It’s been the talk of the summer in Silicon Valley. CEOs at Uber and SoFi lost their jobs after whistleblowers came forward, alleging sexism and harassment. Powerful venture capitalists, including Dave McClure from 500 Startups lost their jobs after women, including Sarah Kunst, accused him of making inappropriate advances when seeking a job at his venture firm.
Workplace harassment isn’t new, but we’re talking about it more than ever. So what’s inspiring these women to speak up?
Kunst, who joined us on stage at TechCrunch Disrupt, said that she felt encouraged after watching other women share their stories. “Seeing women like Elen Pao, seeing women like Susan Fowler come forward tell their stories, be believed and realizing that that’s what it took.” She said that she first tried to address the situation privately, but it wasn’t resolved.
Kunst, who’s a founder and CEO at Proday, says that too many work environments aren’t receptive to a discussion about these problems. “If you’re a manager…and no one has ever come to you with an issue about being harassed or feeling discriminated against, you are not encouraging open communication in your company,” she said, suggesting that these issues are common enough that they’re happening everywhere.
She was joined on the panel by Kim Scott, a former Google exec who now advises executives at companies like Dropbox and Twitter. She also authored the book, “Radical Candor.” Hilary Gosher, managing director at Insight Venture Partners and board member at Parity Partners was on stage as well.
“For so long women were told you’ll never get a job, you’ll blow up your life if you come forward,” said Scott. She advocates “teaching people the importance of bringing it up early. Not making a big deal of it is going to prevent these big explosive blowups later.”
Gosher believes that “people aren’t going to change unless they’re forced to change.” She said that the dramatic Uber situation should be a warning for other leaders. “Some of the boards like Uber turned a blind eye for many months until things became very obvious.”
The conversation was largely solutions-driven, focusing on what men and women can be doing to improve work environments, making them an inclusive place for everyone.
Click the link above to watch the full conversation.