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17 Sep, 2020

“State of Women in Tech” Report Details Rampant Harassment and Discrimination Across Silicon Valley and Tech Industry

Has similar research ever been conducted in Travel & Tourism? No? I wonder why… May prove embarrassing to some heavyweight CEOs.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — Nearly 50% of women founders and women working in tech have experienced harassment, a statistic that has barely budged since 2017, according to Women Who Tech’s new report State of Women In Tech at www.stateofwomenintech.com  

Despite the #MeToo movement that spurred trending hashtags, diversity pledges among Silicon Valley’s biggest VCs, and tech companies hiring Chief Diversity Officers, women in tech continue to face significant sexism and toxic workplace culture.

Women Who Tech anonymously surveyed 1,003 tech employees, startup founders, and investors about their experiences in tech and startups. The survey identified trends and shifts in the treatment of underrepresented tech founders and employees since 2017.

“With startups shuttering due to COVID-19 and 97.3% of funding still going to startups led by men, there’s a clear need for diverse innovation. But how can women founders thrive in a broken system where a startling 44% of women founders experienced harassment? And especially when 59% were explicitly propositioned for sex in exchange for funding and introductions.” said Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech.

Harassment of Women Tech Founders

44% of women founders said they experienced harassment. Women of color (47%) and LGBTQ (65%) founders experienced persistent harassment. 43% of those who experienced harassment said it occurred within the last 12 months, after the peak of the #MeToo movement.

Of the women of color founders who were harassed, 46% were harassed by a potential investor, compared to 38% of white women founders.

“Quite frankly, the amount of harassment that women in tech and women founders experience is disturbing. We need less ally theater and more people in positions of power to recognize that power, not abuse it, and support women in tech,” said Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies and a member of Women Who Tech’s Advisory Board.

41% of women founders who were harassed experienced sexual harassment.

  • 65% of women founders said they were propositioned for sex (+9% from 2017)
  • 59% of women founders experienced unwanted physical contact (-3% from 2017)
  • 32% of women founders were groped (+7% from 2017)
  • 24% of women founders were sent graphic photos (+14% from 2017).

Nearly 50% of women founders were told they would raise more money if they were a man.

While the data illustrates that barriers for women are still being upheld at unprecedented levels, the data also exemplifies the disconnect between founders and investors who are men, and those who are women.

“Only 2.7% of investor funding goes to women-led startups and .02% for Black women founders, yet 56% of investors don’t think access to funding is a big deal, assuming that the best startups always rise to the top. This is a complete disconnect from the reality and biased pattern recognition that women and underestimated founders face,” shared Kapin.

Harassment of Women Tech Employees

48% of women working in tech as employees experienced harassment. 43% of this harassment was sexual in nature.

  • Of the women working in tech who were sexually harassed:
    • 75% were told offensive “jokes”
    • 54% experienced unwanted physical contact
    • 51% had sexual slurs directed at them
    • 35% were propositioned for sex

When women reported the harassment to HR, 85% said their harasser faced no repercussions at work after it was reported.

Of the women working in tech who were harassed, 30% reported it to HR and 45% reported it to senior leadership. Further, 45% of women working in tech said they faced negative repercussions after reporting the harassment at work.

It is this very data that illustrates how the existing systems in HR contribute to the barriers women face, while doubly protecting the very power structures that construct and proliferate them.


Women Who Tech retained Lincoln Park Strategies to survey 1,003 tech founders, investors, and employees between February 13 – March 23, 2020 via an anonymous online survey. 69% of respondents were women and 29% were men who worked in tech or were startup founders. 169 investors were surveyed and no gender data was collected for investors.

About Women Who Tech

Founded in 2008, Women Who Tech draws global attention to the significant gender bias in venture capital funding by shaking up a culture and an economy that has made it exceedingly difficult for women to launch and scale startups. The nonprofit provides capital, mentoring, direct access to leading investors, and other resources for women building the most innovative tech companies, with the ultimate goal of closing the funding gap for good.

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