It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is Out

Gathered together in one place, for easy access, an agglomeration of writings and images relevant to the Rapeutation phenomenon.

Re: It’s Silicon Valley 2, Ellen Pao 0: Fighter of Sexism Is

Postby admin » Mon Oct 23, 2017 11:22 pm

Elephant in the Valley
by Trae Vassallo, Ellen Levy, Michele Madansky, Hillary Mickell, Bennett Porter, Monica Leas, Stanford University, Julie Oberweis, Stanford University.



The inspiration for this survey came out of the incredible conversation from the Ellen Pao & KPCB trial. 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. In an effort to correct the massive information disparity, we decided to get the data and the stories. We focused on five main areas including: Feedback & Promotion, Inclusion, Unconscious biases, Motherhood, and Harassment & Safety.

We asked 200+ women focusing on women with at least 10 years of experience. The survey is largely bay area with 91% in the bay area/silicon valley right now. We have a broad age ranges with 77% 40+ and 75% have children. Our respondents hold positions of power and influence with 25% are a CXOs, 11% are Founders, 11% are in venture. In addition to capturing start-up data, we also have employees from large companies including Apple, Google, and VMWare.

We encourage you to read, discuss, and add your anonymous stories to this initiative.


Trae Vassallo, Ellen Levy, Michele Madansky, Hillary Mickell, Bennett Porter, Monica Leas, Stanford University, Julie Oberweis, Stanford University.


Too hard or too soft

Have been told they are too aggressive (with half hearing that on multiple occasions)
It is difficult for women in tech to strike the right balance without being seen as too meek or too harsh:

47% have been asked to do lower-level tasks that male colleagues are not asked to do (e.g., note-taking, ordering food, etc.)
32% disagree that they have been asked to do these tasks.

Too hard or too soft

• "At Company X we had a joke that there were only two reviews for women - you are either too reticent or you are too bossy - no middle ground."

No Seat at the Table

felt excluded from key social/networking opportunities because of gender
59% have felt they have not had the same opportunities as their male counterparts
90% witnessed sexist behavior at company offsites and/or industry conferences

No Seat at the Table

"It's often easier to exclude women from social/networking opportunities (e.g. a golf buddy weekend) as these omissions are typically less overt (than e.g. an established business conference) and thus more difficult to identify."

"Egregious example: Getting taken to Hooters for lunch. "Death by a thousand cuts": male manager orders pitchers of beer but no other drinks at offsite. Offsites are all very physical activities, but I'm pregnant."

"Honestly, in two decades the list is just too long. This is an industry that has Cougar Night practically next door to my office and thinks it's perfectly appropriate to meet there for business conversations. (Why do we put up with that, BTW?)"

"At annual sales conference once, all the men gathered in the suite of the head of sales, drinking late into the night and then all shaved their heads as a bonding exercise. (The boss had a shaven head)."

"I don't know that I have been consciously excluded so much as some of the times that business is taking place on the golf course or late night at the bar just are not places I want to be."

"I was once invited to a networking event, only to have the invite rescinded when I rsvp'd and they realized I was a woman--they told me "this is just for the guys". There is a VC networking group called "alpha" as in male, of which I am the only female member and was "invited" only after specifically asking. VCs have fly-ins, fly-fishing trips etc to which only guys are invited"

"Once I led an offsite for my all male team at a go kart racing place even though I knew I'd get really motion sick to show I was 'one of the boys'"

Unconscious Biases

have experienced clients/colleagues address questions to male peers that should have been addressed to them
Eye contact with male colleagues and not me: 84%
Demeaning comments from male colleagues: 87%
47% asked to do lower-level tasks that male colleagues not asked to do

Unconscious bias

"As a VC, I had a casual pitch meeting with a male founder and two of my male colleagues. Despite my background/skill set being clearly the most relevant, the founder didn't make eye contact, and didn't really listen to the questions I asked before answering. Definitely the most blatant gender-based example I've had while a VC."

"In evaluating deals, sometimes a male ceo will address all his replies to my male associate--while I'm the GP on point. I don't make investments in those companies"

"When I am with a male colleague who reports to me the default is for people tend to defer to him assuming I work for him. As soon as they know that is not true they look to me. I have also had male colleagues say to me that once a woman is pregnant she is irrelevant."

Impact of Family

were asked about family life, marital status and children in interviews
40% feel the need to speak less about their family to be taken more seriously
Of those who took maternity leave, 52% shortened their leave because they thought it would negatively impact their career

Impact of Family

Questions asked during interviews include:

It's a good thing you don't have children yet as that would [not] work well in venture/start up world
Would I really have the time needed for the job and could I work as hard as the other two partners I'd be joining "given that you are a mom with a young child."
I was asked during fundraising meetings, "How do we know you're not going to run off and have a baby?"
Once I was asked about my religion and my views on abortion. On another occasion I was asked about how I would take care of my child while working.

Other feedback:

"The women at my firm didn't talk nearly as much about their families as the men did. We felt the need to appear more professional and 'all about business'"

"In one review session, one male partner said of a female employee 'we don't have to worry about her bonus or promotion because she just got married. So she'll probably have a baby and quit soon'"

"I told my direct supervisor that I needed to take some short-term medical leave in order to have fertility treatment. His response was that he wanted to make sure I understood that having a 2nd child would be a career-limiting move."

"Missed a bonus round for an entire year's work as I was out in December when it was assessed"

"I just think there are few women with families in VC so I feel like an anomaly"

"I pulled myself from the fast track."

"While I was on maternity leave, a colleague tried to poach my team. I returned to a team that was distressed because they felt unprotected during my maternity leave during a particularly political time at our company (just post-IPO). In talking to other female execs, I think there is generally a concern that absence opens up teams and roles for poaching, which is unacceptable practice."

"I had 2 kids 20 months apart. When I told my boss about the second pregnancy, his response was-"OMG! Didn’t you just have a baby?" BTW, he had 3 kids. When I returned from my 2nd mat leave, the mood was different, and there was little effort to include me in the flow of things. I was no longer part of the discussion on the cool big game-changer project, and my boss was complaining about how little my team had accomplished that summer. I had to remind him repeatedly that I hadn’t been around, and there was no backfill, so how could anything have been done?"

"I'm single but wear a wedding ring because I was tired of explaining why I wasn't married."

"I don't keep photos of my kids on my desk any more"

Sexual Harassment

of women in tech reported unwanted sexual advances
65% of women who report unwanted sexual advances had received advances from a superior, with half receiving advances more than once
1 in 3 have felt afraid of their personal safety because of work related circumstances

Sexual Harassment

• "Once a client asked me to sit on his lap if he wanted to buy my products. My company didn't do anything about it when i told my boss so unfortunately I asked to be taken off that client but it's not like they can fire the client."

• "I had a fellow VC sending me flowers, gifts, even a mix-tape, over the course of several months. Another portfolio CEO asked me to go through a door first so he could "watch me walk" and my superiors at the firm told me to laugh it off. I also had another VC tell me likes married women and put his hand on mine. (I'm married)"

• "Example: I was propositioned by a hiring manager early in my career when I was a job candidate. He clearly indicated that if I slept with him, he would make sure I was promoted as his 'second in command' as he moved up the ladder in the company. I was lucky to have the option to reject the offer."

• "Unwanted sexual advances were far more common when I was in my 20s and early 30s than today."

• "Experiences included being groped by my boss while in public at a company event. After learning this had happened to other women in my department, and then reporting the event to HR, I was retaliated against and had to leave the company."

• "The first time I travelled with a new CEO he made an advance. I turned him down. After that, I was never asked to travel with him again. This impacted my ability to do my job."

Colleagues Behaving Badly:

• "So many...recently, I attended a VC firm's conference where they required one group of people to strip to their underwear and swim in a lake. The men all got naked and jumped right in. But the women? So devastating."

• "So many! E.g., at CES a VC who told me how committed he is to NVCA diversity task force in the next moment discusses what strip club he's going to with another VC. CEOs call the females in their companies "girls." All the analogies made about business relationships to "dating". All the assumptions that the next new hire is a "guy who will..." Booth babes at trade shows, tacky ads and commercials."

• "Have you ever been to Computex? the women don't wear much."

• "Company off-sites and industry conferences are hot beds of sexist activity, from excluding female colleagues from guy outings (e.g., golf, skiing) to drunken sexually charged conversations to late night searches for hook ups. For example, during an investors/CEO meeting in Jackson Hole, the men at the meeting were planning the ski day and they projected an assumption I was not going to be able to keep up. I kicked their asses on the slope the next day. Suddenly, my brand equity improved."

• "At a work party for a conference, the hosting company had women acrobats that were wearing very few clothes - mostly paint."


who reported sexual harassment were dissatisfied with the course of action
39% of those harassed did nothing because they thought it would negatively impact their career
30% did not report, because they wanted to forget
29% signed a non-disparagement agreement


"Vicious comments by online (anonymous) commenters following my writing a piece about gender equity in tech industry."

"Traveling to certain places and being the only female on a team can be intimidating - particularly in 3rd world countries or in the South 20 years ago. My company didn’t know how to prepare me for that."

"After speaking at events, I've been followed by aggressive attendees to my car on several occasions."

"Coworker had anger issues especially toward women. I told my boss who blew me off. He was eventually arrested at work for a violent episode."

"I was the COO of a large company, and the CEO was very unstable. I decided to leave (life is too short), and he asked if I would stay with the company if he killed himself. I declined, and then he starting asking questions about what kind of car I drive, what my son looks like... I was nervous for months.:

"After a colleague made a (VERY unwanted) advance, I did not complain to anyone but I ensured that I never was alone with him outside an office setting. Not complaining was a mistake. The colleague later criticized me in a review as 'not putting in enough hours.' If I'd filed a complaint, his spiteful slap back at me would have been put in context. But I wouldn't have known whom to complain to or how."

"I publicly embarrassed him. That worked."

"Spoke to peers and asked their advice. This served to neuter the person involved from a social standpoint."

What Would They Have Done Differently:

"Hard to say. He worked in HR so I would have had to go to the head of HR which felt career limiting. That said, after I left I know he continued to harass other women, which makes me wish I had filed a complaint. I'm not proud of how I handled it but I was afraid and didn't want to invest any more time or emotional energy. It was behind closed doors, no one else was there, so I knew it would be a he said/she said."

"I should have spoken directly to my colleague about his inappropriate comments. In the case of the superior I should have reported it but was quite young and not confident in my position at the time."

"Spoken to HR. But we didn't have that person in the venture capital firm. Didn't know who to talk to."

"I didn't file because it seemed like an innocuous statement between long-time friendly colleagues at the time. However, the repercussions of my rejecting my superior caused him to be very negative towards me and make my work life very difficult."


The Elephant in the Valley was a collaborative effort between seven women in Silicon Valley with backgrounds including Venture Capital, Academia, Entrepreneurship, Product Marketing and Marketing Research.

We compiled a list of several hundred senior level women from our collective contact lists and invited them to participate in a survey about gender in Silicon Valley. We had 210 complete an online survey between April and May 2015.

Profile of the respondents:

100% female
91% living in Silicon Valley
25% CXOs (CEO, CMO, CTO, etc.), 11% VCs, 11% founder/entrepreneur, 11% marketing
22% under 40, 42% 40-49 and 36% 50+
Site Admin
Posts: 36077
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to A Growing Corpus of Analytical Materials

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests