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Silicon Valley’s “bro culture” was turned upside down earlier this year after a succession of women stepped forward with stories of sexual harassment and discrimination at the hands of male venture capitalists.
Influential executives like Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital, Dave McClure of accelerator 500 Startups, and celebrity investor Chris Sacca were implicated in allegations of misconduct and forced out.
As companies condemned the behavior and took steps to investigate claims, it seemed like Silicon Valley had finally started to move towards making the tech industry a better place for women. But a new report from The New York Times shows that all the well-intentioned promises may have resulted in some serious unintended consequences.
“A big chill came across Silicon Valley in the wake of all these stories, and people are hyper-aware and scared of behaving wrongly, so I think they’re drawing all kinds of parameters,” an anonymous venture capitalist told the Times.
The anonymous VC told the Times that he’s actually cancelled one-on-one meetings with female engineers and potential recruits to protect himself from any “reputational risk.”
It’s not clear how widespread this type of reaction might be. But it highlights the challenges facing women startup founders in an industry in which casual networking and meetings are critical to securing funding.
Women entrepreneurs are already under-represented when it comes to raising funding. Data shows that women led startups received $1.46 billion in venture capital funding compared to $58.2 billion given to all male companies in 2016. The problem is made even worse by the fact that the majority of venture capitalists are male. The Harvard Business Review estimates that only 7% of venture capitalists are female.
Every workplace is different, and it doesn’t seem like there is going to be a one size fits all solution in the near future. Women make up 48% of the entry level workforce but only 21% at the top. To get past all of the roadblocks on the way up, both men and women need to remain aware of the consequences – unintentional or otherwise – at every level.