Why is Workplace Culture Failing Women?
In the past couple of weeks, many women have come forward to expose how powerful men have been abusing their power to try and block them from being promoted or raising capital. These women should be applauded, since this type of behaviour has unfortunately become normalized. This makes it quite difficult to come out because you don’t want to be potentially ostracised from your job and the industry.
Almost six years ago, I made a shift from the financial services and medical industry into the startup world. I made this move because I realized I needed to work for a company where I felt passionate about the product, would be given the ability to have more responsibility and work in anenvironment which promotes a more inclusive culture. I thought the tech industry had an ethos of pushing boundaries and disrupting the status quo.
I have always been proud to tell people that I work in the tech industry. Unfortunately, in the past couple of weeks, I haven’t had the same sense of pride, due to the recent events that have unfolded. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, read these articles:
Anyone would agree, working in a company or starting your own business is something that is quite stressful. Why should someone have to worry about being harassed at work or trying to raise money? They shouldn’t.
Many of my female friends’ run and work for successful companies in varying industries. Till this day, it boggles my mind to hear their stories and see some of the messages they have received from their bosses which are completely inappropriate and unsolicited. It gets worse — these women won’t report the behavior because they are afraid it will ruin their reputation or lose their job (Great article on the myth of ‘cool tech girl’). If this is the case, the system has failed them. This is the sole reason divisions like HR were created.
I’m sure there are people reading this saying, “Well if a guy likes a woman and tries to pursue her, why is this considered harassment?” I know many people who have met their significant others in the workplace. And, I understand there can be some ‘grey’ area and a topic that people will always be debated — however, I think we all know there is a major difference between harassment and trying to respectfully date someone. The most important thing to remember, women deserve to be first seen as a professional and not judged by other means.
It’s a strong sign to see that people are speaking out and I hope more women feel empowered moving forward to turn to people if they experience something similar. Whether that’s a friend, HR or a fellow colleague. At the same time, men should not be oblivious to what’s happening and need to support the female community (not just in tech!). As an employee, we need to be more proactive in reporting this conduct to HR (if the company has it) — as a founder, you need to make swift and immediate action to terminate your employees’ contract — as an investor, you need to immediately remove a founder. This type of behaviour cannot continue.
Let’s support people in coming forward about the abuse of power and not applaud the abusers.