From a Woman in VC to Men Everywhere: 5 Things You Can Do Now to Avoid Being That Guy
Sexual harassment stories are too frequent for comfort. There are many men who fuel this toxic culture in the tech world but there are also a lot of men who are making small gains in their respective organizations to make women feel safe and included at work. I’ve personally been lucky enough to work with men who fall into the latter bucket. (Yes, I acknowledge it’s awful that I feel lucky that I haven’t been sexually harassed in the workplace). From them, I’ve seen the everyday things men can do to avoid crossing that line.
- Talk about it. As Sarah Lacy of Pando put it, where was the outrage this past week when six women came forward with stories about explicit texts, groping, and unwanted sexual propositions from Binary Capital’s Justin Caldbeck? Blog about it, Tweet about it, or reach out to your team about it. Acknowledge that this is unacceptable behavior and communicate to your team that this isn’t how you do business. Don’t think this isn’t my fund, this isn’t my co-investor, this isn’t my problem. It’s a problem for all of us.
- Don’t be creepy. Just don’t. Don’t put yourself in a position where actions or words could be misinterpreted. If you think “could this be crossing the line?” go out of your way to make sure you’re on the right side of the line and then take 5 steps back. I was recently on a trip with all male coworkers and not once did I feel uncomfortable or out of place. One of them went so far (.25 miles to be exact) to make sure they weren’t crossing the line that they went down the street to buy a new pack of floss rather than showing up at my hotel room door to borrow mine. Without any context, showing up at your female colleague’s hotel room door late at night doesn’t look right, right? Right.
- STSD. Shut that sh*t down. If you are a male leader or any male within your organization and hear or see inappropriate things coming from your colleagues, shut it down. Right then and there. You can choose to do it in front of everyone or pull that person aside, but do it in real time. Make sure to follow up with the female who received the inappropriate comment to let her know that behavior will not be tolerated, you’ve confronted the individual, and you’d like to know if anything else comes up.
- Diversify. Look at your team, maybe you have all male leaders/partners/executives but where are the women? If they are already on your team, include them in important meetings and decision making. Studies show diverse teams outperform homogeneous ones so it’s mutually beneficial to bring more women to the table. My current team is comprised of four male partners yet we’ve carved out several ways for women to have a seat at the table. For starters, our partner meetings include everyone on the team. Additionally, while I sit on the platform side, I participate in all pipeline meetings where we discuss new investment opportunities. I’m also encouraged to bring forward any new investment ideas.
- Educate yourself. Don’t use the few women on your team as the go-to “token females” to answer all your questions about gender diversity. Seek out feedback from friends, family, and colleagues. Reach out to friends at companies that tackle diversity and inclusion exceptionally well. Talk about gender inequality with your male friends and what you’re doing to fix it. Read about women’s stories and when you do, honor them and believe them. No it wasn’t taken the wrong way, no we’re not being too sensitive, yes this is BS that we’re spoken to like this in the workplace.
We have much to do around giving women a seat at the table, getting our portfolios to 50% women led companies, making sure our boards are diverse, and more. On top of this, we have to think about other forms of diversity too. It’s not just gender diversity that’s the problem. To me, these are long term problems that we should work on solving everyday. However, I hope the above serves as useful, tactical suggestions to help you avoid being that guy at work.