Putting Harassment On The Table Vs Under The Table

A lot has been written in the last week about the way the tech sector treats sexual harassment and a lot of suggestions have been made.

I am particularly enthusiastic about what our fomer USV colleague Brittany Laughlin suggests, which is putting the entire issue on the table, talking about it regularly in the workplace, discussing specific situations as a group, and avoiding the urge to come to quick conclusions.

There is so much good sense in her blog post and I would urge you all to go read it.


Comments (Archived):

  1. William Mougayar

    Wow. Brittany’s post is spot on.

    1. Rob Larson

      Yes, I particularly liked the part about letting people learn and grow from mistakes when they are in the gray area.”Zero tolerance” policies lead to fear and avoidance, which isn’t a good environment for learning.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        As long as there is a dialogue about it, then there can be progress.

    2. Joe Cardillo

      Agreed. One thing that’s always bothered me about the way harassment and abuse is tolerated by tech co’s (and others), is the lack of real, practical work on the problem.It’s this constant feedback loop of, whoa here’s this terrible thing by [Pax/Kalanick, etc.] and then everyone’s upset and there’s a backlash, and then they apologize and a certain percentage of people say “oh, they didn’t meant it, they’re not a monster” and so on. But if someone’s actions are awful, it has to be addressed and, as Brittany says, we have to actually deal with it and force a company’s culture to improve. The real question isn’t, how could someone do [despicable thing], it’s “how could we create a system where that’s ok?”Sure, that’s difficult, and it’s painful and it takes more work on the part of founders, but not doing it is both unethical and impractical for a business that wants to be viable over time.

      1. LE

        Creatively jesting I was going to say this should be handled ‘soviet style’ (with people planted as spies and honeypots [1] ) but perhaps since that will almost certainly be ridiculed we could go with simply a hefty reward system. People report infractions that they receive themselves or that they observe. As far as whether that would encourage certain behavior in search of the reward, instead of just deciding that it couldn’t be designed correctly put some effort into making a system that works and creates the right outcome in the end.Of course people can simply think that they will just tell people to act better and magically it will happen but of course it will not and most likely nothing will change.[1] https://www.sans.org/securi

        1. Joe Cardillo

          What’s interesting / frustrating is that we all want a silver bullet, even though we know it’s a design problem…which is what makes Brittany’s point so strong.The sheer irony of tech / startups getting into a lather every (1 1/2 years? 1 year? 6 mos?) while also preaching the value of iteration, MVPs, prototypes, and growth hacking in their product without using that model in their culture and HR policies…it’s something else. Carrot and stick, indeed…along with carrots that look like sticks, and sticks that taste like carrots, and a host of other system design that reminds people there are actual humans involved here, not just one’s own needs and desires to be considered.

        2. Susan Rubinsky

          As Joe said, there is no silver bullet. but there also really is a culture that accepts inappropriate behavior in men. I like that the blogger admitted it’s not a binary solution, but a gradual culture change.

      2. Susan Rubinsky

        The “system” starts when people do not believe the person/s reporting the behavior (the “Oh, they didn’t mean it” moment.)This is true for all kinds of bad behavior in our culture.I am the survivor of a stalking and attempted homicide (over 25 years ago). Every time I reported the behavior of the perpetrator during those years to the police or to campus officials (I was in college at the time), the response was along the lines of “Oh, he’s just in love with you,” or, “He didn’t really mean it,” or, even worse, “You must have done something for him to act that way.” Everyone — from the police, to campus officials, to my own family — discounted my experience until I ended up with a man at my apartment blowing seven bullets through the window at me. But it didn’t have to come to that if someone actually listened earlier on and took action to address the problem with the perpetrator.When our culture does not adequately address the problem with the perpetrator, then the perpetrator not only continues his bad behavior but he also escalates his behavior because the culture continues to accept it as normal. By addressing the bad behavior from the beginning we are beginning a process of de-escalation and also simultaneously starting the change that is needed for culture to shift its perspective.I like what is said in the referenced blog post. Cultural change is hard. Mistakes will be made in learning how to adequately address such people/problems. We are imperfect but just because perfection is almost impossible it’s a stupid reason not to start. I hope the tech world can start to lead the way!

        1. Joe Cardillo

          Yup, 100%. Thank you for sharing that, it’s not my story to tell but what you described has happened to family members, friends, co-workers, and romantic partners in my life…so I’m more than willing to do whatever I can even (and especially) when it requires more work or is uncomfortable.

          1. Susan Rubinsky

            Yeah, glad you recognize it. Many don’t. The reason I tell my story is so that people understand the consequences of condoning bad behavior. (It’s a bit of a personal mission.)

          2. Anne Libby

            You’re brave.

          3. Susan Rubinsky

            There is nothing for us women to loose at this point. Let the alligators bite.

  2. JimHirshfield

    Well done Brittany!

    1. Brittany Laughlin

      Hi Jim! Thanks!

      1. PhilipSugar

        I really liked your post. I like how you balanced it. The fact is sexual harassment happens, and way too much, I as a CEO have had to deal with it but that does not mean making it so that an offhand comment means instant termination will work either, because as you correctly state people will just not engage.

  3. jason wright

    Is there a definition of sexual harassment in US law?

  4. jason wright

    USV’s partnership bar must be very high.

  5. Pranay Srinivasan

    How about a 3 strikes rule balanced by a outsider review system in case of an accusation?

  6. Dave Pinsen

    It seems like the easiest way to avoid a lot of this is to have the most homogenous workplace possible. Imagine one that’s all heterosexual white men. You wouldn’t have to worry about sexual harassment, racial discrimination, lawsuits related to sexual harassment or racial discrimination, diversity training, etc. You could just get down to business.

    1. creative group

      Dave Pinsen:If a company discontinues begging to use other peoples money (usually in the form of Public Pensions, LP who are minorities and women) then your post would have merit in 2017 verses viewing through the scope of revisionism of 1917.Reply will fall on deaf ears. The usual but um.Captain Obvious……

    2. JLM

      .I have personal experience with organizations which were male — not all white — arguably heterosexual (though I did not ask) and there was no sexual harassment, no racial discrimination, no lawsuits.I think the secret is they were all paratroopers?We did get down to business in those days. Our business was Death From the Skies!JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

      1. Susan Rubinsky


    3. CJ

      Nor much diversity of background and therefore not much diversity of opinion and insight. Though, I suppose you could control for those factors but then aren’t you just intentionally building a discriminatory environment?Or did I miss the sarcasm tag?

      1. Dave Pinsen

        Amazing that USV, with its all white male partners, is the best-performing VC firm in the world. You’d figure a more diverse VC firm would have beaten them.CJ, there are things people say to be politically correct, and then there’s reality. In reality, having people of both sexes and multiple racial backgrounds confers no special advantage on a business (with the exception, perhaps of affinity sales — having someone from the X community sell your product to her fellow X’s). You can see that for yourself by looking at the senior management of the world’s best firms. Apple, for example, has 9 white men and 1 white woman among its top-10 executives.In contrast, diversity confers some disadvantages, such as worries about harassment and bias, whether real or perceived, and the legal, human resources, and public relations costs associated with that.

        1. CJ

          I disagree. It’s hard to measure the things that you miss because you don’t have viewpoint diversity. However, the male investors that skipped Spanx come to mind immediately. Also Fred missed AirBnB because of a lack of diversity in age at USV at the time.Chris Sacca invested in StyleSheet because he wife told him he would be a dummy to pass on such an obvious investment. I think their might be another one that he’s mentioned because of that.So yeah, from what I’ve seen a lack of viewpoint diversity, which tends to come from a lack of diversity in employment period, can cause one to miss a lot of opportunities.

          1. Dave Pinsen

            Visual diversity and viewpoint diversity aren’t the same thing. I don’t see much eagerness for viewpoint diversity. Does Sacca feel he needs to have a Trump supporter at his firm for the viewpoint diversity? Does Fred?

  7. William Mougayar

    Today’s post came out on Hawaii time 😉

    1. fredwilson

      Been really jet lagged and distracted with work too. Tough combo

      1. William Mougayar

        That’s OK. Hawaii thoughts are good.

    2. Susan Rubinsky

      Hawaii time is excellent. We should all get out on surfboards then hang out on the beach talking.

      1. Girish Mehta

        Those would be Hawaii times :-). Sounds excellent.Thank you for your comments on this post.

      2. William Mougayar

        Wishful but pleasant thinking 😉

  8. creative group

    The definition of sexual harassment is when the person being harassed puts the harasser on notice via direct, superior or HR. This definition can be abused in cases of a disgruntled employee. Usually harassment when a company accepts this harassing culture more than one person is affected. People in work place usually thinks of sexual harassment, there are other levels of harassment practiced by the good ole boy club during Golf outings while drinking truth serum (Alcohol) with other non blue blood and third base coworkers, etc. We know irs never happened or doesn’t. Gotcha.Our post from yesterday addressed Binary Capital co-founder Justin Caldbeck had resigned over sexual harassment he has admitted. Theo had to know.http://www.cnbc.com/2017/06

  9. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:Fred’s post entry was so late we were getting withdrawals. We had to post on The Selloff. We realize we were the only ones. (At least to admit it)Fred’s ok!Would have been polite for William Mougayar to update us. GheezCaptain Obvious……

  10. Salt Shaker

    Sexual harassment wasn’t invented or discovered by tech. Just ask any female that’s ever worked in finance, advertising or several other industries. That said, if there is a higher incidence of harassment in tech vs. other industries, I’m sure in part it can be attributed to several factors, including a lack of maturity (young age), professionalism (limited work experiences), in addition to one’s upbringing (respect for others). If your company’s work environment (or culture) has that frat house flavor, then expectations and incidences of inappropriate employee behavior shouldn’t be particularly shocking. A fish bleeds from the head. It all starts with sound mgt and clear, concise communication on policy and standards, both acceptable and unacceptable. That dialog doesn’t occur de facto, or after an incident, it’s done upfront on day one.

    1. LE

      including a lack maturity (young age)In startups there appears to be a disproportionate quantity of good looking young males and young females. As such it would be expected that there would be more bad acts as a result.Go into a typical business located in a suburban office park (with employees middle aged or older) and compare the workforce to the photos that appear on websites of startups. Very good looking people as a general rule. More temptation for sure.

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        That’s bullshit. That’s like saying, “Go to any college campus and there’s a ‘disproportionate quantity of good looking males and young females’ and, as such it would be expected that there would be more bad acts as a result.”As we know from the news, too many college campuses accepted this as the rule for years, condoning the bad behavior of the “males” toward the “females”.

        1. Adam Sher

          Jon Krakauer’s Missoula hits this on the head. Should be required reading on what abnormal normal is.

        2. LE

          Where am I saying that it should be accepted or that I or anyone should condone it? I simply said that statistically you will have more occurrences because there is more temptation. To add to the parent point of ‘reasons why’. (One of the points was young age for example).And more temptation doesn’t mean that something shouldn’t be done or that companies should not hire attractive people as the solution.

      2. CJ

        Attractiveness has little to do with it. Startups put people in close proximity working long hours under tremendous stress. This is a breeding ground for romances, flings, and harassment. It’s easy for the unattractive guy to become attractive because he’s available and in close proximity and you have a shared culture, shared struggle.It’s also easy to make passes based on gestures that you think are responses to flirting or think that are receptive. But that’s not harassment.Harassment is when you make those passes, are declined, and then seek retribution or create a negative work-space for the declining person.Harassment is the result of entitlement, plain and simple. Thinking that your wants and needs are above another persons. Unfortunately the Startup culture, from a lot of what I’ve read, is rife with entitlement which also makes it the perfect breeding ground for harassment.You want to fix harassment in the workplace? Fix the entitlement issue, not attractiveness.

        1. LE

          I think you mean to say ‘attractiveness is not the only factor’. It’s obvious that even though work situations (or a profession, say ‘doctor’) can improve someones looks you can’t defy gravity with mediocre looks. So I would not agree it has little to do with it. Good looks play a large role at least over a statistically significant population.Other than that I agree with most of what you are saying.

    2. Anne Libby

      The thing that I find is that many young people don’t have an understanding of what normal should be at work.It’s a painful experience to learn that your company’s norms aren’t healthy…

      1. Susan Rubinsky

        Young people — or, I’d argue, just people — don’t have an understanding because we’ve been living, learning, working in a misogynistic culture since our earliest days. Men have been the victim of this as much as the women — in believing this the the norm.

        1. Anne Libby

          Yes and. IMO the de-norming of the workplace is more complicated than misogyny. It’s also about shorter tenures in workplaces. Among other things, this leads to a less skilled cadre of front-line managers, who are the folks who have the most influence over what the norms in your workplace actually are, and how they operate.And men and women both suffer.

    3. jason wright

      Frat brat brigade….and still no female partner at USV.

      1. fredwilson

        we are working on it

        1. jason wright

          Thumbs up.

        2. DeeJai23

          A comment I wrote in this discussion was marked as spam..don’t see anything spammy in it?

        3. Donna Brewington White

          The pressure…Here is to a great find!

    4. Dave Pinsen

      It could also be attributed in part to immigrants from more patriarchal countries such as India.

  11. Pointsandfigures

    Great post. In many cases, it’s easy to spot. But, Brittany is right about gray areas. There are quasi innocent statements someone might make that some women would find funny or non-offensive, and others offensive. Her fear is right too. Cheryl Sandberg articulated similar in her book Lean In. When you see an older man with a younger woman at a bar after work, what goes through your mind? If women are going to be mentored in tech, a lot of the mentoring is going to be done by men. You cannot make them scared to mentor. I agree with Brittany that it’s worth the risk to bring all this out on the table.The other fear I have is women using harassment as an excuse. If they don’t get funded, or something goes wrong in their career etc is it harassment or is it just poor performance? Even given that, Brittany is right.

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      Do men use harassment as an excuse for not being funded?

    2. Anne Libby


      1. pointsnfigures

        Men don’t use that excuse. I have seen them use other excuses. Plenty of excuses to go around. I am not denying that not funding a women might happen because men don’t “get it” or don’t have the confidence a women cold execute, but at the same time not everyone has a fundable idea.

        1. ShanaC

          I pity the guy who accidentally turned down something like spanxs…

          1. pointsnfigures

            : ) If would have seen a deal like that, my diligence would have involved my home.

        2. Anne Libby

          In the decades of my career, it’s been my experience that it’s our tendency to hide the fact that we’ve been harassed. That’s a personal experience, as well as one shared with me by friends and colleagues. (Is @philipsugar here today? he has talked about learning that this has happened in his company, too.)That said, I have seen knowledge of harassment/sexism used by women as an excuse to quit our jobs, to avoid certain companies/investors/vendors.Should you personally run across a woman who actually does this, serious offer: send her my way, and I’ll be glad to school her over a cup of coffee.

          1. PhilipSugar

            Let me be very clear.It absolutely gets hidden because of shame and fear.But as she correctly posts we don’t want to swing too far because that also will be a problem.If I say Anne lets meet in my room 1234, I need to go.If you work for me and I say Anne I really think you are sexy, lets go out. I need to go.If I say Anne lets meet downstairs and talk over a drink. I am doing nothing other than I would with a male employee and to deny you this is putting you at a disadvantage.If I touch you in any way inappropriately I need to go.I think that most decent men are very aware of this, and we already worry a bit too much about it.I always put out my hand to shake. The tradition in MN and Europe is that you hug and kiss on the cheek. I am constantly given a hard time by our female employees about putting my hand out. But we as men need to realize that physical contact is not ours to initiate, and that is fine, but if I tell a joke not at you that is fine.Let me give you a gray area. We are staying at a nice hotel and there are women outside giving out coupons for a mens club. My British counterpart in mixed company says my those outfits look breezy. Now to me this is really funny. If he says let’s go the line has been crossed.I am a large man and I travel 250k miles a year and even in first it is tight as we move around. I am constantly guided physically by the flight attendant to make sure I don’t step on her, but it is never correct for me to touch her.

    3. creative group

      Pointsandfigures:We agree with you more than you agree with yourself.We acknowledge the misogynistic culture in male dominated companies with very little operational experience, life experiences, lack of positive role models, etc can affect the undeveloped and immature brain. (No excuse offered)But the following example occurs more than this blog will want to admit.The example of the handsome single founder who has something special. If the opportunity isnt presented to him or anything he says or does is accepted as cute, funny, entertaining (The female is interested in everything the founder has to offer) verses the overweight engineer who is just a geek and awkward around females (22) his advances are frowned upon. It is a fine line in that dating environment.We are not referring to the predatory harasser who thinks is is free game to use his aggressive conduct on women.The labeling of sexual harassment is in the hands of the female. Period.

  12. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:OFF TOPIC ALERT!Congratulations to Candi Castleberry Singleton hire as Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Twitter.https://www.usatoday.com/st…A qualified hire that addressed the questioned hire before her. Shameful. But normal business.Twitter is a USV portfolio company…..(After hours of this acknowledgement not one comment. Girl you have beyond some work to do. Good luck with that) Hope the exit package is great.https://uploads.disquscdn.c

  13. JLM

    .People — men — behaving badly in the workplace is nothing new. Take a look at Mad Men to see the 1950s frame of reference.The solution is also not new — men who are adults, gentlemen, and manly.A gentleman’s sole test is to make people welcome in his presence and to ensure the conduct of others does not make them feel uncomfortable. This is a basic value and any leader should inject it into his organization.An adult does not tolerate juvenile, boorish, sophomoric behavior and intercedes directly. An adult does not let other men prey upon his employees or associates.A man does not have to resort to financial chicanery to attract women. Men who do this are pathetic losers and sexual predators.Women need to take Krav Maga and develop a killer slap. It is fair game to carry a stick pin.I am amazed that some of these women do not have either big brothers or boyfriends who would intervene to teach someone a lesson. Been there, done that.Just another reason why dueling should be brought back and made legal.Word to women — slap the snot out of any man who tries something like this. Stick them with a hat pin, draw blood.This is not a new problem and does not require a new solution.This will continue as long as VC is 90% men only as long as they are not adults, gentlemen, and manly.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. Susan Rubinsky

      I think I shall enroll in dueling classes.

      1. JLM

        .If you lived in Texas, I could teach you. If you get to select the weapons, go for Beretta 380 pistols. Or, ice picks.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. Susan Rubinsky

          LOL. I already know how to shoot, actually. Dueling, with an actual sword, that would be another matter. However, none of THAT would have saved me. Only luck did. Our culture needs to change. THAT is what will enable women to play more vital roles in tech and in other arenas.

          1. jason wright

            In the right hand a pen can be deadlier

  14. sigmaalgebra

    I care about the subject (A) I want to be good at the finer points of making women feel comfortable and not, what was the word, uncomfortable; (B) if my startup works, then I’ll have to hire and maybe hire some women, and I don’t want any problems; (C) also in my startup, over time I’ll have to have (more frequent) business discussions — bankers, bookkeepers, accountants, insurance agents, ad executives, real estate brokers, etc., a significant fraction of whom will be women and, again, I don’t want any problems; (D) I’d like to understand much better what the heck happened with females I’ve known all the way back to grade school; and (E) if my startup works, then, sure, it’d be fun to meet a woman who liked music and take her to an opera, maybe just Puccini or Verdi or, okay, if she is really good at music, Wagner!So, I’m interested. But, in short, I read Ms. Laughlin’s post and, net, didn’t understand it, hardly at all. I’m sorry, Ms. Laughlin: I can see that you are concerned, but I can’t make good sense out of your post. I’m plenty interested.Maybe a first problem is what the heck is an “unwelcome advance”? Gee, my parents, even my mom, told me, “It’s up to the boy to make the first move.”. Okay. So in high school, for some girls in my grade, I’d call them and invite them to a movie on Saturday. Her response was that she was “busy”. Friday” “Busy”. Saturday a week later? “Busy”. …. “Busy”. Gee. busy girl. One girl said that she already had a boyfriend — 1000 miles away. So, was I making “unwanted advances”? Sure, they were “advances” — offering to take them to a movie. And I remember that they seemed plenty “unwanted”. I thought I was just asking a girl for a date, and that that’s what I was supposed to do with nothing wrong. Indeed, I was supposed to “make the first move”. The father of a friend of mine told me that it was a big favor for a boy to ask out a girl because with the norms the girl could never ask out the boy. So, if no boy made the first move, at least in simple terms, no girls would get any dates at all. I fully understood that once I asked, a girl could say “No” or “busy”. Okay. After about 4 fast “busy” responses, I gave up on that girl.So, I was making “unwanted advances” and engaging in “sexual harassment”? Sure, somehow I’m supposed to realize that my high school invitations were not really sexual harassment. But, we need to be clear here: Those high school invitations were, clearly, literally, “unwanted advances”. And now we’re saying that unwanted advances are sexual harassment. So, ah, come ON: We’re talking total mush verbiage here. The truth here has to be that “unwanted advances” is some euphemism and that we ALL know what we are REALLY talking about and don’t have to spell it out in grade school words or draw a picture. Wrong. YES we do. This circumlocution, hint, hint, hint, euphemism, Victorian garden party delicacy, etc. is just too darned ambiguous. Or, Ms. Laughlin, you want to “get it out on the table”. Okay, first let’s be clear just what the heck an “unwanted advance” is. Right now, all we have is mush.Actually, eventually I discovered that the reason for my high school unwanted advances was that I was asking girls my own age! For girls 1-4 years younger, my advances were much more welcome!So, if we really have to work with mush definitions, then my first reaction in business will be never but never hire a female because no way will I know what the heck could get me strung up by a bunch of lawyers. It’d be like walking around with a hand grenade with the pin pulled out and holding down the lever. No thanks.”Unwanted advance” — we’re stuck, speed forward 0.0000 nm per year, until we know what the heck we’re talking about. E.g., we’re working on some project, it’s 12:15, and I suggest we get some lunch. If she says “Yes” then that’s okay. If she says she’s “busy” then that was an “unwanted advance”. We need to KNOW. CLEARLY.Then there’s the one about “he makes me feel uncomfortable”. Gee, but what did he actually DO? A man has a good shot at controlling what he actually DOES. He has nearly no chance of knowing how a female will “feel” about it.Or, if he really does something she doesn’t like, then she can stab him with a long hat pin. So, the guy comes to me with the blood running down his arm, and maybe I’ll just say, “Solution: Stay far enough away from her that she can’t reach you with her hat pin.”. Maybe if she comes to me and complains about Rafe Testosteroini, then I’ll just open my desk drawer and give her a 6″ hat pin and suggest that if he gets too close, then use it.If she comes to me and says “Rafe makes me feel uncomfortable.” I’ll ask, “What has he actually DONE to you? Whatever, if he tries actually to DO something, then here is a 6″ hat pin, and when he gets too close stab him. Then he won’t be so close.”.She comes to me saying that Rafe keeps inviting her to have drinks at a bar. Maybe I’ll say: “He likely wouldn’t do that if he found you unattractive. So, around him, be unattractive, scowl at him, ignore him, if you say anything, then make it nasty. If you have to communicate with him about work, then do so across a table in sight of other people. Okay?”. If Rafe is really nasty, then get some evidence with some witnesses, and I’ll fire him. If you can’t think of some good witnesses, then I’ll have the head of HR work out something with you. Then next time I see Rafe, I’ll say: “A lot of the women here carry 6″ hat pins. If you get close enough to them for them to reach you, then they may stick you. Net, for the women here, stay out of range or get stuck.”.

    1. ShanaC

      Dating for millennials is very different. Plus, women ask men out now, and have for a long time.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Ah, Shana, you are just teasing me! I have evidence you are wrong! I’ve never been asked out!

        1. ShanaC

          Don’t know what to tell you. I do know I have asked people out and ended up on dates with them (and in a relationship with one person, even)

    2. Rob Larson

      Sigma – I think your question is sincere, so I’ll give it a sincere answer. The biggest issue is the power dynamic. Anyone you hire will feel pressure to say yes to your invitations even if they are not interested (after all, how can it help your career to reject your boss socially?) especially if they are feeling financial stress at home. Therefore it is never appropriate to ask out someone that works for you. Textbook “unwelcome advance.” Same power dynamic exists between professors and their students, and between VCs and the entrepreneurs looking for funding. Which is why Caldbeck is in hot water now.Between two peers, with no power disparity present, one asking the other out would probably be considered innocent, as long as it’s done respectfully, without excessive persistence. (some common sense and empathy here help) Be respectful of their ability to decline, and don’t try to change their mind through persistence, power or by disrespecting them if/when they decline.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        “Power dynamic”: To me that is mush verbiage again! I wouldn’t be able to give a clear definition. But eventually you gave a definition via some leading examples. Okay.So, most organizations have an organization chart. Since we are all computer people, call that a tree rooted at the CEO or for a C-Corp the COB. So, given two people, if one is in the subtree of the other, then 1-1 social interactions are to be forbidden.For schools, right: The times I was a lecturer (Indiana U, Georgetown U) and a prof (Ohio State U), the rules on students and profs in 1-1 social interactions were usually vague and unstated. At my last two teaching gigs, I was married, but at IU: I followed the unwritten rule that I was not supposed to ask any of my students for dates. I had to keep that rule in mind because I was older, a grad student, and some of the girls were darned pretty and friendly.I went farther: I didn’t want to invite a girl I’d met only as a student in one of my classes. To invite her, wanted at least one more introduction.Soooo, there was a concert — IU had a fantastic music school, maybe second only to Juilliard. So, there were lots of concerts. After one, I was standing in the isle shaking out a leg sore from running, and a former student walked up to say “Hi!”. I’d wanted to date her but had followed my rule. Well, to me her “Hi!” was that additional introduction. So, I suggested a Coke at the student union. She waved goodbye to her girlfriends on the other side of the concert hall. On the way to the student union, I escalated to a Coke and pizza at a little pizza place just off campus — there were several of those, with booths with high backs and dim lights; they did a good business, you don’t have ask just why! So, it was my job to walk her back to her dorm. So on the way we passed a movie theater and I escalated to a movie Saturday. The next day, still before the movie, I escalated to a dinner at the on-campus, mostly for faculty, white tablecloth Tudor Room restaurant and then the movie. In two years, I had a good career going in applied math and computing near DC; she graduated Summa Cum Laude. PBK, Woodrow Wilson Fellow, NSF Fellow; and we got married. The rest of the story will have to wait for my Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys.So, we have the rule about the tree of the organization and your “power dynamic” with its examples, and that’s okay as far as it goes, but we still are very short on a clear definition of “unwanted advance”. Maybe the rest of the operational definition will have to be that she defends herself by being with other girls, staying out of arm’s reach, scowling, saying something nasty, slapping, or using her 6″ hat pin.For her coming to me, as CEO, and complaining that Rafe “makes me feel uncomfortable” — recall the Star Wars scene where she says “Don’t look at me like that … it makes me feel uncomfortable” — I don’t see how men or organizations can hope to respond to that except as I tried to outline above.I would guess that even with all this discussion, still Ms. Laughlin, as in her post, remains concerned.Here is my concern:(1) As will have at least a full chapter in Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys, I have had to learn the hard way, paid “full tuition” plus many times that much, some, not all, but some and too many, human females, not always but too commonly are too often, in a word afraid. Sometimes they are like little birds, fluttering, in a tree with some hawks overhead and some kitty cats on the ground below.(2) Human females, starting about as soon as they can walk and with great intensity for at least 40 years, are usually strongly motivated to form herds, groups, to belong to groups of other girls/women. I’m reminded of the remark in Jurassic Park upon looking at a lot of dinosaurs gathered around a lake, “Yes, they DO form herds.”. I’m reminded of an old TV ad for some TV show “The Babysitters’ Club” (I never actually saw the show, just the ad) where the several teen girls were walking quickly on a sidewalk in a tight bunch and where each of the girls was trying to be closer to the center of the bunch than all the rest. That’s another lesson that will have a chapter in Girls 101 for Dummies — Boys.So, net, guys, shut up, sit down, listen up, and save yourself huge bundles of time, money, effort, and frustration, in short, burn this into your brain: (1) Girls are afraid. (2) Girls form herds. There is more on just why in E. Fromm, The Art of Loving. Learn it here; learn it from Fromm; but LEARN it at least somewhere.A herd, that’s a group, and that starts with a G, and that rhymes with a T, and that stands for TROUBLE.Then as CEO, you will be vulnerable to several of the women getting especially afraid, gathering in a tight group, especially if they have a little spare time, reinforcing each other, and creating a problem, a PROBLEM, a really nasty, PR problem, lawyer problem, financial problem, BoD problem, company morale problem, company take a torpedo below the waterline problem, organizational problem, HR problem, EEOC problem, work full time plus more on lots of things other than running the business problem.Guys, here are three more:(3) “Idle hands do devil’s work.” If you have too many people without enough that is really pressing to do, then they are too likely to find some things to do that are highly destructive.(4) Girls and women are not weak in all ways and, instead, in some ways are astoundingly strong, stronger than the men. Typically the females can go with less sleep and, as athletes, in really long athletic events actually have more endurance (pound for pound) than men. In school, the girls are better at staying up all night and writing term papers. In paperwork, they can work men until they are exhausted on the floor.Why? Imagine having three children under the age of 5 and being pregnant with a fourth; back in the family trees, a lot of women did that and lived through it (and a lot didn’t live through it, but the women today are not their descendants) — understand now?(5) Commonly women have more determination. A lot more. ‘Bout have to be Michael Jordan to have that much determination, and I suspect that with his astounding athletic talent even he didn’t have that much determination. E.g., can see a little of his talent up close, slowly inhttps://www.youtube.com/wat…Just there, long retired, just giving some lessons, the guy is still effortlessly just blindingly fast. For more, here is his first NBA game:https://www.youtube.com/wat…Unbelievable. But I suspect that many women have more determination than even MJ — in addition he had astounding athletic ability.Why are women so determined? Again, imagine having three children under the age of 5 and being pregnant with a fourth — understand now?Right: Determination is the nice way to put it. That’s a weaker form of perfectionism, and that’s a weaker from of hysteria, paranoia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Right, guys, those are all anxiety diseases, and did I mention that females are afraid? Severe anxiety disease is four times more common in human females (across countries, cultures, etc.) than in menDavid V. Sheehan, M.D., The Anxiety Disease, ISBN 0-553-25568-1.So, men, to bottom line it: Several women can get afraid, of anything or nearly nothing. Their whole herd can get afraid. They can decide to do something about it. There they can work hard, for weeks, hard enough cause any man trying to keep up with them suddenly to fall on the floor, pass out, and sleep for three days. They can do library work, legal work, PR work, etc. at A+ quality on all of it. They won’t wear out, stop, or give up. Then suddenly they are in your office with a lot of lawyers, nearly all also women, and you are in very deep, dark brown, fuming, flaming, reeking, smelly sticky stuff with much or even all of your company about to go belly up. Suddenly you get to up your 80 hours a week by another 80 hours. If you can’t get some help, in about two weeks they will have you in a hospital flat on your back exhausted while they are still screaming in front of TV cameras like Elizabeth Warren, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters, etc. If your company is public, the short sellers are lighting foot long Havana cigars with $100 bills. You used to have a good company!Guys, if you were to work with nitroglycerin, then you would understand that it is unstable and dangerous. Well, not nearly all but too many situations with women are like that — unstable and dangerous. You know about nitroglycerin; now you also know about some situations with women.Net, guys, understand some of what is too common for women and, still, not widely understood; realize some of the potential dangers that can be very destructive and mostly would be unexpected; and be CAREFUL.

  15. ShanaC

    1)In a totally different context I was talking about WEIRDhttps://aeon.co/essays/amer…Within tech culture, baselines need to be made much more explicit. Very different people are part of tech culture, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some WEIRD clashes on top of sexism. They need to be separated out from each other the best they can be.2) I Know some people will hate me about this, but I think we need to talk about intersectionality when we talk about respect because of the fact we’re all multiple identities, different cuts of a diamond as it were, to the entirety of the true selves in each of our insides.One of the “interesting” things about the Justin Calbeck story is that all the women who came forward were East Asian in background. If this is the early signs of a pattern, this may mean that he might have been treating East Asian Women differently than White women, Latina women, Black women, Indian American Women, and that each group (and individuals in the group) may have experienced harassment differently because they were more than just women, or some groups may not have experienced any at all.That in itself is a problem, and deserves discussion as part of the overall policy.However, in a rush to solve and create better policies, people will try to create a metanarrative of a story they want these individual stories as datapoints to be. Resist the temptation. You’ll have a better policy if you treat the stories full on as datapoints and dealing with the intersectional issues head-on.3) Define where the buck stops. Make sure the God-Emperor isn’t where the buck stops, for even entrepreneurs and VC’s need outside nos and people telling them to be normal sometimes. However, if the buck for harassment stops with the same people who both sign your paycheck and who are creating the culture for the startup, and are thereby potential instigators of the harassment, there isn’t really a good recourse path. In theory, HR is supposed to be in charge, but in practice, HR works for the company. For the highest levels in particular as well as for still small companies, figure out a path for recourse, especially if you are the investor.4) Figure out positive rewards. Carrots work for good behavior, especially when someone is changing. Reward it.5) A lot of harassment and inappropriate behavior comes with drinking. Sponsor activities and socializing stuff that can be done alcohol free. Barring that, be “nudgey” and find passive ways to limit what most people can drink. if people aren’t smashed, you’re much less likely to see bad behavior, plus, you open yourself up to socializing (and if you are doing this to hire, finding good candidates) to people who just aren’t coming because the booziness is too much at times.___As a last note6) Don’t accidentally shame the people who went through this, it is psychologically hugely diminishing. It is one of the biggest reasons people don’t come forward, the entire experience is already diminishing enough. Figuring out after is often a mess, and having the conversation is just hard. patience is a lot more critical than it looks

    1. Twain Twain

      Asian American women (typically Chinese-origin) have to navigate the thinnest tightrope.From Pando … the work of Joan C. Williams, whose widely-cited book “What Works for Women at Work” is the bible of decoding universal workplace bias:”[The] diametrically opposed images of Asian American women in the industry aren’t odd or uncommon at all but part of the very specific oppression Asian women face in STEM. Her research shows while all women are forced to navigate a tightrope between being seen as too feminine to be competent or too masculine to be likable, Asian American women walk the thinnest line of all.“The tightrope is literally narrower for Asian American women,” Williams said. Asian American women are more likely than other women to report pressures to play traditionally feminine roles, such as office mother or dutiful daughter, but also backlash for stereotypically masculine behaviors such as being assertive and self-promoting.”https://pando.com/2017/06/2…@fredwilson:disqus @wmoug:disqus @pointsnfigures:disqus @ccrystle:disqus @JLM:disqus @jasonpwright:disqus @@le_on_avc:disqus — Today I unfriended two guys who were pulling passive-aggressive oppression on me. According to their thinking and “rules,” it’s au fait for them to talk about their credentials (where they went to school, where they worked, the great thinkers they’ve read) but it’s not ok for me to provide similar context. In their eyes, I was being self-promoting when in fact I was qualifying the direct experiences that underpinned my reasoning on some ideas.The whole male-female dynamic at work is super-complex. Husband and wives have fallen in love there. The woman may have been the senior colleague. Would that have been a harassment case if they hadn’t fallen in love?My experience is that the best and most successful male managers have a strong sense of propriety themselves and SMART KICKASS WIVES who make them aware of what behavior is/isn’t acceptable.The smart kickass wives are my role models and inspirations too.

  16. creative group

    CONTRIBUTORS:Dave McClure @davemcclure resigns from 500 Startups.https://techcrunch.com/2017…Very strange how other VC’s appear to present a public bewilderment regarding sexual harassment conduct when they interact with these VC’s who are in their exclusive Faternity.The Vetting process that is conducted on Startups and Founders are a farce. A large majority are from the exclusive colleges and two semesters isn’t sufficient and a base to use to review a limited track record. How in the hell does a college dropout with one semester, no operational experience of running a lemonade stand entrusted with 50 to 100 Million real dollars. (One out of a Million Bill Gates isn’t the norm)We need to recruit an Ivy League graduate, cultivate him/her with actual operational foundation combined with some meet and greet’s on a unproven service/product that will fail but come up with a viable service/product when the funding is secure. (That is what is done yearly). Make sure he/she is beautiful to the eyes, golfs, and family is well connected.The recipe for acquiring other peoples money.Obsurd!Captain Obvious!

  17. fredwilson

    Hi everyone. Should I delete this comment?

  18. LE

    I don’t think it rises to the level of censorship no matter how disagreeable some may find it. You don’t want to create a system (or at least I wouldn’t) where people have to question before they make a comment for fear that the comment will be deleted. [1] You could then also end up with people purposely trying to push boundaries to see if they can get your (or other’s) goat.[1] Causes what I call a mental stutter which takes away creativity.

  19. TeddyBeingTeddy

    Done. Apologies Fred, not intended.

  20. Susan Rubinsky

    Damn. I missed the comment. I’d like to have seen it to now have an opinion.

  21. ShanaC

    I missed the comment. But your house, your rules, and I am proud you asked

  22. Tom Labus

    It was just a lame joke in the post context. No big deal and should have flown.

  23. TeddyBeingTeddy

    Bad timing on my part. I was being an irresponsible teddy bear!

  24. Susan Rubinsky

    I started posting. There’s lots of misogynist stuff here… Not sure I have time to comment on it all.

  25. ShanaC

    I have thoughts, they aren’t all for public consumption, because I’m still feeling them out in how I relate to me

  26. creative group

    Susan Rubinsky:It would be advisable not to continue the dialogue with the resident misogynist.Not understanding your statement:”There’s lots of misogynist stuff here.”when females in room provide homage to one of the culprits. Its funny depending on the poster. Just sickening. Complain but engage.Captain Obvious….

  27. Anne Libby

    I figure if he has to ask, it should go.

  28. LE

    I have a screen grab you can email me if you want to see it.