Women In Tech Report High Levels Of Harassment. Men Say They Had No Idea.


To get a better sense of sexism in tech, some of the industry’s top women executives launched a survey on sexual harassment. The results: Nearly two-thirds of women in tech reported unwanted sexual advances — but their male counterparts were completely unaware.

A former executive with Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, the former employer of ex-interim Reddit CEO Ellen Pao who sued them for gender discrimination, teamed up with a marketing research expert for a study released Monday called “Elephant in the Valley.” The report, which is sponsored by some of the tech industry’s most influential women executives, including SurveyMonkey’s marketing VP Bennett Porter, former LinkedIn VP and startup investor Ellen Levy, and Foodily co-founder Hillary Mickell, quantifies more than 200 interviews with women who have at least 10 years experience working in the tech industry, primarily Silicon Valley and California Bay Area, a majority of which were at least 40 years old and have children.


“The inspiration for this survey came out of the incredible conversation from the Ellen Pao and [Kleiner Perkins] trial,” wrote the study’s co-authors Trae Vassallo, former Kleiner Perkins partner, and Michele Madansky, a marketing consultant. “What we realized is that while many women shared similar workplace stories, most men were simply shocked and unaware of the issues facing women in the workplace.”

According to the survey, 60 percent of women in tech reported unwanted sexual advances, and of those who did, 65 percent said those advances were repeated and came from a superior. More than 30 percent felt unsafe in their work environments, an issue that was fueled by insufficient recourse for women who did report sexual harassment.

Nearly 70 percent of women didn’t report incidents because they wanted to forget or thought it would negatively affect their career. Another 29 percent signed non-disparagement agreements, which prevents employees from speaking out against the company.

Those fears of retaliation weren’t unfounded, according to the study. Two-thirds of women felt they were excluded from important networking and social events because of their gender, and 90 percent witnessed coworkers exhibit sexist behavior at industry conferences or outside of work.


The results of the small survey coupled with Ellen Pao’s failed lawsuit, fortifies claims women in tech have complained about for decades. Following Pao’s suit, women began filing more gender discrimination lawsuits against companies for unfair practices including retaliation for sexual harassment complaints.

Silicon Valley is working to shed its diversity-averse brogrammer culture, which has been known to push women and people of color out of the field and can trickle down into unfair policies that affect the public.

“Elephant in the Valley” shows that “It’s a lot more than sexual harassment,” survey co-author Michelle Mandansky told Recode in a podcast interview. “There’s so much of this conscious and unconscious bias that does happen, and that’s the broader story to be told.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the origin of the report. The survey was spearheaded by one former Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers employee and has no affiliation with the venture capital firm itself.