Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Technology, Workplace

By Nevdil Çankaya

After overlapped harassment and sexism scandals that famous CEO’s have faced lately, from Uber ex-CEO Travis Kalanick to 500 Startups’ CEO Dave McClure, Hollywood stars are finally revealing their experiences especially with famous Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein. While sexism and sexual harassment scandals are surfacing in the workplace, it seems that more stories will keep coming to our attention.

Last month’s TechCrunch Disrupt San Francisco event also hosted Sarah Kunst (Proday), Kim Malone Scott (Candor) and Hilary Gosher (Insight Venture Partners) to discuss this important topic: Sexist Attitudes and Communication Mistakes in Silicon Valley.

For Kunst, Scott and Gosher sexism in the workplaces is not something that we can underestimate or ignore. Especially for the women entrepreneurs, it should be approached as a problem that must be handled immediately. Based on their own experiences, three women focused on how this problem can be solved and create better and more equal workplaces.  

Kunst: “Be brave”

After sharing her experience with 500 Startups’ CEO Dave McClure, Kunst says that she was tired of being a powerful woman and being seen as a threat by men. This type of attitude affects her professional life and the hiring process for potential new positions. Can we say that men really feel that the number of powerful women is raising or something else?

At this point, Scott touches upon a very important point, which is the language and the way of communication in the workplace. Even the successful male leaders are having a hard time facing this issue or even talking about it. From what I’ve been observing, in the workplaces we -even the females- really don’t pay attention to what kind of language we use to address our colleagues, and that makes a huge difference. Moreover, most of the time women don’t realize there is something wrong. Because of our society or how we grow up, some sexist work instances don’t bother us, such as planning events or organizing the foods for the office events etc. According to Gosher and Scott, we embraced these types of sexist tasks and sometimes think that we don’t need to raise our voice.

Communication is always the key   

As I mentioned above, the language of communication in the workplaces is an essential factor that every leader and employee should practice. Scott shares one of her experiences by saying that most of her male colleagues don’t even realize that they keep using sexist words. After she warns her colleagues at work multiple times to stop this sexist communication, she gets an email from one man and realizes that they aren’t aware of the magnitude of the situation. This is why, as women, we should break our silence. Even though the leaders also have a huge responsibility to stop this, we are the key voices who can help create a constructive and non-sexist work environment.

As long as we remain passive, more and more Travis Kalanicks or Harvey Weinsteins will rise and the problem will never be solved. Now through social media, the “#MeToo” campaign started and we are hoping that this at least raises the awareness of how big this issue is. It’s never easy to share experiences or reveal the stories to the public, but we can start at somewhere close by such as our friends or families. A supportive warning to a colleague in need of help can also go a long way. Sharing our experiences can mean more to other women in the workplace than we ever expected. 

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