And it’s not just Dave. There are more Chris Saccas. More Travis Kalanicks. More Justin Caldbecks. All the people who are the reasons behind and results of the same problem.
Dave McClure’s ultimate resignation is just the latest “casualty” in what is a disturbing trend in Silicon Valley that’s finally come to light.
But will these string of resignations finally bring change to the continuing trend in Silicon Valley and even our own local scene?
Honestly, social media doesn’t convince me.
I’d like to throw in a disclaimer that in my travels through the internet, I see more posts decrying Dave for his actions, despite how it’ll look in this article.
Even on social media, Dave is getting called to task for his actions.
It’s just the fact the below posts exist in the first place that’s part of the problem. Unfortunately there are a lot of people who are still supporting him and other like him, and the numbers are concerning.
But ultimately, here’s the main issue.
A lot of them aren’t even aware that they’re in the wrong.
Cheryl Yeoh, former CEO of MaGIC shared her own experience with Dave.
And the first thing that she highlighted in her blog, which was what spurred her into writing the whole thing, were tweets in response to Dave’s post.
Sometimes, it feels as if the two sides are speaking a different language.
And this attitude underlies huge problems.
These men seemingly don’t understand that in regards to Sarah Kunst (and Cheryl Yeoh, after most of these tweets were penned), Dave’s “sin” isn’t that he wanted a sex life.
His wrongdoing lies in making these untoward advances towards women who needed either a job, funding, or support from him.
His behaviour is inappropriate because there is an inherent inequality of power between a man in his position, and the women in theirs.
As a potential boss, he should not have made advances towards Sarah Kunst, no matter if it’s on Facebook message or a small get-together. As someone who had a major say in a deal proceeding forward in Cheryl’s case, even refusing him might have meant that the deal could have fallen through.
It’s for this same reason that some companies outright disallow dating and relationships in the office altogether.
Taking this instance in isolation is one thing (see above). But that’s not the only problem with his actions.
He’s just another cog in the continuing sexual harassment machine that helps reinforce a culture where women in tech aren’t valued for their contributions, but instead seen as sexual objects.
Of all of these people replying that Dave did nothing wrong, what percentage of them are in the collective tech/startup scene?
And of those, how many of them will continue to build and cultivate an overarching industry norm that actively pushes women talents away?
Or honestly, how many of them know, but actively don’t care? Women are being put in their place, after all.
There are also more Dave McClures because those who know them personally are ready to stand up for their characters.
There’s a tendency for things to seem black and white on social media.
It seems like Dave can only either be an absolute creep who takes advantage of his position to sexually harass women under him or someone who helped diversify startup investments, and empowers a lot of minorities—especially in empowering women entrepreneurs to flourish in the scene.
Here’s the thing, though. He can be both at the same time without the universe imploding. Humans are multifaceted like that.
He’s helped a lot of startups get to where they are today, and in part helped build the startup scene not just in Silicon Valley, but across the globe.
He should absolutely be celebrated for those, but they should not come up in a conversation about his wrongdoings.
Just because he did all those “good” things doesn’t mean they lessen or take away the “wrong” ones. Perhaps that’s not what the commenters meant to imply, but that’s what it looks like.
These untoward advances towards women by him helped propagate a continuously existing problem in the tech scene.
How many startups could have been adversely affected by his actions? How many of these women might have chosen to step away from the scene just to escape from him, taking their possible contributions with them?
We don’t know.
And it’s not just the men.
Women also need to understand the part they play when they come out in support of actions like these.
At the very least, others could use these women as examples of “how this is all okay”. After all, if one woman says that’s fine, shouldn’t all the other women agree? These can be used as weapons to diminish the victim’s experiences.
They celebrate the bare basics as if it’s a great act.
If the comments on Dave’s apology post on Medium are anything to go by, then nothing is going to change.
Yes, he made an apology. Apologising for doing something wrong is the very least of things that should be done. After all, even kindergarteners are taught to say sorry if they’ve done something wrong.
Yes, takes some bravery and character to admit to one’s faults publicly. But he’s not a hero for it. And the fact that this is a rarity that seems worth praising says a lot about the brokenness of the industry and the perceptions towards it.
And as a final note, here’s a little tweet pointing out exactly what I was thinking when I first read Dave’s Medium apology:
Ultimately, there are many more Dave McClures in the international tech scene overall because the industry is still designed to be what it is today.
And reform may not always be obvious or easy.
Having anti-discriminatory policies, as shared by one of the commenters on Dave McClure’s tweets, apparently does little to reduce actual cases of discrimination in a company. There are also way too many thinkpieces announcing that Dave’s behaviour is just another norm in the industry.
Then, there’s Cheryl Yeoh’s suggestion that the industry develops a dedicated and clear-cut channel for women to report on the sexual harassment that they face among others.
Her suggestions are fairly detailed, but unfortunately it still doesn’t fix the whole “cultural pressure” bit of the whole problem.
Victims might still feel reluctant to report someone who might make or break their career in tech.
As far as we can tell, even other industries haven’t figured this one out either.
Feature Image Credit: WeWebParis on YouTube