To see this venture-capital firm’s sexual-harassment policy, my only option was to show up in person. This firm is one of the biggest names in start-up investing. Last year, I emailed one of the firm’s partners to ask for a digital copy of its harassment and discrimination policy, and learned it was available only if I traveled to Menlo Park. The next week, I took a $57 Uber from San Francisco to Sand Hill Road, a row of office parks housing scores of venture-capital, or VC, firms. This unassuming strip is the seat of power in Silicon Valley; it’s where every entrepreneur dreams of raising money for her company. Entering the building through glass doors, I sat down to read a printed sexual-harassment policy under the gaze of the firm’s human-resources chief. I could not take photos or notes.
I am a software engineer who has worked for two San Francisco startups and launched a nonprofit of my own. Like many women in the tech industry, I have been harassed by a VC investor in the course of my career. But reporting my own experiences was not the point of this excursion. In 2018, I teamed up with three tech veterans, who had also experienced harassment, to launch the #MovingForward movement to reform the venture capital industry. Investors have enormous power over whether a startup company survives. They take advantage of that power to harass startup founders, which federal civil-rights laws have allowed them to do with legal impunity. Venture capital and private equity hardly existed in the mid-1960s, when equal-employment laws were written, so the role investors play in establishing fair workplaces was never considered.