Let’s Talk About Men

It’s happened again, but this time it’s different. After yet another wave of harassment headlines in the tech industry, my mind’s been racing with the question of what this means for the GUILD, a women’s-only networking platform I’ve built over the past year to help us advance in our careers and build our dream businesses through a strong network.

We owe a debt to the six women who were brave enough to step forward and expose the latest inappropriate and disgusting behavior by a man in the VC world. I’m talking about the recent allegations of sexual harassment by Justin Caldbeck, head of Binary Capital. Last week The Information posted a story detailing multiple incidents in which Caldbeck made sexual advances toward female entrepreneurs in which his firm had an interest. Three of the accusers went on the record with their names.

On the face of it, this guy seems to be living proof that there are still far too many predatory and exploitative men in tech and other fields. Indeed, just this week the President of the United States spewed out a hateful, misogynistic tweet attack on a talented female TV broadcaster.

But then, what about other men?

Supportive reactions to the Caldwell incident from men in the VC industry were swift. First, even before an official statement was issued, LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman (also a partner at investment firm Greylock) spoke out. Then, after Caldbeck’s official “apology,” Brenden Mulligan of Google and Cluster Labs parsed the statement and expressed his own willingness to help:

“If you’re a woman looking to raise money for your idea, or wanting a job at a company like Google or a startup, please email me and I’ll do anything I can to help you navigate this industry. I promise it’s not full of people like Justin.”

These sorts of genuine offers to support women made me wonder how we can translate these words into actions.

Crowdsourcing Ideas for Continuous Improvement

I’ve had my fair share of unwanted attention during my career, but I have also met wonderful men who cared, supported me, and genuinely wanted to pitch in toward a grander vision. Men who live by the hashtag #DecencyPledge, or better still #EqualityPledge. My husband couldn’t be a greater supporter of my choice of devoting my life and our family finances to this startup. And, the GUILD’s angel investor is a man! This really got me thinking:

What if we welcomed into the network men who truly and genuinely want to support women?
Would anybody want to join?

I’m asking the community that made the GUILD what it is today: a thriving fast-growing group of courageous women who want to meet other like-minded women to discuss our career steps, to find peers to share our stories with, and to give and get advice when we build our own businesses. I’d like to know your thoughts on whether the GUILD should expand its women-only membership to include men. Not just any men, but those who respect women and wish to empower them.

Our foundation and mission will not change. We will not make pivotal decisions without checking in with our base for their input. Our focus will stay true to the issues, trends and topics that matter most to women in business and in their careers. But in the spirit of open innovation, I’d like to hear your thoughts.

Do you see a role for men to join the GUILD as mentors, advisors, and supportive peers?
What would a fair and strong vetting system look like?

In the medieval guilds, tradespeople worked together, masters and novices. Is there a vision for the GUILD that invites men who want to lend a hand and listen to the women who want to build their businesses, who want to change the industry, who want to be mothers and leaders?

Going forward, I want to reflect with members and non-members, women and men alike. How can we involve the men who cringe at harassment in the business world, and are seeking opportunities to do something positive?

How can we elevate the discussion to turn this into a win for everyone? Not just because of Justin Caldbeck, but because of a deep understanding that diversity results in economic growth, innovation, and greater happiness as a tribe?

Let us hear your voice in the comments below, and via this short survey.