More Than Half the Women in Silicon Valley Experience Unwanted Sexual Advancement

A new survey was released about women who work in Silicon Valley and the sexism they encounter at their jobs. The study, called Elephant in the Valley, surveyed more than 200 women with at least 10 years of experience in Silicon Valley, and the results were both depressing and unsurprising.

Its five focus areas included feedback and promotion, inclusion, unconscious biases, motherhood and harassment and safety. Below is a brief snapshot of the findings:

  • 84% have been told they’re too aggressive
  • 66% feel they have been excluded from key networking opportunities because of gender
  • 90% have witnessed sexist behavior at company offsites or industry conferences
  • 59% have felt like they haven’t had the same opportunities as their male colleagues
  • 75% were asked about their family lives in interviews
  • 52% shortened their maternity leave because they thought it could negatively impact their career

In possibly the most depressing statistic, 60% received unwanted sexual advancements. Out of that number, 39% of those harassed did nothing because they thought reporting the harassment would negatively impact their career, 30% chose not to report it because they wanted to forget, and 29% signed a non-disparagement agreement.

The sad truth is, this is the landscape for women who pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Sexism in STEM jobs is nothing new. Women in this field report hearing remarks like “You don’t look like a scientist.”

In 2012, Yale released a study that showed the bias in STEM careers. Physicists, chemists and biologists were handed resumes of two candidates that had the same qualifications. These scientists were more likely to offer the male candidate a job. If they chose the female candidate, she received $4,000 less on average than the male.

While these studies put legitimate numbers on a big issue in STEM careers, you don’t need to look too far to see sexism being played out in the media. One search for “Marissa Mayer” will show you enough. Just this week, a New York Times article revealed that employees call the Yahoo CEO Evita, after the Argentinian first lady, referring to her infamous rise to power. She’s been called “tone deaf,” and a recent Inc. headline bluntly stated “Sorry, Marissa Mayer. You’re No Steve Jobs,” with the article pitting her against Silicon Valley’s famous male CEOs and insinuating that she is “abusing” her employees. While there is some criticism that is legitimate, people have to remember that Mayer took on a company that had already been in serious decline.

There is, however, good news showing a step forward toward women in STEM careers. Recently, MIT and Johnson & Johnson announced a partnership that will open up STEM opportunities to female undergraduate students. Together, MIT and Johnson & Johnson will work together to develop effective recruitment, engagement and retention strategies.

“Since 2006, MIT has experienced a 78 percent increase in undergraduate female engineering majors. The uptick is especially significant in electrical engineering and computer science and mechanical engineering,” said Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart in a statement. “We are making progress but have more to do, particularly in some of the science disciplines. This new collaboration with Johnson & Johnson will give us additional resources to provide targeted support to the next generation of women STEM leaders. And I know that these young women have the power to help us change the world for the better.”

Photo Credit: Fortune Live Media


Jerome S
Jerome S2 years ago


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Deborah W.
Deborah W3 years ago

Knowing all these things, one of two things should happen. Get a new job or keep on giving -- personal choice.

Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

A swift kick to the nuts would resolve this problem. Thanks for posting.

Alexander Hay-Whitton

Sexual advancement? WTF?

Beth M.
Beth M3 years ago

Only Silicon Valley? I experienced it in a bank several decades ago. The problem was that the person to report the harassment to was one of the perpetrators.

Muff-Anne York-Haley

So archaic!

Beth Wilkerson
Beth Wilkerson3 years ago

Silicon Valley no different than the rest of the country