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Female Founders is a non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting equality for women in technology.
In our work, we hear success, if not progress, stories on a daily basis, so when the recent Justin Caldbeck scandal came to light, it hit us like a sudden, swollen wave – cold and hard in the face, pulling us under for a scary moment, until we gasp for air and look around realizing we’re a few paces back from where we already were, that much farther from where we want to be.
Justin Caldbeck is the co-founder of Binary Capital, a San Francisco venture firm. Caldbeck’s cofounder, Jonathan Teo is a Singaporean. Both men have resigned from their firm following a published report detailing accusations of sexual harassment from Caldbeck by several female tech entrepreneurs. Caldbeck published an apology that has been widely criticized for being insensitive and PR agency-crafted.
The Binary Capital incident is just one of many sexual harassment stories hitting the tech industry right now. For anyone still in Justin Caldbeck’s league, we feel the need to lay down these basic (so basic we didn’t think they ever needed to be said)
10 rules for VC s on how to respect female founders:
1. Sexual advances - Don’t hit on them, whether they are pitching to you or if they are a portfolio company. That’s just being unprofessional.
2. Objectifying women - Don't comment on their bodies, looks, or sex appeal. Even if you think you’re funny. You’re the only one enjoying your (sad attempts at) flirting. Let’s stick to business, shall we?
3. Power dynamics - If they say no to meeting for a drink late at night do not pressure them to say yes. No means no, and it only needs to be said once.
4. Avoid bias - Assess the business plan gender-blind. In fact, do it race-, religion-, and age-blind too. The business plan speaks for itself.
5. Respect their personal life - Don't question how they will balance parenthood and work. This has already been thought through, discussed with the partner, and planned for.
6. Quid pro Quo - Don't bait funding for their company as a way to get laid. That’s Sexual Harassment 101.
7. Be honest - If you have committed any of the above, and you’re caught with your pants down, then write your own damn apology. Please, let’s leave the PR agency out of this.
8. An eye for an eye - Don’t take or threaten to take “revenge” on a Female Founder for speaking out.
9.Don’t be an enabler - If you see others in your firm or other VCs behaving in inappropriate ways, call them out. Don’t attend their parties, don’t co-invest with them. Hold your industry to a higher standard.
10. Be the change maker - Enable women in your VC firm, make sure there is at least one women present when making investment decisions and bring women among managing partners of your firm. This will change your company culture and improve your RoIes. Research proves it.
It all boils down to respect. Have a little. It goes a long way.
For Female Founders working with VCs.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
1. Identify bias - be prepared and alert in all interactions. If the VC asks you out for drinks or wants to meet at a hotel, stand up for yourself and make it clear that you are uncomfortable with the location and would like to meet in an office environment or you will be bringing someone along with you.
2. Point it out - during uncomfortable conversations such as interruptions or "mansplaining" ask the VC if he would act the same way with a man, and ask him to consider it from your point of view.
3. Educate them - by discussing openly how you felt mistreated you not only show you can solve difficult situations but also help VCs change how they treat female founders in the future.
4. Reach out - If you feel that you have been disrespected as a woman founder do reach out to support groups like Female Founders, Crib, Girls in Tech etc who will support if and when you will reach out.
Demand respect. Don't be silent. Help change the industry.
Written by the Female Founders Executive Committee