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California Fights Sexual Harassment in Tech Industry

"[W]e are the first to take this kind of step in order to call out this kind of behavior and protect women entrepreneurs."

- Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson

woman at computer.jpeg

In effect, what state lawmaker Hannah-Beth Jackson wants to do is level the playing field a bit for women in the California tech industry.

As Janet Burns writes in Forbes, there are already laws on the books prohibiting sexual harassment in other spheres, from the traditional employer-employee relationship to relationships between consumers and professional service providers (doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc.). Senate Bill 224 would "tweak" existing law to account for another species of sexual harassment that may occur between entrepreneurs and investors.

"We simply want to add investors to that list, and acknowledge that this simply unlawful behavior is subject to claims of sexual harassment and damages," Sen. Jackson said, in reference to the changes SB 224 would make on existing civil rights law in California.

Is SB 224 Necessary?

These recent examples can speak for themselves:

  • In late June, the New York Times profiled women who have begun to speak out about the culture of harassment in the tech industry. One woman's story: While applying for a job with a venture capitalist, she was propositioned by him. She turned him down. And she didn't get the job.
  • Moving beyond reporting, in July we learned of an ex-Google engineer's "ideological echo chamber," an idea expressed in an internal memo he wrote to criticize Google's diversity policies. In this memo, he asserted that unequal representation of women in the tech industry is due (in part) to biological differences.
  • And then there's the case against Uber: Vanity Fair reports on the "mass firings" that occurred after ex-Uber engineer Susan Fowler brought sexual harassment allegations. This has since morphed to more than 200 other cases of sexual harassment involving female employees at Uber.

To answer whether SB 224 is necessary, you'd first need to answer whether all of this is legitimate, or whether it's "fake news" and a product of "special snowflake" syndrome.

For any woman subject to sexual harassment or other unfair treatment at work in California's tech industry, there's nothing fake about it. From a legal standpoint, SB 224 may prove pivotal to changing this situation.

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