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Sexual Harassment Hurts Women and the Future of the Tech Industry

By Austin Cherkas | USA

Picture this: you go to college to get a degree in an industry that the people in that industry are very different than you. You get your degree and join the workforce. You love your job, and over the years you acquire a large amount of success. Then suddenly, you get sexually harassed and will never look at your job the same way ever again. This story is very similar to Cheryl Yeoh, a woman working in the capital of innovation: Silicon Valley as an entrepreneur.

Dave McClure, co-founder of 500 Startups resigned due to a sexual harassment situation from another woman (who currently goes unnamed). That woman encouraged Ms. Yeoh to speak out on her story on McClure that happened in 2014. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) conducted an interview with Ms. Yeoh. Here is the summary.

In a question about how she felt about her situation in 2014, she responded with, “I felt like it wasn’t a rare thing, it was considered normal in the startup world, the tech world… Now I realize that’s not OK and that’s part of the problem. That’s why we need to speak up about it and have a conversation around how do we change this dynamic, how do we change the narrative?”

Ms. Yeoh also mentioned that male co-workers/bosses try or have tried to “brainstorm ways to get into her house”. She explains saying, “A lot of deals are made after office hours, it’s definitely not uncommon at all… What I was shocked about was how bold he was to message me after that and, prior to that, he had asked me to come to his hotel room through text. It’s shocking how bold they are that they wouldn’t be afraid of consequences.”

She is asked to explain what happened to the best of her abilities on the night of the Sexual Harassment, “I had just moved to Malaysia from San Francisco to take on this very public position as CEO of a government agency that was given $30 to start accelerators and programs to encourage entrepreneurs in South East Asia… So Dave McClure had visited Malaysia to work with me to start an accelerator in Malaysia for South East Asia… After our board meeting, he and some business partners came to my apartment to brainstorm ideas for the program… They bought alcohol over, they brought whiskey, and he kept pouring whiskey into my glass before it was empty, and that felt a little weird… And then hours later, everyone decided to leave and order their cabs but he didn’t seem to want to. When I asked him, like ‘Dave are you leaving?’ he said ‘no’.”

Ms. Yeoh continued into the more traumatic part of her story, “So I said: ‘Do you want to crash here? I have a guest room’. I walked him to the guest room and then I walked to my room thinking: ‘I guess he’s just too intoxicated’. And then he came into my room and wanted to sleep with me, and I told him: ‘No, I have a boyfriend what are you doing, do you want to leave?’ I showed him the way out and on the way out, he backed me up against the wall and moved forward to kiss me… that was when it was overboard. Thank goodness I didn’t drink that much and I pushed him away and I opened the door and made sure he was out… I couldn’t help but think: what if I was helpless, or I was weaker, or he used more force, what could have happened?”

She then stated why she was so afraid to speak out saying, “He had a deal looming over us and if I were to speak up about him then it might compromise the accelerator and that wasn’t even for me, it was for the region, and I felt like I couldn’t report him because the whole region would not get the benefits of the accelerator just because of that night.”

Sexual Harassment is a heavy and scary topic. As women are more and more interested in joining fields dominated by men, we could see that the tech industry, as well as women, could be damaged by a continuation of sexual harassment. Serious sexual harassment cases like Cheryl Yeoh deter women from gaining jobs in a field like Technology. This could block new ideas and innovation that could ramp up our economy and make consumer life easier and more interesting. Sexual harassment needs to end in order to create a function, more effective, and efficient workforce. The question that you might ask is: how? Should society do more? Should businesses do more? Should the government do more? Should all parties that have been mentioned do more together? Whatever you might believe, we must remind ourselves that the more people who are working in technology fields, the more ideas there will be.

Interested in the full BBC interview with Cheryl Yeoh? Click Here


Did you like what you just read? Have any feedback? Follow Austin Cherkas on Twitter @Cherkasaustin to give personal feedback and see what is upcoming.


 

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