60% of the women in the tech industry are sexually harassed, a recent survey titled “Elephant in the Valley” has revealed.
The study was conducted by a team of experts led by Michele Madansky, former vice-president at Yahoo’s Customer Insights, and Trae Vassallo, a former partner at Silicon Valley-based venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byer.
The analysis involved a group of 222 female employees who had been working for Silicon Valley high-tech businesses for the last 10 years or more. Around three-quarters of the subjects were aged 40 or upwards, and a similar percentage held senior management jobs within the company, serving as vice-presidents, chief executive officers etc.
Researchers discovered that starting from the early stages of recruitment and selection process, the participants had been faced with widespread sexism exhibited by human resource managers.
More precisely, three quarters of the subjects revealed that, during the interview, they had received an inordinate amount of questions related to their personal life, focusing mostly on marital status and number of offspring.
Soon after joining the company payroll, most of them realized that they were hardly ever taken seriously and recognized for their know-how and qualifications.
Namely, 88% had to deal with instances when their advice and support were shunned, with co-workers and business partners turning to male staff instead.
Trying to assert themselves more, and to show their mettle by becoming more actively involved at the workplace proved in vain also, actually causing more harm than good.
As many as 84% of the respondents had been criticized by colleagues and superiors for their overly self-assured and decisive personality, which was deemed as “aggressive” or excessively ambitious.
Moreover, women working for Silicon Valley tech firms experienced difficulty expanding their number of business connections, or becoming accepted as valuable team players within their organization.
Specifically, around two-thirds of them recounted that at least on one occasion they had been denied participation to various networking events or social outings, as a direct consequence of being female.
The only thing that appeared to spark the interest of their peers and bosses was the subjects’ physical appeal, remarks and compliments related to their appearance being much more frequent than those praising their work ethic, expertise or creativity.
Around 3 out of 5 of the participants were sexually harassed, being touched inappropriately, receiving uncomfortable compliments or being persistently invited to dinner by other members of their organization.
In around two thirds of these instances, attempts at seduction and sexual coercion had been made by men holding higher positions within the company.
Despite all these distressing occurrences, almost 4 out of 10 of those who had become victims of workplace sexual harassment had abstained from making their distressing experience public, believing that such an initiative would fall on deaf ears or lead to their own dismissal instead.
The other 60% had reacted more vehemently against unwelcome sexual advances from their peers and bosses, calling attention to the torment they had been subjected to.
However, such a decision proved to be the right one among just 4 out of 10 of these female whistleblowers, the rest of them being unhappy with the outcome of their attempt to expose these cases of sexual misconduct.
The findings, while not at all surprising, help shed more light into the challenges experienced by women when trying to be valued for their brains and not for their looks, in a notoriously male-dominated industry such as the technology sector.
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