Venture Capitalists Targeted by Sexual Harassment Blacklist

But it’s backfiring against women.

Venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley are being targeted for sexual harassment through a blacklist compiled by a large firm that is encouraging women to turn in men who have made sexual advances or demands from them in exchange for money.

One of the partners of start-up incubator Y Combinator, Kat Manalac, said they don’t like calling it a blacklist, but says, “There has always been a whisper network, where investors and entrepreneurs know which other investors are bad actors.”

Y Combinator hopes to launch an app that will contain Yelp-like reviews of investors and has sent out an e-mail to 3,5000 entrepreneurs to “blow the whistle on sexual harassment by venture capitalists,” The Washington Post reports.

But while the male-dominated Silicon Valley has been rocked recently by harassment scandals, the women the blacklist is supposed to protect could end up getting hurt. Lawyers are weighing in and warning that these apps could backfire on the makers, on women, and on male venture capitalists who are falsely accused. Y Combinator’s e-mail blast asked women to cite any “inappropriate sexual” contact or behavior from men, but also “romantic behavior,” leaving a wide gap of possible interpretations. If a man is falsely accused and put on the list and it’s later revealed he was innocent, the list can’t be trusted and will therefore look like a blackmail list instead.

Another problem arises, as noted by WaPo, where the reviews could be used to “shame investors who behave badly.” Others might want to make up a sexual harassment accusations just to shame investors simply because they didn’t offer funding. 

Y-Vonne Hutchinson, a Silicon Valley recruiter, predicts what the future could look like if these apps see the light of day, and it doesn't look good for women:

“We’re seeing this movement in Silicon Valley toward pledges, mea culpas and quick fixes. I think that’s dangerous. That doesn’t get at the heart of what’s really driving our issues with sexual harassment.

“We are hearing VCs saying that they won’t take women entrepreneurs out to dinner or get drinks – only meetings at the office. Then women will be at a further disadvantage.”


Photo credit: Jim Makos via / CC BY-ND