Today, we are an advancing society, reaching new territories with our knowledge and technology but the growth that we truly need, seems forgotten or lost. I am referring to sexism, and predominantly, sexism in startups.
Women are discriminated against and sexually harassed on a regular basis in the startup work space. In 2013, a law was passed that mandated every company to have a team of 10 people that’ll ensure a structure to manage the complaints of female employees. Yet this law still remains unsatisfied as it is simply a target on paper for most companies. According to a recent survey, 60 percent of women working in Silicon Valley have fallen victims to uninvited sexual advances. This is a grave problem, prevalent in not only our society but the whole civilization..
We live in a time of self-driven cars, yet the very propagator of such innovation is under the spotlight for mistreatment of women in the place of work. I’m referring to Uber; the world’s largest on-demand ride hiring startup which failed to create a women-friendly work culture. Reports affirm that more than 20 employees were fired from Uber due to sexual provocation. It is lesser known that it took over 200 claims to fire those 20 people. Not only does this expose the toxicity in its environment but also highlights the severity of the conditions that an outside force was called upon to administer it.
Uber founder, Travis Kalanick famously apologized saying “Change doesn’t usually happen without a catalyst. I hope that by taking the time to understand what’s gone wrong and fixing it we can not only make Uber better but also contribute to improvements for women across the industry.” Although, it was scandalous; owning its mistakes and standing up for women’s rights, at least in the public front, set a better example for other businesses.
A similar incident took place much closer to home, when TVF CEO, Arunabh Kumar was charged for sexual harassment under the premise of an allegation by a former female employee. The woman, first, informed people about the assault through a blog post under the pseudonym, Indian Fowler. This acquired immense attention and the shock deepened when she received threats from TVF.
In response, Kumar gave a statement to the public, saying “We made a grave mistake by responding instinctively in our first official response. While no amount of apologies can undo the mistake, I would like to once again apologise from the bottom of our hearts for letting you all down.”
This may seem like a genuine apology but don’t be fooled. Kumar remained ambiguous by carefully vocalizing that he was only sorry for letting people down and not guilty for any sexual offence. Soon after, he communicated to people regarding his resignation, through Twitter.
— Arunabh Kumar (@TheQtiyapaGuy) June 16, 2017
Another such incident is of Malaysian woman entrepreneur named Cheryl Yeoh, but her story is heartbreaking. She revealed in her blog post of a time when she was left alone in her apartment with Dave Mclure, former CEO of 500 startups. She exposed, that he sexually advanced at her and persistently prepositioned, even after she said no. She demanded him to leave, reminded him that she had a boyfriend but he refused to take no for an answer. It came to a point when he even pushed himself on her, cornered her and came to close proximity to even kiss her. She but again, ordered him to leave and when he finally did, she broke down in tears. Many women like Cheryl were molested by Dave Mclure, which led to his resignation as general partner of 500 startups.
Dave’s apology included, “I put people in compromising and inappropriate situations, and I selfishly took advantage of those situations where I should have known better.” Mclure accepts his mistakes but is not honestly apologetic as he should be. Even his twitter post below is an example of his carelessness.
According to reports, even the current CEO, Christine Tsai, is uncertain about Dave’s future behaviour. Shouldn’t this man be behind bars?
As you can see, it is time we supported the law passed in 2013 and bring change in our environments by propagating and reinforcing equal treatment of men and women. We can continue talking about growth and development all day long but real growth will only occur when women are genuinely respected in the workplace.