In a new survey by Y Combinator (YC) and Callisto, more than 20 percent of female startup founders said that they had been harassed. This lead YC to create a process by which entrepreneurs in California and throughout the country can report harassment. The survey targeted 125 female founders that had received funding from YC.
Of those asked to participate, 88 responded to the survey, and a total of 56 had reported experiencing some sort of sexual impropriety. For instance, four had said that they were subject to unwanted sexual contact while another 18 said that they experienced sexual badgering. However, many chose not to report their experiences, and they cited a fear of backlash from investors as their motivation to remain quiet. Those who did report their experiences said that they wanted to protect others from possible repeat offenders.
The state of California has recently taken steps to protect individuals from harassment by investors. For its part, YC has said that it would support those who chose to take steps beyond reporting harassment by taking part in the survey. It also encouraged those who have been harassed to report the behavior by using its internal reporting channels.
There are many ways in which sexual harassment can occur in a business setting. Those who are asked out on a date, asked for a quid pro quo relationship or simply hear lewd comments could be victims of harassment. It may be possible for a victim to file complaints with the EEOC, or California DFEH, or file internal reports with an employer to help resolve the matter. An attorney could help with the process.