Scandals of sexual misconduct within Silicon Valley companies are momentary and contained, but the issue which is widespread is systematically mishandled, according to a Guardian report published Wednesday.
“The scale is sort of breathtaking,” Kelly Dermody, an attorney who has represented hundreds of women in tech every year, told the Guardian. “Most of the women I’ve worked with in startups have had stories where they have been physically touched, if not worse, without their consent."
The issue came to light most recently — following Reddit's Ellen Pao's million-dollar lawsuit — with a viral blog post of a former engineer at Uber who described mishandled and underreported sexual assault cases at the multinational company.
“ On my last day at Uber (in December 2016), I calculated the percentage of women who were still in the org,” wrote Susan Fowler. “Out of over 150 engineers in the SRE (site reliability engineer) teams, only 3 percent were women.”
She said that the manager who had insinuated he wanted to have sex with her was never taken off her team, despite having been accused of similar behavior by other female employees.
Her case is among thousands of estimated complaints by women and people of color about a predatory and white-dominated workplace in Silicon Valley, often characterized as a frat house with no rules but “fun,” reported the Guardian, citing “a number of prominent attorneys.”
While many blamed the startup nature of the companies with unequipped human resource departments for the lack of response — since nepotism means that bosses refrain from chastising friends for the sake of growing the company — Silicon Valley giants have also been called out for harassment, including Twitter, Apple, Google and Tesla.
The bigger-profile the accusation, often the bigger the smear campaign by male colleagues.
A survey released last January found that about 60 percent of women working in tech have “ reported unwanted sexual advances” in the workplace, usually from superiors and often compromising their feeling of personal safety.
Reports of sexual assault among other workers like domestic workers are also rampant, though less often reported.
Silicon Valley is a nickname for the southern portion of the San Francisco Bay Area, in the northern part of California, originally referring to the large number of silicon chip innovators and manufacturers in the region.