Ever since April, when over 800 women in industry shared their experiences of sexual harassment in a spreadsheet sharing platform, it has been hard to find a job site or workplace on the internet where you are safe from harassment.
It’s equally hard to find a female boss or female company founder who hasn’t faced the same problem. Recently we’ve been tracking down some of the most interesting places, like bug bounty program Bugcrowd, that you may not know about, but are making a big difference in advancing women in the tech industry. (Yeah, you probably don’t know who Annalee Newitz is. She’s the co-founder of HackerOne and co-investor in Riot Games).
There are also far fewer places that place female voices at the helm. We recently talked to Solidcore, a Silicon Valley-based company that was launched in 2009 to address these issues, about how they’ve started to act out. Now they’re holding a board meeting to discuss what they can do to change the culture inside of the company and regain trust from their female employees.
They started when the New York Times wrote a shocking article about the sexual harassment problems in the tech industry last year, and at first, Solidcore founders Mark Zuckerberg and Yannis Mansourian – along with the rest of the board and executive team – ignored it. Then, four of the women who joined Solidcore in 2011, then left the company, started an anonymous forum called Solidcore Employees to post “verbal abusive, sexist emails about coworkers and leadership.”
After reading the forum, the company decided that there needed to be more dialogue – a public forum where these things could be addressed.
Here are the concrete steps the company is taking to encourage these conversations:
1. Quietly promoting a female employee
Solidcore employee Leia Lee came forward to say that she regularly talked to the management team about the problem in 2011, and often filed complaints. Many employees at Solidcore didn’t know she was at the company, and never told management of her problems.
This month, a conversation about the anonymous forum where the women complained happened in the office. Mr. Mansourian responded with an email – which is now shared on the company intranet – in which he wrote that Leia has always been a valued member of the team and that “the company has been critical in our success.” He also addressed the anonymous forum using this letter, saying that the blog post “feeds the worst biases against the company and I have real problems with that.” He continued:
“I want to reassure you: I do not and will not allow the company to be violated. There is and will be no walking off the job that I and the leadership team have mandated. To the contrary, a number of our people have complained themselves about being violated.”
Note that he made no mention of the anonymously posted forum or four former employees.
2. Expanding the company
Other employees have left the company. At the same time, the management team has grown significantly. In early January, it now has 30 employees and a $40 million startup valuation, and will be opening a new office soon in Portland, Oregon. They now have to find new ways to convince those employees to stay.
3. Giving the whole team a “cultural reset”
Solidcore CEO Yannis Mansourian has asked the rest of the board and leadership team to step down for a few weeks. When the board is back, they will sit down to review the company’s culture and leadership, and then decide whether to hold a new round of funding. He has also asked the entire team to meet together and plan what it would take to restart building trust with female employees. They plan to do this in a board meeting.