From Fox News to Uber, sexual harassment may be the story of the year in the business world. And in Silicon Valley, 2017 may finally be the year business leaders are forced to recognize the out-of-whack power dynamic that exists between venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.
In this environment, the people who are starting companies often go hat-in-hand looking for financing. If one of those financiers makes an inappropriate comment to a woman, if he makes an unwanted sexual advance, does she complain? Is there someone she could even complain to? Or does she bite her tongue, reluctant to rock the boat?
As Katie Benner has reported over the last week, more women in tech are starting to speak out about the harassment they have faced from the men who control the industry’s purse strings.
At mature companies, the human resources department is where bad behavior gets checked. There, rules about interactions among managers and their staff are enforced. At Uber, those checks on behavior failed. But the rules exist for a reason.
Often, the only guiding principle on how venture capitalists should behave toward female entrepreneurs has been common decency and common sense. And what does common sense indicate? That the power dynamic between the male financier with the money and the woman who needs that money is no different than that of manager and employee.
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