Women entrepreneurs sexually harassed in Silicon Valley

 In Confidence, Women & Girls

A few weeks ago, I read an article about the increase of women entrepreneurs sexually harassed in Silicon Valley. As I started to dig more into this, I found out that 60% of these women report having been harassed. I knew there was a lot of sexual harassment taking place but hadn’t heard much about it until lately. 60% is high, this made me sick to my stomach. 60% is a majority and almost 2/3 of women in Silicon Valley. What is happening?

Power imbalance

“About 90% of startups fail. A critical ingredient in their success – at least in the short term – is attracting enough money from the right venture capital firm or angel investor. In addition, this elite group of moneymen (and they are disproportionately men) can add a stamp of approval to a fledgling business that in turn helps to attract more investment and publicity. It appears that Silicon Valley treats these investors like demigods, in front of whom founders must parade themselves in order to stay afloat” (theguardian, July 9, 2017).

Because of this and the nature of how ‘business’ is done usually in a social setting, women feel they must concede (to a certain degree) and  let it go, while bad behavior goes unpunished.

Women entrepreneurs are speaking out

Women are starting to speak out. Megyn Kelly (NBC News: Women of Silicon Valley, Part 1: Women Share Stories of Alleged Sexual Harassment) spoke with six female entrepreneurs from Silicon Valley about the sexual harassment they experienced in the tech world. As I watched, I was amazed at the power and strength of these women. All very successful. All very brave. All very scared.

Did keeping the fact that they were sexually harassed quiet get them the success they wanted? Maybe but I think fear is what kept them quiet and the power, strength, and resilience that was always there is what got them their success.

What happens to a women’s power and strength

Why don’t women have enough confidence in themselves to trust that they can get what they want without having to deal with sexual harassment? The founders and CEOs on Megyn Kelly’s show and others I’ve worked with have more often than not displayed this confidence, at least, until they found themselves in situations where ‘men are in charge’ and then their confidence has waned. Why?

Unfortunately, we still live in a white male supremist society. And with that, there is still the belief that white men don’t have to think about what they are doing or who they do it to because, as the theory goes, they reign supreme. Men are largely still in charge of money and decisions and largely, who make it in the world of business. However, it is changing. Women are fighting back.

Breaking out means…

  • Learn to hold onto your power and strength – it’s an asset. Don’t give it away.
  • Build confidence – you don’t deserve what you ‘get’. You deserve what you want and expect.
  • Listen to your intuition – if something doesn’t feel right, listen to that.
  • Develop trust in yourself – you can stand up for yourself and still get what you want.

Women aren’t taught these skills. We either think we have them or we don’t, but you can learn to develop them. You can learn to be strong and follow your dreams.

Women entrepreneurs sexually harrassed is wrong

Speaking up about sexual harassment is scary. What if people don’t believe you? What if it ruins your business plans? What if your reputation is ruined? These are the thoughts we tell ourselves to get through the trauma of a difficult situation but they aren’t fact. If you’ve been sexually harassed, that’s a fact. Start there, admit it, and figure out what the next step is. Take one step at a time. Find support and build the mental skills you need to continue moving your business forward. It’s easier said than done, but it is possible.

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