Get help if someone uses a power imbalance to sexually harass you

There has been a striking imbalance between the number of males and females in California’s tech industry and between the investors that men and women business leaders were able to attract. There seemed to be no logical reason for the ever-widening gender gap in the tech industry — something that experts had logically expected to start to decrease, not increase, over the years.

Then women entrepreneurs in California started coming forward to tell stories of sexual harassment by venture capitalists and everything started to seem clearer.

The allegations were strong enough to force the resignation of at least two well-known venture capitalists — both identified as major players in the sexual harassment that multiple women had endured while trying to bring their business ideas to fruition in a state that takes a lot of pride in being the starting ground for many in the tech industry.

Now, new changes proposed by one of California’s senators will tweak existing laws to specifically address the sexual harassment of would-be business founders by their potential investors.

California already has a civil rights act that prohibits sexual harassment between certain related groups where there’s an unequal power balance, putting those with less power at a significant disadvantage when it comes to fending off an abuser, like doctors and their patients and social workers and their clients. Now, the language will include investors and business founders.

There’s been a lot of positive support expressed for the bill, which is expected to pass. The industry as a whole has reacted with outrage to the revelations — those inside the industry recognize that timing is everything, and a woman whose fledgling business is delayed because she won’t agree to a sexual liaison with a potential investor can see her dreams dissipate if another company with a similar idea gets faster funding.

No one should have to tolerate sexual harassment by someone who has significant power over his or her situation. If you’ve been victimized, talk to an attorney about your rights. For more information on our firm’s approach to sexual harassment claims, please visit our page.