Silicon Valley’s Wild West Culture Makes in which Harder To Root Out Sexual Misconduct

Dozens of tech industry workers responding to a recent BuzzFeed News survey on sexism in addition to harassment said their employers failed to help them resolve the issue. Many of these respondents said sexual harassment went unaddressed because there was no human resources department or higher authority to report in which to. Others didn’t report harassment because they feared retribution, or simply because they thought in which might do no Great. in addition to most of those who did report harassment said they never heard back via HR, or if they did hear back, they were told nothing could be done.

For some respondents, several of these factors coalesced to dissuade them via taking action against their harassers. One user interface designer named Jessica told BuzzFeed News in which she didn’t report her married boss for trying to kiss her after a party hosted by their employer because she was afraid of missing out on valuable work experience at the start of her career. Beyond in which, she was technically a freelancer, in addition to, she said, “in which was a startup — there wasn’t HR or anything like in which.”

The tech industry is actually notorious for overlooking the importance of human resources, preferring to focus on raising cash, churning code, in addition to shipping product, while placating burned out employees with benefits in addition to perks. nevertheless tech doesn’t just tend to dislike HR; in which dislikes rules in general. Restrictions are the antithesis of its operational ethos, which has for years been defined by the “move fast in addition to break things” philosophy. The industry is actually dead set on creating work fun, nevertheless in which creates a blind spot in addition to a culture of permissiveness when in which comes to harassment in addition to discrimination.

In Silicon Valley, nobody just goes to work — employees do what they love, entrepreneurs follow their dreams, in addition to gig workers relish independence by setting their own schedules. in which culture creates myriad gray areas where in which’s hard to know what truly constitutes professional behavior, in addition to people at every tier of the startup ecosystem are vulnerable to inappropriate sexual behavior inside the workplace.

Jill Hartley, who worked for several large tech companies throughout the ‘80s in addition to ‘90s, said raucous parties in addition to sexual harassment were prevalent throughout the industry. nevertheless despite what she’s seen, Hartley said she tells her startup-employed daughter to deal with harassment on her own.

“I might never go to HR for something like in which. I’m afraid in which might put my job in jeopardy,” Hartley, who still works for a major tech company on a contract basis, told BuzzFeed News. “Even if in which happened to me currently, I wouldn’t go to HR in addition to complain. Those guy are always protected. They always will be protected.”

Over the past year, a slew of famous in addition to powerful men in fields including media, entertainment, tech, in addition to politics have been publicly accused of sexual harassment, misbehavior, in addition to worse. Earlier in which year, several female startup founders came forward to accuse male venture capitalists of using their power to make unwelcome advances. Their accusations revealed how the process of raising venture capital can be a minefield for women, in addition to some of those investors made public apologies or resigned via their positions.

nevertheless after these scandals came to light, diversity advocates inside the tech industry pointed out in which the law doesn’t explicitly protect entrepreneurs via sexual harassment — in addition to in which doesn’t punish harassers because entrepreneurs by definition are not employees. In August, a California legislator introduced a bill aimed at addressing in which issue.

nevertheless while in which bill, if in which becomes law, is actually an important step, in which overlooks the many additional people in Silicon Valley who toil in legal gray areas. in which industry invented the gig economy, which is actually powered by a vast in addition to diffuse force of independent contractors, none of whom are protected by labor law, in addition to many of whom, having signed arbitration agreements, may have given up the right to sue their employers in court. In addition, tech startups tend to rely on a heavy rotation of freelance coders, designers, in addition to “doers” to get their apps in addition to services up in addition to running. Very few of them are formally protected, in addition to all of them are dependent on personal connections to make a living, which makes them unlikely to report bad behavior.

in addition to if startups are built on casual work relationships in addition to the culture of hustle, more established companies, like Uber, have tried to emulate in which environment. When ex-Uber engineer Susan Fowler’s allegations of sexual harassment in addition to discrimination at the company went viral earlier in which year, Uber faced the consequences in which can come with maintaining in which kind of office culture. After a strong public backlash, CEO Travis Kalanick stepped down, in addition to the company is actually restructuring its work environment. As Uber’s example shows, the tech industry’s tendency to eliminate bureaucracy, advocate for lean management structures, in addition to promote a hard-charging office culture can foster toxic work environments.

An anonymous employee who worked in operations at a tech company in Seattle told BuzzFeed News in which she often overheard male employees rating the attractiveness of their customers while looking at photos of them on Facebook or LinkedIn.

“When I did try to talk to the HR department,” she said, “the comment was always, ‘Oh, sorry to hear in which, nevertheless in which’s the company culture. We’re a startup. in which’s going to take time to make alterations.’”

nevertheless by the time in which employee quit in 2016, the “startup” in question was 10 years old; earlier in which year, according to the ex-employee BuzzFeed News interviewed, a different former employee sued in which, alleging she was fired after declining a coworker’s romantic advances.

Another woman at a different company, who also asked to remain anonymous, said she reported a male coworker to HR after he joked in which he might cut the baby out of her stomach if she missed a morning meeting due to her pregnancy. nevertheless in in which instance, the HR department was just one person, who also happened to be the sister of the company’s founder. The woman said she was told in which “unless in which’s recurrent, or in which’s a real threat, we can’t do anything about in which.”

According to the employee, the company didn’t take any action to investigate her claims. “They told me if I didn’t like in which, I didn’t have to work there,” she said.

Recently, an anonymous user of the tech industry gossip app Blind posted a short message with the subject line, “PSA: HR is actually NOT YOUR FRIEND.”

“For the engineers out there,” the post says, “in which is actually less hassle to quit than complain to HR about anything. HR is actually never your friend.”

in which post generated hundreds of comments, many via tech employees sharing their own bad experiences with the human resources department at their company. “HR works to protect the company via lawsuits, not to protect YOU via your coworkers,” said one commenter, a piece of workplace wisdom in which extends far beyond the tech industry.

nevertheless a second user described in a reply how tech companies are even more incentivized to use HR as a legal triage department than additional industries: “in addition to if you work at a ‘disruptive’ company where execs believe the government isn’t real, they may even blow off lawsuit material.”

additional workers also felt HR is actually worse in tech than additional places. Jen was working at an East Coast tech company when she asked a male colleague to help her out by “rubber ducking” a bug, a term in which in developer parlance means to talk through your code line by line in hopes of finding the root of the issue. nevertheless instead of offering assistance, Jen said the colleague replied, “I’d love to take a bath with you.”

Jen said she reported the incident to HR; she said she was fired three weeks later for not knowing a coding language her employer had never told her to learn. She said in which after years inside the business working a variety of jobs, she thinks the culture of tech is actually a significant reason why in which has failed to stamp out its sexual harassment problem.

“I think HR is actually worse in tech because everyone is actually looking to make a quick buck. Everyone thinks they’re going to be the next Facebook or Microsoft or Apple,” she said. “Everyone is actually trying so hard to be famous in addition to rich, they’re not willing to think about the details in creating a quality culture.”

Blake Montgomery in addition to Doree Shafrir contributed reporting to in which story.

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