Can we talk about sexual harassment as an entrepreneur?
In my marketing business, my target market is the startup space. I love working with entrepreneurs and making magic happen with them for their business. Because the startup space is so male dominant, I tend to have mostly male clients- and I like so many other female founders will have tales to tell of sexual harassment!
We have read to death about sexual harassment in the workplace. The picture that is often painted is that of the pervy HOD or the MD calling you, the PA into his office for awkward, pointless meetings, where he sits too close to you or makes inappropriate comments or smacks your bum on the way out. Often women do not speak out about sexual harassment in the workplace for fear of being ostracized or losing their jobs. Unfortunately, women entrepreneurs do not speak out about it either. In fact, I did a good Google before writing this article and found very little in the way of stats and figures or even dialogue. The perception is that we are in a place of power, being the founders of our companies and
Unfortunately, women entrepreneurs do not speak out about it either. In fact, I did a good Google before writing this article and found very little in the way of stats and figures or even dialogue. The perception is that we are in a place of power, being the founders of our companies and can therefore pick and choose who we work with.
The reality is that we are often desperate to make sales or to keep a large client happy and thus tolerate inappropriate bullshit in order to keep the sales funnel full. Somehow being an established women in business with a portfolio of great work and a legacy for delivering is not enough to keep certain male clients satisfied.
Whether it’s a subtle brush of your leg during a meeting or an inappropriate comment about your looks or body passed about over a strategy session or even a more out right proposition, the startup world is no different from the outside male dominated world.
If we for one minute thought there was an equal playing field between founders and CEO’s merely because we had climbed to the top of the food chain together, we were so incredibly wrong. If we were ‘equall’, there would not be separate business awards for men and women and female focused support and networks in business.
Remember Justin Mateen stating having a young female co-founder at Tinder “makes the company seem like a joke” and “devalues” it? Or a 20-something Twitter employee saying to a Forbes writer, “You should really hire a nerdy looking dude to represent your company publicly. You know, to make up for your looks.” Whether it’s sexism or sexual harassment, the idea that women are ‘lesser than’ entrepreneurs than our male counterparts is still a reality in this game.
The media covers big cases of sexual harassment but where does one voice their day to day incidents of sexism? Because they’re comparatively low in number, women founders end up being termed ‘eye candy’ or a mere ‘distraction’ for the company. A startup by a female founder is not taken seriously and they are often treated like second-hand performers.
The reality is should a women employee be courageous enough to take action at work, sexual harassment in the workplace can be remedied through following certain HR protocols, but sexual harassment as a female founder means you need to stand on your own two feet like the big girl that you are and put an end the harassment, even if it costs you the business!
Have you been a victim of sexual harassment as a female founder and what did you do about it?