There Are “Weinsteins” Lurking in Every Profession — Including Tech
Carie Fisher
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Wow. He was a jerk.

I am perplexed though. While I know that these things happen — apparently a-lot — I have never, ever witnessed inappropriate behavior toward women in an IT setting, and I have been in IT a long time. I have had my own company (~200 people), and worked in many, many different contexts and situations.

Yet I know that it happens. My niece (in her 40s) had numerous incidents of sexual harassment when she worked in the satellite operations field. I did not witness them however — she told me about them.

So I have to conclude that the perpetrators are careful to do these things when no one is looking. They want deniability.

That’s why it is so difficult for men to support women in these situations — the good men, who would do something about it — don’t see it happen.

In the case of Harvey Weinstein, everyone knew. But IT is not the film industry. My wife was in the film industry — in fact, she worked for Weinstein when Miramax had only 20 people. She was his personal assistant. Yet, while he made a-lot of off-color jokes, he never made an inappropriate advance to her (and yes, she was — and still is — extremely attractive). I suspect that the reason is that she was not captive to him — she was not an actress and so he could not control her with threats of “you will never work in this town”, or the lure of “if you sleep with my decrepit body I will make you a star”. People knew what Weinstein was up to, but the only ones who actually witnessed it were his confidants who he could trust — who were complicit. When my wife worked for him, it was early days — the ’80s — and so she thinks he had not yet started that behavior — he was not yet famous and powerful.

The perpetrators of sexual harassment keep it secret. Just like the online trolls who attack women, hiding behind anonymity, sexual harassers do their harassing in private.

I think that women in IT need a support system of some kind — perhaps mentors (who are not just women — men too) who are respected members of the IT community — people they can report incidents to. To report to the company HR department is to go nuclear — the inevitable outcome is someone is fired or has to leave, and it is sometimes the accuser. There needs to be a more gradual and confidential first step, where women can talk to someone who can advise them — someone who is not thinking of the company first —but who can ultimately take action — backed by their status in the industry.

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