Money Matters

Yes, Sexual Harassment in Tech Is Really That Bad, 78 Percent of Female Founders Say

(Source: www.inc.com)

Sexual harassment is at least as rampant in the tech and startup community as all the headlines suggest, according to a new survey. 

Seventy-eight percent of women founders say they have been harassed or know someone who was, according to First Round Capital’s annual State of Startups survey, released Wednesday morning. This was the first time that First Round asked directly about sexual misconduct, after a year that has seen widespread allegations against men including the President, Steve Jurvetson, and Harvey Weinstein.

Some 869 founders took the survey, of which 17 percent were women. Of all founders, half said they’d been sexually harassed in the workplace or knew someone who was; the percentage was roughly the same for male founders.

Many more women had first- or secondhand experience with harassment than men — and, not surprisingly, women entrepreneurs believe sexual harassment to be more of a problem than men do. Seven out of 10 female founders said sexual harassment in tech and at startups is underreported, but just 35 percent of male founders agreed. Men were more than four times as likely to say that the media has overblown the issue of sexual harassment: 22 percent of male founders believe this, versus just 5 percent of women.

Women and men also disagree on what the solutions might be. Overall, women tend to favor more aggressive tactics. Their top-rated solution is to get more women venture capitalists into the industry. Their second choice is for limited partners to pressure venture capitalists into better behavior. Both of these solutions seem to imply that the majority of the harassment comes from venture capitalists, rather than any other group of industry power brokers. Third, women want to see investors and tech leaders blacklisted for bad behavior.

Guys don’t seem to want to rock the boat. Their top choices for creating a better environment for women didn’t include pressure from LPs or the blacklisting of bad actors. Instead, they want more sensitivity training, followed by more media coverage. As a third choice, they think more female venture capitalists would be helpful.

Almost no one thinks decency pledges will make much of a difference: Just 1 percent of women and 4 percent of men thought they were the best solution. Five percent of respondents, overall, said nothing more needs to be done.

How Founders Run Their Companies

First Round also asked founders questions on a variety of other topics related to the running of their businesses. Some highlights:

Sales trumps engineering. Twenty-six percent of founders said that sales leaders were the hardest hires. That’s new. In earlier surveys, entrepreneurs said engineering hires were the hardest to make. But this year, engineering hires came in second in the “difficult-to-hire” rankings, with 24 percent of entrepreneurs citing them. First Round suggests that this shift may be due to the fact that more startups are entering the enterprise space, and learning just how troublesome a bad sales hire can be.

Politics matter. A quarter of founders said that a job candidate’s political affiliation would make a difference in whether or not they were offered a job. Thirty-seven percent said political affiliation mattered in choosing a board member.

What competition? In general, founders don’t seem to worry about failure at the hands of their competition — only 5 percent cited this as a concern. Instead, they fear not raising enough capital (22 percent mentioned this), or not being able to achieve product-market fit (17 percent).

More Info: www.inc.com

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