The tech world is reeling after a prominent female partner at one of the industry’s major venture capital firms filed a sexual harassment lawsuit. The complaint details a pattern of mistreatment of female employees at the firm and reveals details of what many insiders already knew to be a male-centric industry.
The issues raised in the lawsuit filing were echoed in the comments of other women working in the venture capital world as well as entrepreneurs seeking investments. One woman told a reporter that she was explicitly denied a job at a prominent venture firm because of her gender and that in the 12 years since that happened, the company has still not hired a single female partner.
The complaint paints a disturbing picture of a company that hires slightly more women that other venture capital firms, but seeks to keep them subjugated through a denial of opportunity and promotions, lower pay, and harassment.
One of the key allegations in the lawsuit is that a coworker harassed the woman into engaging in an affair and then retaliated against her when she put an end to the relationship. Unfortunately the company line on this issue is similar to so many we have heard before, claiming that the man being accused is simply being labeled as a harasser by a scorned ex and that the consensual affair is evidence that no harassment occurred.
Attorneys who are familiar with workplace sexual harassment know that a consensual relationship does not necessarily preclude harassment and that power relationships in the workplace can have a variety of affects on the conduct of employees in these situations.
Source: New York Times, “Lawsuit Shakes Foundation of a Man’s World of Tech,” David Streitfeld, June 2, 2012.