Survey adds detail to patterns of sexism and harassment in the tech industry

The problem of sexism is front and center in the technology industry right now, but for those not directly affected (which is pretty much to say: men like me) the problem can languish in the middle distance: too close to see the scale of it, but not close enough to see the details. A new survey of tech workers fills out this picture nicely, and identifies interesting — and depressing — contrasts in people’s experiences.

The online survey, commissioned by Women Who Tech, comprises responses from 950 individuals, 84 percent of whom currently work in tech (the remaining 16 percent used to, presumably), but otherwise have varying demographics — though it should be noted that white women are the largest represented group.

Their responses illustrate a profound imbalance in the incidence of harassment: right off the bat, 53 percent of women say they have experienced it, versus 16 percent of men. What’s more, 53 percent of men say they have positively never experienced or witnessed harassment. There’s also a huge age bias in that women under 25 are disproportionately targeted.

The type of harassment varies as well, and not in a small way. Among women who reported being harassed, 72 percent said it was sexist in nature, and 45 percent said it was sexual. Among men who reported harassment, sexist and sexual harassment aren’t even in the top 10 categories; offensive jokes, ageism and insults to their professional character take top billing.

One would think that founders would be operating at a level where the people they interact with are better behaved. Unfortunately, as stories many of us have read have revealed, that’s not the case at all. Here’s a chart that’s so interesting I screenshotted it twice (accidentally, but still).

It’s indicative of the scale and nature of the problem that a woman is more likely to be propositioned for sex than a man is to be pressured into having another beer. Nearly a third of harassed women had their ability to run a company questioned on the basis of their gender. Notice no men whatsoever reported either of those things, or being asked out on a date.

Another major incidence bias stems from who feels they can get away with this behavior.

Clients, customers and journalists targeted women exclusively. Investors and “other” leaned extremely far in that direction. Interesting to see that men were more likely to be targeted by co-founders. Though it must be said that with only nine of the 950 total respondents representing men in this chart, if my math is correct, it could be an outlier in the data.

There’s lots more data in the rest of the survey; take a look and see if your experience tallies with those of the respondents.