“Elephant in the Valley” Survey Sheds Light On Issues Women Face In Tech

Inspired by the conversation that came out of the Ellen Pao versus Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers trial, the creators of a new survey, “Elephant in the Valley,” asked over 200 women in tech — all with at least ten years worth of experience and the vast majority (91%) living in the San Francisco Bay Area — about what it’s been like working in the industry.

“What we realized is that while many women shared similar workplace stories, most men were simply shocked and unaware of the issues facing women in the workplace,” the co-authors, Trae Vassallo, Ellen Levy, Michele Madansky, Hillary Mickell, Bennett Porter, Monica Leas and Julie Oberweis, wrote on the survey site. “In an effort to correct the massive information disparity, we decided to get the data and the stories.”

The survey focused on feedback and promotions, inclusion, unconscious biases, motherhood, and harassment and safety. On the survey’s website, you can see the results, as well as read anonymous stories submitted by women in tech. One of the more disturbing stats is around sexual harassment. Of those surveyed, 60% said they reported unwanted sexual advances, with one in three women having felt afraid of their personal safety because of circumstances at work.

“I had a fellow VC sending me flowers, gifts, even a mix-tape, over the course of several months,” one woman shared. “Another portfolio CEO asked me to go through a door first so he could ‘watch me walk’ and my superiors at the firm told me to laugh it off. I also had another VC tell me likes married women and put his hand on mine. (I’m married).”

Here are some other stats that stood out:

  • 47% of women have been asked to do lower-level tasks, like taking notes and ordering food, that men are not asked to.
  • 66% of women have felt left out from important networking events because of their gender.
  • 75% of women were asked about their family lives, marital status and children in interviews.

Around the impact of family, one women said that an interviewers asked if she would have time for the job, “given that you are a mom with a young child.” Another woman said someone asked her, “how do we know you’re not going to run off and have a baby?”

Be sure to head over to Elephant in the Valley to read more stories. There’s also a great podcast interview over on Re/Code with two of the study’s co-authors, Vassallo and Madansky.