A Pledge for Decency and Broader Opportunity for All
The technology ecosystem continues to be challenged for many women as a respectful, safe place to work and thrive.
Just last week alone the industry saw the resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick on the heels of Eric Holder’s investigation into Uber’s culture and workplace practices. The week ended with sexual harassment allegations against venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck which has continued to spiral deeper into the industry this week around the permissive role others played in allowing the behavior over many years. The brave stand to go on the record by three female founders is forcing the venture capital & start up community to take a hard look at why unwanted sexual advances toward women in the workplace continue to be an issue.
We believe the issue is broader than just curbing sexual harassment. Data has shown repeatedly that diversity in a company’s leadership boosts the bottom line. It has the natural benefit that when you have broad diversity around the table, people are more thoughtful in how they treat each other and power dynamics change throughout the organization. What you say matters. What you permit matters. And what you do matters. Now more than ever.
The data continues to underscore this message. This week, The Harvard Business Review released data based on 140 VCs and 189 entrepreneurs that found male-led companies raised five times more funding than the female-led startups. The study found that female entrepreneurs are asked different questions and judged on a different set of standards compared to their male counterparts. It’s not the first time we’ve seen this issue. In 2016, women received just 2% of VC funding overall.
And, during a peer-reviewed study earlier this year in Sweden, researchers observed that venture capitalists described female and male entrepreneurs with drastically different words, from calling the male entrepreneurs “Young and Promising” while calling similar female entrepreneurs, “Young and Inexperienced.” Whether it’s unconscious bias or not, it must end if we want parity for women in venture capital, or women seeking funding as entrepreneurs.
It’s not about one bad apple but about a culture that permits or passively allows these power dynamics to remain. When tech, venture, and private equity firms share power broadly, such behavior would be unthinkable. When less than 1% of all venture investors share equal power and economics in a firm, it takes a lot of effort for it not to happen.
Thanks to LinkedIn founder and Greylock partner Reid Hoffman, VCs and founders across the tech industry are now signing up to #DecencyPledge, making it clear that we will not tolerate sexual harassment. Kudos to Reid as a successful entrepreneur and well respected male VC for kicking this off. If we are going to reshape the tech start up culture to be more inclusive for all, it will take men AND women working together.
It’s a great start, but our hope is that it is just that: a start. We hope it will spark a broader conversation, not just on zero-tolerence for harassment of women, but also on addressing gender (and other types) of discrimination in the tech ecosystem. We are urging leaders in the technology ecosystem to consciously work to bring a diverse leadership team directly into their companies and portfolios. Only through a conscious, purposeful effort will organizations change. Join us in actively driving this change in all that you touch and do throughout our ecosystem. Let not technology lag the world but demonstrate how diverse, open cultures lead to better workplaces and better outcomes for the business.
We are asking our community and fellow VCs to make the #BoostOpportunityPledge. Meaning, we won’t tolerate sexual harassment or gender discrimination and will work tirelessly to build a more fair and safe workplace. Women need to actively bring along diversity as well. It’s not just a men problem, it’s a people problem. Let’s get to work.