#MeToo Hasn’t Changed Much in Tech… Yet
But you can help make things happen.
Six months ago, the #MeToo movement transformed a tweet into an avalanche. But even though there has been progress, I’m increasingly concerned — because despite the initial momentum and changing attitudes, workplaces aren’t really improving.
There have been consequences, for sure. Mostly they’ve been focused on naming and shaming, bringing aggressors and transgressors into the light, and hearing them promise to do better. People now believe these problems exist and that we need change. Those are all improvements on where we were this time a year ago but…
Tackling discrimination isn’t just about holding the worst offenders to account, it’s about stopping systems of abuse — about all the people who tacitly offer support to the abusers. It’s about the venture capitalists and other investors who seem to care more about profits and PR than people and society, and the board members and advisers who help toxic CEOs resurrect their careers.
So what’s happening at your company? Has there been progress? Have gender and racial disparities in compensation been addressed? Have harassment policies and procedures been updated and shared? Is diversity and inclusion data not just collected, but acted upon?
Company leadership should be driving transparency, but the truth is that positive action is actually exceedingly rare. (I want to highlight Asana, Patreon, and Pinterest for their data transparency and initiatives around diversity and inclusion.) We still have to put pressure on others to do the right thing.
So today, we’re calling for new efforts in three areas of transparency: compensation, processes, and data. And because companies don’t want to move on this quickly (or, worse yet, they don’t want to move at all) it’s going to take people on the ground to push for it, to share information, and to build this together.
Here’s what you can do.
Transparency in compensation
Asking your company how it ensures people are paid fairly is one of the most basic elements of overall fairness. When Erica Baker, one of our founding advisors, created a spreadsheet for people to share salaries at Google, it caused waves — and while it alerted people to the problem and helped employees negotiate better, the company didn’t seem to change its compensation practices at all. Now it’s taken litigation to see whether the company will finally address these questions.
- Does my company have stated pay levels with clear requirements and expectations? If not, why not? There are always individual situations — like moving from one job to another — but long-term pay must be equitable and visible.
- Are other forms of compensation equitable too? It’s not just about base salary in tech, but also bonuses and — most importantly — your equity in the company you work for.
- Are pay bands put on job listings, internally and externally? If not, why not?
If you’re worried about the real risk of personal exposure, there are other ways to exert pressure for transparency. Jackie Luo, for example, takes Twitter DMs of salary levels from men in tech and then retweets them.
Project Include recommends: Create compensation bands and stick to them. Share your total compensation, or even just your bands if you know them, with other co-workers.
2. Transparency in processes
What behavior is expected, what is considered off-limits, and what happens when somebody crosses the boundary between the two — these are all things that any company of significant size and scope should be able to state publicly. If the business has a history of complaints against it (and #MeToo helped show how many of those there were) or a lack of diversity on its teams, it is doubly important to make those rules and processes visible to any current or future employee.
Again, ask yourself:
- Does your company have codes of conduct for internal and external behavior? Do they cover discrimination, bias as well as sexual harassment?
- Do you know what your path of recourse is if you feel harassed, bullied, or endangered?
- If harassment or discrimination is common, what steps were taken to address the situation? What HR resources are available?
- Is anyone following up six months later on reported problems to make sure they’ve really been addressed and resolved?
There is already strong precedent for this information to be made public — dozens of venture capital firms have made their codes of conduct visible as part of a campaign called #MovingForward. If your executives need help to put your policies down on paper, we also have a guide to writing them.
Project Include recommends: Have clear standards for behavior internally and externally in codes of conduct. Have clear paths for resolution. Make sure everyone is aware of both.
3. Transparency in diversity and inclusion data
Too often, “diversity” efforts focus on narrow questions (Are women represented? What’s the racial makeup of your entire company?) without considering power dynamics or intersectionality. It’s important to know not just whether a whole company is diverse, but whether it stretches to all levels of influence — including the board — and whether it’s possible to determine which people face the greatest challenges once inside the company.
- Are your demographics inclusive? Are you looking at more than binary genders and more than race? Are you covering jobs by level, function, title and responsibilities? Are you looking at your board and your investors? Are you looking at subgroups to find intersectional barriers?
- If you are a VC, are you demanding more diversity and transparency not just of your own organization, but of the companies and boards you are involved in?
- If you are an LP, what firms and partners are you investing in? What are you asking for from them? Are you measuring your own organization as well?
Remember, too, that today’s diversity reports usually don’t cover inclusion. How do different groups feel about belonging? What do employees think about the company’s commitment to inclusion and diversity, and is management aware of those thoughts? Who is leaving ? Who is being promoted? Who gets opportunities, especially ones with visibility? What groups and individuals will benefit most from success?
There are ways to make this information more visible; for example take the work of another founding advisor Tracy Chou: Her ongoing project captures engineering gender diversity across the industry — and has been running for nearly five years.
It’s critical that you demand more of your company. It should look beyond headline figures, and ask you and your co-workers for your thoughts on diversity and also on inclusion. It shouldn’t just scan the numbers.
Project Include recommends: Support efforts pushing for greater transparency, like Social Capital and the Information’s VC diversity rankings, or Project Include’s Startup Include program — and lobby your VC investors and startup to sign up.
From where I stand, #MeToo was cathartic, but its long-term value must be in lasting change. That means we have to keep applying energy — to keep the momentum up, to keep the conversation at boiling point. We have to make this movement last.
That’s why I’m asking for your help in keeping the heat turned up. We’re looking to see what progress has really been made. If you have information, please let Project Include know. And if you don’t, are you prepared to find out?