Despite #MeToo, Female Tech Founders are Dealing with More Sexual Harassment than Three Years Ago

Despite the rise of #MeToo, women in tech are experiencing more sexism than before - especially founders

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A Women Who Tech survey from this year has offered up some grim results in regards to sexual harassment in the industry. The company first ran this survey in 2017, when the #MeToo movement was at its peak. 

This year, Women Who Tech conducted over 1000 surveys between February and March this year, asking tech founders, co-founders, and employees about their experiences of harassment in the industry. Strikingly, there was hardly any (albeit some) change in the last three years, regardless of the very public fight against workplace harassment and sexual harassment in general. Only 7% of women and 10% of men believed there had been any positive change since #MeToo, and an overwhelming majority said there had been no change at all, positive or negative. That’s despite 55% of women saying discussions regarding harassment have increased both in and outside of work. 

Women founders in particular seem to be facing a whole host of sexism related issues. As PC Mag points out, they often don’t have a human resources department to report to in the case of any misdemeanors and, without being too speculative, there’s a lot to be said about the way women in positions of power are treated in any industry. 

The majority of female founders felt they were treated differently when trying to raise funding because of their gender (55%) and 48% were told they would be more likely to get funding if they were a man. This year, 59% of women say they had been offered funding in exchange for sex. Despite seeing a 6% decrease in that number since 2017, that’s still more than half. 

Unfortunately, this is hardly new. In 2018, one in five of Y-Incubator – an extremely influential Silicon Valley startup incubator – female founders were sexually harassed by investors. According to Fortune: “Of 88 YC female founders surveyed, 19 reported experiencing inappropriate “incidents” from angel investors or venture capitalists, which included sexual overtures or badgering, coercion or quid pro quo, or unwanted sexual contact.”

The same amount of female founders said they’d experienced unwanted physical contact at work and the harassment felt by women in these spheres is overwhelmingly related to their gender (76%). Despite reports of sexism being down 1% since 2017, offensive jokes regarding sexual harassment are up 6%. 

As I said, it’s a pretty grim revelation. Especially considering the work so many institutions have been doing to tackle the prevalent issue of sexual harassment in the workplace since the boom of #MeToo in 2017 (and that’s not even mentioning the campaign has been alive since 2006). 

The tech industry truly believes its a force for good; it’s making the world a better, more efficient place after all. This is probably a bitter pill to swallow for the industry as a whole, especially those not accustomed to workplace sexism. Let’s hipe 2023 provides better results.