The Human Rights of Women Entrepreneurs
Reid Hoffman
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Thank you so much for writing this post, Reid. It is critical for men in positions of power, and with authority in the tech sector, to not only recognize this, but to speak out about it. We don’t see it often enough, unfortunately.

The sexism and harassment in the startup and investment world is why we created the Women Startup Challenge in partnership with Craig Newmark. It’s a way to fund women-led startups with disruptive ventures that aren’t getting funded. Only 10% of investor money globally goes to startups led by women. That’s ridiculous. Craig is another man who speaks up about gender equity, not just equality, in tech and startups pretty frequently. It shouldn’t be rare, but it is. So, thank you for being another ally who validates that harassment isn’t okay, under any circumstance, and who shows up for women this in his work.

We’ve had close to 2,000 women-led startups apply to our Women Startup Challenges that we’ve hosted at LinkedIn, Microsoft, Google, etc and the stories we hear from the founders are shocking. For example one startup founder had emails from male investors telling her that if she “grew a beard,” they would fund her.

We see the problem in the stats and in the anecdotes. My team and I have been thinking a lot over the past few years about how we can be more intentional in fighting this harassment. You have lots of remedies that are similar to what we’ve come up with.

You’re absolutely right: there should be more accountability in the form of an industry-wide HR function, and while that might only work regionally, it’s a start.

Power dynamics are real. No one should feel pressure to engage in a sexual or romantic relationship with a funder. It’s so true, “If you want to mutually pursue a romantic or sexual relationship, then forfeit the prospect of a business relationship.”

Investors need to stop putting merit into the mirrortocracy. Too many investors are just funding within their circles: the people who look like them and think like them…more often than not, that is white, cis men.

We keep hearing investors say that they can’t find any women-led startups to invest in. I can tell you that many women are building startups, and these startups are bringing a wider range of perspectives to the table. My team and I have been developing a database of women-led startups to prove precisely that there are more than enough to choose from if an investor is looking to do so. Think of it as our own, more intentional Binder of Women. :)

Simply put: The Valley needs to #believewomen. When people don’t take women’s reports of harassment seriously, we have a serious problem that impacts the entire tech sector. When companies are obtaining the medical record of rape victims, we have a serious problem. When companies aren’t apologizing for mishandling harassment reports, we have a serious problem. If we begin by trusting and investing in women, we can start remedying these problems.

Change in a major investment firm can’t just happen because a few employees want it to. Change needs to happen with senior leadership. The CSuite, the CEOs, and Execs need to be speaking out and encouraging gender parity and good behavior. People should face more severe consequences than a slap on the wrist for assaulting or harassing another person. This is change that needs to happen at the roots for it to take hold.

Thank you again, Reid, for this #DecencyPledge. Thank you for doing what all men in the sector should be doing. This is a serious issue, and this is one way to begin to do exactly as you said, “encourage others to get off the sidelines and take more proactive measures in addressing — and correcting — instances of bad behavior that occur within our industry.”

Happy to chat with you anytime and brainstorm more ideas.