We already know how terrible everyone’s favorite ride-sharing service Uber is. From reports of women being kidnapped to threats of digging up dirt on predominantly female journalists, it’s clear drunk 20-somethings who need to get home should instead call up the original ride-sharing service: a taxi.
But yet another tech startup has come under fire this week. Online real estate database Zillow has been accused of subjecting female employees to “sexual ?torture.”
A California lawsuit describes plaintiff Rachel Kremer’s experience at Zillow as disturbing and yes, even torturous.
According to the lawsuit, Kremer’s male supervisors sent her pictures of their penises, ranked her according to her breast size and demanded sexual favors in order for her employment to continue.
Kremer was afraid that if she didn’t comply with their inappropriate advances she would be terminated. ?Eventually, she was.
Zillow then attempted to cover up its conduct by forcing Kremer to sign a confidentiality agreement and release, according to the lawsuit.
In case you haven’t heard enough already, the lawsuit also includes some text messages that will be sure to churn your stomach.
In one message, Kremer’s supervisor Gabe Schmidt said, “Call me. Matt is showering. Thinking 333 dinner drinks and your smooth ?vagina.”
In another, sales manager Cody Fagnant said, “I have a great opportunity that just opened up on my face in the 92660 market.”
These go on and on, but I fear writing any more of this stuff down will summon a Silicon Valley “brogrammer” to challenge me in a game of beer pong.
This scandal and Uber’s point to a larger problem in startups, especially tech startups in Silicon Valley, which must be addressed: a culture of misogyny.
These companies are predominantly run by men.
This creates a macho culture that isn’t accepting to women.
Women don’t apply for these jobs because they don’t want to be victims of the “sexual torture” that? Kremer endured.
When women don’t work these jobs, this macho culture gets even worse. Add this to the past longstanding discouragement of women to enter careers in science and tech fields, and it seems like the cycle will never end.
However, the tide is ?slowly shifting.
Google and Facebook both joined with the Anita Borg Institute and the National Center for Women and Information Technology to support women in tech. Google now has a program for school-age girls ?promoting coding skills.
But this isn’t enough. Kremer’s lawyers said she reported sexual harassment to Zillow, but no action was taken.
These companies need to support women before and after they are hired. They must take swift action against offenders when cases like Kremer’s arise instead of sliding them under the floorboards.
If these changes don’t happen soon, the startup boy’s club will exacerbate and everyone, not just ?women, will suffer.