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Elephant in the Valley Survey Highlights Sexism in the Tech Workplace


A new research project entitled Elephant in the Valley looks at the lives of over 200 women who have at least 10 years of work experience; revealing their stories of gender biases in the workplace.

Elephant in the Valley was initiated by former Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers executives, Trae Vassallo and Michele Madansky; along with Ellen Levy, former LinkedIn Vice President; Hillary Mickell, Foodily co-founder; Bennett Porter, SurveyMonkey’s marketing Vice President; and Monica Leas and Julie Oberwies from Stanford University.

The inspiration for this survey came out of the incredible conversation from the Ellen Pao & KPCB trial. What they realised was that while many women shared similar workplace stories, most men were simply shocked and unaware of the issues women often face in the workplace.

It revealed that 60 per cent of women in technology reported unwanted sexual advances; and 65 per cent received advances from a superior with half getting advances more than once.

Some women who were surveyed say after declining to get involved or participate in sexual advances they either refused to work with those men afterwards, had to leave their jobs, or if it was reported the issue wouldn’t even be addressed.

One woman shares her story: “Experiences included being groped by my boss while in public at a company event. After learning this had happened to other women in my department, and then reporting the event to HR, I was retaliated against and had to leave the company.”

88 per cent experienced unconscious biases wherein male colleagues are addressed instead of them; condescending comments by male counterparts are made; and they’re asked to do lower-level tasks that their male colleagues don’t get asked to do.

In interviews, 75 per cent were asked about their marital status, family life and children. Just less than half the women feel the need to speak less about this because they want to be taken more seriously at a professional level.

The data and stories were gathered in “an effort to correct the massive information disparity”. It was done mainly within the California Bay Area and Silicon Valley, in the U.S.

The research team keeps the stories anonymous, but encourages other women to share their stories in support of the initiative, by going to the Elephant in the Valley website.

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