit within the week after being interrogated by my boss, VP, along with HR. I was told I was the one causing problems.”

Of survey respondents who experienced discrimination along with/or harassment, nearly 61% said This particular had affected their personal lives.

Women reported repercussions which encompassed both the psychological along with the physical. One woman said she became depressed, gained weight, along with had to get a night guard coming from jaw pain brought on by stress. In addition, she wrote, “a two-year boyfriend broke up with me because I wasn’t fun to be around anymore.”

Another woman wrote which after experiencing repeated physical along with verbal assault at a tech conference, along with being accused of lying after she brought This particular to the organizers’ attention, she tried to kill herself: “I have PTSD coming from the trauma.”

Harassment along with discrimination can also take a significant toll on the careers of people who experience This particular. “This particular’s caused excessive amounts of stress in my life,” wrote one woman. “This particular’s also affected my career progression. I am not getting promoted because I keep having to switch jobs when HR doesn’t handle situations.”

“This particular’s hard to tell if someone’s truly discriminating against you because you’re female. You think you’re crazy.”

which’s not surprising, according to Jay Finkelman, a professor at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. People who experience harassment along with discrimination from the workplace can become more isolated on the job, along with possibly at home as well, said Finkelman. In addition, “individuals under these circumstances are likely to leave more frequently, so the average tenure is usually reduced,” he said.

One woman whose boss went to her company’s CEO after she reported him for harassment, tried to transfer to another department within her company. “however he blocked every attempt to transfer. So I left, along with then couldn’t get unemployment because ‘I willingly quit my job.’ I got a freelance job that has a company which did some work with my old boss, along with my old boss found out about This particular along with pulled some strings to get my freelance contract canceled.”

“I’m actively looking for brand new opportunities because my current employer didn’t fire my manager after he kicked down a door along with screamed in my face,” wrote another woman.

Another woman, who has worked mostly at smaller startups outside of Silicon Valley, left a job after a manager wrapped his arms around her coming from behind along with joked about “slapping” employees who make mistakes. She told BuzzFeed News which when she complained about the atmosphere, she received low marks for “team spirit” on her next performance review, despite having a stellar work record.

At her next job, she said, a manager grabbed her by the hair at a bar along with told her she looked “sexy.”

“All I could think was, ‘what did I do to make This particular happen again? along with, ‘nobody’s going to believe me after what happened at my last job.’”


While the stereotypical picture of harassment from the workplace is usually of a superior harassing a subordinate, survey respondents who had been harassed or discriminated against at work reported which This particular came coming from superiors, equals, along with subordinates alike. Certainly, the largest percentage of people — 85% — said they’d been harassed by a superior, however 75% said they had been harassed by an equal, along with 30% said they were targeted by a subordinate. (Respondents could choose more than one option.)

Perhaps which’s owing, in part, to the ways which tech’s culture can enable harassment. coming from tech giants to smaller startups, the industry prides itself on being unconventional, moving fast along with breaking things, along with competing to offer the most in-office perks to a relatively young workforce. For these fast-growing companies, establishing rigorous HR protocols along with training their employees about proper etiquette along with how to prevent harassment along with discrimination is usually often an afterthought.

“I was told I was the one causing problems.”

Amid reports in early 2017 which its workplace encouraged partying on the job along with cutthroat competition among employees, Uber became a poster child for the kind of prized startup whose hard-charging, “unconventional” culture is usually enabled by an ineffectual HR department. along with at these kinds of companies, drinking is usually often inextricably woven into which experience. As one survey respondent at a different company said in a follow-up interview, “At the company I was working at, they had a keg from the kitchen which was open at a certain time every day. which got very out of hand, to the point where they had to stop having a keg from the office. however all of the work events are alcohol-based, along that has a lot of people had issues at work because they were drunk at work.” Having beer from the fridge at all times can seem normal from the tech startup world, however This particular also creates a work environment which can normalize drinking on the job along with the behavior which can come with This particular.

Many people who responded to our survey said they didn’t report the abuse they experienced because they assumed their HR departments would certainly not do anything about their complaints. additional women were contract employees, freelancers, or entrepreneurs who didn’t have a real HR option to reach out to. Those who did report harassment often found HR departments which were out of their depth or nonresponsive, or which outright dismissed their complaints.

One woman wrote which she was harassed by a peer employee at company events. After she reported him to HR, “his manager reprimanded me for going to HR along with warned me which I shouldn’t go to HR for issues regarding his staff.”

Ultimately, many women said they had to weigh the cost of speaking out about their harassment. Several who had reported harassment to their company’s HR departments said which they’d been subsequently “let go” despite stellar performance reviews. Others said they had been blacklisted in their field within tech for speaking out. along with for those who pursued legal action against their companies, revisiting their harassment in court was also traumatic. “I was devastated, on top of giving my testimony in court,” one woman said, “I’m still trying to decide if I will even go back to work from the industry.”

After speaking out publicly about her harassment at a well-known tech company, “I got blacklisted at pretty much every tech company from the Bay Area,” another woman wrote in her survey. “I heard coming from friends which no company wanted a whistleblower like me, so I was unemployed for eight months. Even with years having gone by, This particular’s still hard.”


Out of the almost 800 responses to our survey along with the dozens of follow-up interviews BuzzFeed News conducted, only a few respondents shared stories in which their companies’ HR departments appeared to have handled an assault or harassment claim satisfactorily.

“I got blacklisted at pretty much every tech company from the Bay Area.”

One, a woman in her twenties, told BuzzFeed News which when she reported which two coworkers had sexually assaulted her after a company party, her company’s HR department was “amazing with how they treated me. … They were so sensitive to how I felt as a person.”

She was able to get one of the men who assaulted her to discuss on Google Chat what had happened — evidence which she brought to her HR department, along with additional texts which man had sent her the night the assault occurred. A few days after she first reported This particular, HR called her on the phone along with the company’s attorney told her the results of their investigation. Both men took full responsibility for what they’d done, along with they resigned.

The woman never reported the assault to the police, along with said she was aware which HR’s actions were ultimately protecting the company. Nonetheless, she said, “I feel so grateful which they were so supportive along with didn’t question me once. They believed me right away. I feel so grateful to work at a tech company which actually did the right thing because I don’t think which which’s often the case.”

In a world where, until today, abusers along with harassers rarely saw real consequences for their actions, This particular woman’s experience has been all too rare — however there are signs which the high-profile resignations along with suspensions which have been from the news could inspire more rank-along with-file employees to speak out. The idea which employees along with managers can get away with bad behavior is usually being challenged, along with nondisclosure agreements, which have been a tool to silence victims, are coming under increasing scrutiny. however the real sign of a sea change in attitudes, actions, along with accountability when This particular comes to sexual harassment in tech will be when the industry no longer makes excuses for or dismisses complaints about the persistent, insidious kind of discrimination which so many of our survey respondents experienced. When This particular kind of behavior is usually deemed just as unacceptable as more obvious harassment along with abuse, perhaps, finally, the tech industry will be held accountable — along with change.

Ellen Cushing contributed reporting to This particular story.

Doree Shafrir is usually a senior tech writer for BuzzFeed News along with is usually based in Los Angeles.

Contact Doree Shafrir at doree@buzzfeed.com.

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