The sexual harassment/advances situation in the tech world has continued to escalate, with more tech entrepreneur women speaking out about their experiences from men who are venture capitalists. Recently, a group of half a dozen tech entrepreneurs from the Silicon Valley ( the ones who have made themselves public being of Asian background), have come out against Justin Caldbeck co-founder of Binary Capital for unwanted sexual advances – Caldbeck has since apologised and taken extended leave of absence.
Now the plot thickens with tech entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh speaking out about her experience of sexual harassment by Dave McClure of 500 Startups.
How do you feel about what happened now?
“I was obviously angry and hurt but also surprised that I felt like it wasn’t a rare thing, it was considered normal in the start-up world, the tech world.
“Now I realise 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?”
You thought that it was “normal” for someone in your flat to brainstorm ideas to try to sleep with you?
“My issue is, it wasn’t even me inviting him. It was him and a few other business partners who wanted to come over to brainstorm, and in the start-up world it’s not uncommon to have after business hours brainstorm sessions.
“A lot 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.”
Can you tell me, if it’s not too difficult, what happened that night?
“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 $30m [£23m] to start accelerators and programmes 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 programme.
“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’.
“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?
“And that’s just terrible, no one should ever go through that ordeal, so I think that itself is sexual harassment at the highest level.
“And the second thing that was going on there was the power dynamic.
“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.”
It is sad that many of the women are Asian women speaking up and it is disgusting that these men in their position of power and privilege ( so far all have been white men) are using this to treat women like their subordinates and there only for sexual purposes.
In light of the controversy with McClure, 500 Startups has been in a state of flux, with Elizabeth Yin a serial entrepreneur who joined 500 Startups as an investor in 2014, resigning in light of these sexual harassment claims. Yin announced her decision to resign, frustrated by the sexual harassment scandal. Yin stated ( via TechCrunch):
“It’s become clear to me over the last month that I can no longer be part of this organization. The actions that 500 has undertaken have deviated from its mission, and I can no longer continue to represent this organization,”
“Specifically, I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights and deep frustration with the lack of transparency and several untruths that I believe everyone who chooses to represent 500 should be aware of.”
“In April our management team learned of allegations related to inappropriate behavior by Dave McClure,”
“We took the matter seriously and immediately initiated an internal investigation which resulted in the replacement of Mr. McClure by Christine Tsai as CEO. In May we held a company-wide all hands call and sent an email afterwards that same day notifying the team that Dave had stepped down from day-to-day management of 500.”
“We have a real and undeniable problem here in Silicon Valley with sexual harassment,”
“While the perpetrators themselves are to blame, the truth is, the rest of us are also part of the problem — myself included.”
It is important that we as Asian women take a stand against sexual harassment, particularly in worlds dominated by middle aged white men. This scandal will continue and won’t go away anytime soon, and the tech world needs to be rid of all these sexual predators.
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To read the full article, please click on: Cheryl Yeoh: ‘It was sexual harassment at the highest level’