#MeToo Movement Forces a Moral Reckoning in Silicon Valley

For a time it seemed that Silicon Valley’s brilliant geeks, mission-driven startups and aspirations for a more open, connected world would evolve our economy beyond the Wall Street greed that tanked it in the late aughts. But the futuristic sheen obscured age-old problems lurking beneath the surface.

Three in five women in Silicon Valley reported experiencing unwanted sexual advances, according to a landmark survey titled “Elephant in the Valley.” Two-thirds said the overtures came from a superior. Sexism in tech has long manifested itself in the frat-boy antics of young founders and diversity stats that illustrate the imbalance of pay and power that enables men to marginalize women.

Gamergate in 2014 gave the broader public a glimpse of the tech world’s distinctly atavistic hostility toward women when a mob of anonymous trolls bombarded female gamers with death and rape threats. A year later, former Facebook employee Chia Hong filed a lawsuit claiming that the company repeatedly admonished her for prioritizing her career over raising children.

This year, the issue took on renewed urgency when ex-Uber engineer Susan Fowler published a damning first-person essay about the abhorrent sexual harassment she endured at the company. Those words forced the most valuable privately held company on the planet to face a moral reckoning.

Fowler’s account helped inspire a chain reaction of lawsuits and disclosures that culminated with the #MeToo movement at the latter end of this year. The allegations are nothing new, but the consequences are. And so is the sheer number of victims going public about their abuse.

On the cusp of 2018, the tech world, it seems, is finally at a crossroads. Here, we look at some of the most notable tech figures accused this year of either committing sexual harassment or failing to use their authority to stop it.

Travis Kalanick
Uber’s Travis Kalanick got knocked from his perch as CEO of the $69 billion ride-hailing company by Fowler’s scathing 3,000-word account. In it, she detailed the unchecked sexism under Kalanick’s watch that protected high performers accused of bad behavior—perpetrators that Uber board member Arianna Huffington would later refer to as “brilliant jerks.” Fowler’s essay, which ultimately resulted in the ouster of Kalanick and about 20 other employees, marked the first time a public scandal took a material toll on Uber’s business. It also showed that people in positions of power could be held to task for abuse reported under their watch, whether or not they were directly involved.

Shervin Pishevar
When Bloomberg reporter Emily Chang gave voice this month to several women accusing Shervin Pishevar of sexual assault, the high-profile Uber investor denied the claims but agreed to step down from Sherpa Capital, the VC firm he co-founded. One of the women claims Pishevar kissed and groped her during a dinner convened to discuss investing in her startup. Another says Pishevar tried to put his tongue down her throat after luring her to his house with the offer of sharing career advice. What’s particularly troubling about the Pishevar scandal is how he responded to the allegations by threatening to file defamation lawsuits against his accusers. It’s a chilling reminder of why so many accusers hesitate to go on the record, even amid a cultural shift toward believing victims.

Andy Rubin
When the Android co-founder left Google in 2014 to launch a startup incubator, it looked like nothing more than a friendly departure. But Information, a tech news outlet, revealed last month that Andy Rubin’s exit came after an internal investigation into an “inappropriate relationship” he had with a female subordinate. Rubin’s defense was that the relationship was consensual. After the story broke, his company, Essential, told its employees that Rubin was taking a leave of absence “for personal reasons.”

Dave McClure
When the New York Times this summer exposed Dave McClure as a sexual harasser, the founding partner of 500 Startups copped to the charge, admitting he’s a “creep” and bowed out from his post at the Mountain View-based tech incubator. In a mea culpa published on the blog platform Medium, McClure said he was guilty of taking advantage of many more women. “I made advances towards multiple women in work-related situations, where it was clearly inappropriate,” he wrote. “I put people in compromising and inappropriate situations, and I selfishly took advantage of those situations where I should have known better. My behavior was inexcusable and wrong.” McClure’s admission undermined his stated intentions—espoused not a month before the Times report—to support female-led startups.

Justin Caldbeck
Just a few months after being accused by a half-dozen women of making unwanted sexual advances, Justin Caldbeck had the gall to attempt a post-scandal comeback. In November, the Binary Capital VC changed his LinkedIn title to “Head of Self-Reflection, Accountability and Change,” and announced that he would set about educating young men about the pitfalls of “bro culture.” Victim advocates questioned the sincerity of Caldbeck’s personal campaign and whether he’s qualified to teach others how to behave considering he never modeled inclusivity at his own workplace.

John Draper
The allegations have dogged hacking pioneer John Draper—aka Captain Crunch or Crunchman—for years, but a BuzzFeed article published in November finally forced the aging Silicon Valley scion to respond to the troubling claims. Several victims told reporters that the revered phone phreaker routinely preyed on men and teenagers at tech conferences by inviting them to what he called “energy workouts,” where he then sexually assaulted them. Draper, oddly enough, admitted to getting aroused during the bizarre exercises but denied they were sexual in nature. The testimonials shed light for the first time on what’s been described as an open secret in the hacker community.

Robert Scoble
Longtime tech pundit Robert Scoble left his company in October after being outed for sexually harassing and assaulting multiple women. In a public Facebook post days after the allegations came to light, the former Transformation Group executive offered a half-baked apology that named no specific actions or victims and blamed his actions on alcohol—even though some claims came after he’d supposedly gotten sober. It’s unclear how long Scoble plans to withdraw from public view.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the News Editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

29 Comments

  1. Also… “It’s a chilling reminder of why so many accusers hesitate to go on the record, even amid a cultural shift toward believing victims.”

    Lady, no one is a victim until proven so. Innocent until proven guilty is a thing, even in this country that’s striving towards insanity and feels over reals.

  2. One significant error in this article, there haven’t been any documented death or rape threats from any #Gamergate supporters. Internet threats are a serious problem, but every study into Gamergate has found them to be the source of very little of it

    In fact, there have been more documented death threats sent *to* Gamergate supporters than from them.

  3. The biggest problem with #metoo is it leaves out due process. People get accused, and are instantly assumed guilty.

  4. “Every single great man that’s ever come along,Had a little woman always telling him he’s wrong” – Kinky Friedman (from – “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven & Your Buns Into Bed”). Politically incorrect Jewish Country Western music from the 1970’s & just as funny today as it was back then ! Find it on Youtube !!!

    • Tacky humor aside,every one of these sexual predators should be ashamed of themselves & deserved everything that’s happened to them. Unfortunately it’s likely just the tip of the iceberg & all men should consider this an opportunity to do their own soul-searching & self-reflection,lest they join these lecherous chauvinistic bastards in disgrace. While no specific incident comes to mind I’m sure that I’ve more than likely crossed the line at some point & I’d like to apologize to any woman who was ever offended by my own crude or offensive behavior. This has certainly taken all the fun out of being a ‘dirty old man’ !!!

  5. I am not really surprised by that three out of five number. My guess is that every attractive female over 15 has received unwanted sexual advances. Somehow they learn to cope. Assuming their boss is not like Congressman John Conyers, and can take rejection in stride, what is the problem?

    The real problem is that the successful and powerful men feel attractive to women. Such people should never date anyone in their organization, or anyone who relies on them for their income.

  6. I agree with the sentiment that due process is largely ignored. “Victim” is a legal conclusion. To be fair, if alleged offenders are named, so should their accusers.

  7. Well I guess we’re a more sophisticated and moral society now. Phfttt! Can’t wait for the next bandwagon to come along from our friends in the media to clear our consciousness and wring our hands in shame. The circus clowns have taken control and the weak of mind are ever so easily led. Perhaps future generations will benefit from our history and mistakes and wonder aloud how the demise of our society could have so easily embraced ignorance emboldened by simpletons in the media trade. What a pity!

  8. Eff us guys. Let’s be honest the problem and the complicity in this type of so called locker room behavior is deeply rooted in our culture. Examples of THIS is dudes flashing themselves to co-workers and or forcing their tongues into people’s mouths…are just men physically acting out the power structure in which they know we live in. We don’t have to be a Billy Bush to be part of the problem (though regretfully in my 45+ years i have regretfully let more vile objectification of women pass without challenge than i care to recall).

    Question: all of us who are male-identified need to ask ourselves: Moving forward what role do YOU want to play in this structure?

    • I had forgotten about the article “Elephant in the Valley” There are three weird things in it.

      First, no woman is quoted as saying she really likes coding. Or technology. Or engineering. The only reason given for the drop in women studying computer science is a lack of female role models. And, or course the misogyny.

      Which leads to the second item. Barack Obama’s Chief Technical Officer, and presumably female role model for women studying computer science. But unlike the vast majority of college women, Megan Smith is a lesbian. Her notion of “having it all” might be significantly different.

      Third, Ellen Pao of Kleiner Perkins had an affair with a co-worker. Was it consensual? Or was he just a persistent sexual harasser? Can co-workers be honestly attracted to each other, without exploiting each other?

    • Ross, save your virtue signalling for your community organization meetings, maybe you can simp your way into some action. If you think this is normal masculine behavior you are projecting. Almost all men provide and protect thier families, and chase goof ball losers who force themselves on our daughters and sister out of town. Some have to talk big in the locker room, maybe 10%, I never believe thier stories. Most men do thier duty and form the backbone of society, even when its not our kid, remember false parternity is estimated at 25-40% along with a massive income redistribution in alimony, child support, and welfare. If you think all men behave badly, look in the mirror, maybe its just you.

    • The idea that males have “a” distinct culture is nonsense, thus making generalizations about it equally worthless — except as fodder for feminist crappola. There are no desires, attitudes, or behaviors shared by all men. Not even in the much demonized “locker room” is there a singular frame of mind or form of conduct. Locker room talk about women in general cannot be disrespectful if there are no women there to be offended, and if there is a fraction of the male species that fashions its behavior towards women based on locker room talk it is thankfully minute. The male locker room is not a self-help workshop. It is not a place of learning or support, it is a place where the rules governing testosterone are relaxed, a refuge from the stifling code of conduct that almost all men understand constitutes acceptable behavior in mixed company.

      I’ve known a great many men who could be rough, tough, and crude, but only a few who would ever in any way force themselves on a woman. Had I known a Harvey Weinstein I would’ve detested him; so would every other man of my acquaintance. Had he harmed someone in my life I would’ve happily beat some civility into him. Rather than use him to sexually profile all men, take a look at the parents who raised him, the values he was taught, and the shared characteristics of the women he recognized as exploitable.

      This coming to grips with sexual harassment, besides its obvious anti-Trump roots, is really much ado about very few men. But since making much ado comes naturally to females with a score to settle and/or a need for attention, the media slimes are reveling, feminized males are sobbing, and rational observers are waiting for the idiots to exhaust themselves.

    • > Eff us guys.

      Ummm. No.

      Eff YOU!

      If you want to take on a load of white progressive passive aggressive guilt, that’s your business.

      Just leave the rest of the male patriarchy out of your delusional self-loathing construction.

  9. In one decade, women have gotten more protection against offensive jokes in the workplace than men have gotten protection against being killed in the workplace in the last five decades. Men still occupy all of society’s most hazardous occupations and are far more likely to be killed at work than are women yet when women complained they were being sexually harassed, the government radically expanded its protection of women by expanding its prosecution of men. Men are far less protected from premature death in the workplace while women are far more protected from premature flirtation in the workplace.

    Both sexes participate in unwanted sexual activity. Laws with broad definitions of rape are like laws making 55 mile per hour speed limits for men and no speed limits for women. While we increasingly hold people more responsible if they drink and drive, we hold women less responsible if they drink and have sex. When a woman makes an unsupported accusation of rape or harassment, she is immediately believed, supported and defended while a man is instantly presumed guilty and vilified despite his protestations. Despite evidence proving extensive false rape accusations, feminists persuaded the courts and the public that women had no motivation to lie about rape. Rape shield laws support the rape of the falsely accused. Historically, woman-as-victim attracts men; man-as-victim repulses women.

    Instant Cure for Sexual Harassment: For the woman, slap the lout and throw a drink in his face. For men, when you see some guy getting slapped and having a drink thrown in his face, go over and kick his ass!

    • There are tons of laws governing workplace safety. Heard of OSHA? If you are arguing that existing laws are not enforced sufficiently, fines are not high enough, regulation is too weak or whatever, that is absolutely fair to debate, but to say that there are no laws is just wrong. The two things that protect workers best are government regulation and unionization, neither of which are particularly supported by conservatives or libertarians, by the way. If this is a concern for you, you should be supporting high taxes and pro-labor Democrats with all your heart and soul. You should also support vigorous enforcement of laws against sexual discrimination and harassment and aggressive outreach programs to get more women to go into dangerous (and well paid) jobs like construction trades,heavy manufacturing and firefighting. And if that happens, you shouldn’t whine that women are taking all the good paying jobs. You should also encourage more men to enter low paid but relatively safe service jobs that women currently fill, like home health aides and clerical work, where they will not have such high rates of death and injury.

      • Sarah, (Oh Please)

        No one said that OSHA doesn’t exist or that nothing has been done to improve workplace safety for men. However, the corporate and workplace overreaction, and the disproportionate hysterical frenzy from the feminists, and the media ‘s bloodthirsty zeal in believing even the most unsupported accusation of sexual harassment in the workplace make such gains pale by comparison. Men are presumed guilty and men can and do get fired. without due process, on unsubstantiated accusations of harassment. Women are free to openly discriminate and make bald accusations, even when such accusations are later proven to have been unfounded, and to do so without societal penalty. I imagine most “vaginistas” know who Harvey Weinstein is but have no idea who Brian Banks or Wanetta Gibson are.

        Women, not men, receive the majority of college graduate degrees. Yet, in order to even be eligible for a government scholarship, a man has to register for the draft (military service, hazard, and potential death). A woman does not.

        In many States, before men can get a driver’s license and vote, they have to register for the draft, women do not. Men have the obligation to protect that right; women receive the right to get a drivers license and vote without the obligation to protect that right.

        Increasingly, women’s military combat options will be hailed as an advance in equality. Men have never had the option, only the obligation. Women constitute 11.7% of the total military, but 12.6% of the officers. In Operation Desert Storm, men’s risk of dying was three times greater than women’s, yet both sexes in the Persian Gulf received $110 per month extra combat pay, equal pay despite unequal risks.

        Men are much more likely to be killed at work or to die on the job than women. Men occupy the vast majority of hazardous occupations and the more hazardous the job, the more likely that job is to be exclusively occupied by a man. It’s a sort of “Glass cellar”: the invisible barrier keeping men in jobs with the most hazards.

        Men have a much higher rate of suicide, stress related illness and a shorter life span than do women. Men are the disposable gender. Men are society’s sanctioned prostitutes. Men sell their bodies (to the employers) for money then give that money to a woman and the family. Women control consumer spending by a wide margin in virtually every consumer category.

        Women have options. Men have obligations. Women have choices but “a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do”.

        • Whoa cowboy. It’s not like sitting in a cube in Silicon valley could produce any injury but carpal tunnel. In fact, it was women who were more at risk in Silicon Valley, back when they worked in wafer fabs, surrounded by toxic gases and solvents. Women who worked in fabs had a 40% higher chance of miscarriage, compared to other Silicon Valley women.

          Whoever is working in steel mills and coal mines, it is not us.

        • I agree with you on the draft. Men do fill more hazardous jobs, for a variety of reasons, such as the fact that many women lack physical strength necessary for such jobs, as well as discrimination against women who want to try to get such jobs. But on the other hand, such jobs pay far more than the types of safe service jobs typically filled by women. But the risks men face in the workplace have nothing to do with protecting women from sexual harassment. Can we agree that both are important issues? And again if you want men to have more rights in the workplace, you should support unions. Guess what, at will employees can be fired for any reason and their only recourse is to sue for discrimination, which is often a tough road for either men or women. For years women got fired and their careers were ruined if they complained about sexual harassment, believe me I experienced plenty of harassment when I was a young woman working in offices twenty years ago. I never once made a complaint, because I needed my job. So kudos for you for caring about workers rights, get out there and vote for pro labor candidates. Bitching in the comments section will not make much difference.

          • > such as the fact that many women lack physical strength necessary for such jobs, as well as discrimination against women who want to try to get such jobs.

            Maybe the women are discriminated against because they lack the physical strength necessary for such jobs.

      • > The two things that protect workers best are government regulation and unionization, . . .

        HA!

        Utter baloney.

        I DIDN’T read this in the Mercury Newsless. Rather, I was my own “on the scene” reporter and personally interviewed the victim.

        A female close relative was “sexually harassed” (i.e. “propositioned”) by the UNION REPRESENTATIVE of a local school district. The relative filed a grievance and was subsequently fired by the district (she did not have “tenure”.) The union did NOTHING to dispute the wrongful firing or protect the employee.

        The school district was lying scum. The union was lying scum. AND the union and the school district colluded to get rid of a “problem” employee.

        The union’s ONLY concern was getting their effing dues money. As far as they were concerned, they would get it from the replacement employee. And neither the union nor the district would have to do any “work” protecting anyone’s rights.

        Sarah, you’re full of BS.

        • Oh you have an anecdote! But do you have ideas for how to better protect endangered male workers in these hazardous jobs? I don’t think that inviting them an Ayn Rand book group will help much, but hey at least that’s would be an actual idea.

          • > Oh you have an anecdote!

            EXACTLY how the union handled my female relative’s grievance before blowing it off.

            Boys and girls: this is the REALITY of “union protections”. They’ve got your money and they don’t have to do squat. And there’s no one to complain to to force them to do their job.

  10. 32 years working in 3 different unions, Been there, Seen that, Had to deal with this crap myself as my union reps were almost always some flunky related to some union higher up or was conjoined with someone in the company.

    What would they help you with, drunk, and disorderly, incompetent, habitually late or absent. People your really didn’t want to work with and needed to be fired.

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