Day three of TechCrunch Disrupt welcomed three women—Sarah Kunst of ProDay, Kim Malone Scott of Candor, and Hilary Gosher of Insight Venture Partners—who are all determined to create better work environments in Silicon Valley.
Their discussion focused on a pressing and important topic given that Silicon Valley has, over the past year, seen a storm of sexism and harassment scandals—fueled by more women speaking up and advocating for change.
Some of the most well-known stories include Susan Fowler’s blog post about Uber HR punishing her instead of the offender, Sarah Kunst pointing out David McClure’s sexual misconduct, which was followed by his resignation from 500 Startups, and Ellen Pao’s revelation of disparate treatment toward female partners at KPCB.
While trying to define their place in tech, most women have experienced discrimination and harassment on a certain level, whether it is unwelcoming glances at the conference table, unequal pay, or inappropriate advances from their male supervisors.
Steps Toward A Better Workplace
Kunst, Scott, and Gosher shared some of the ways that they think will be able to reverse Silicon Valley’s toxic culture or prevent it from happening in your workplace.
In Kunst’s opinion, the hiring process is crucial, especially since your employees make up your company’s culture.
“[I found] hiring people who aren’t just white dudes [helps a lot],” Kunst told the audience at TC Disrupt. “When you onboard people, be very clear about your values. I don’t think it’s impossible to build a great culture if you care and if you’re aware.”.
Gosher thinks that culture and change come from the top:
“The CEO and management team set the tenor. The board also [makes a difference]. For example, Uber board turned a blind eye [to sexual harassment allegations]. The board needs to have a zero tolerance policy. [The one rule is] ‘If you’re a man in the position of power, don’t hit on women.’ ”
Scott advises companies to “proactively look for gender biased language” in their policies. Scott gave an example of when she worked with tech firms, they would look at performance reviews and identify areas where they think gender bias exists.
“The subtle stuff is material,” said Scott.
In addition to advocating for change on the management level, pushing companies to become more responsive toward gender discrimination, women themselves should continue speaking up, including when instances of unconscious biases occur.
“Many of us are being bystanders,” Gosher said. She also pointed out how women stay silent when they are asked to do office housekeeping by men, even though it’s not part of their job. “If we want to change the industry, we need to stand up.”
And Scott thinks that if women were to bring up situations in which they feel uncomfortable, they should do it early.
“Teaching people the importance of bringing it up early is gonna prevent explosive blow-ups later,” Scott explained.
With more women sharing their stories, sexism in Silicon Valley can no longer be considered as a dispersed set of incidents. As a result, more companies are re-evaluating their culture, and onto fostering a more inclusive workplace.
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