My confidence regarding the treatment of women in the Australian startup community has improved dramatically over the past 24 hours, after seeing strong, public reactions from male and female leaders in the sector to widespread revelations of sexual harassment of female founders in the US.
While Australia is absolutely not immune to the issue (and plenty of women locally have been sharing their own stories of harassment) it’s good to see widespread condemnation of inappropriate behaviour in the Australian sector.
Particularly, it’s been reassuring to see this public statement from the community on the issue, started by four Australian women, and signed by hundreds of founders, investors, journalists and leaders across the ecosystem.
The four women — including Annie Parker, Rose Powell, Atlanta Daniel and Nicole Williamson (all pictured above) — worked together to put out the statement over the weekend, following the sexual harassment revelations in the New York Times and The Information.
The statement notes, that now is the opportunity to “take a long hard look at the ecosystem” and make it clear that sexual harassment is unacceptable in the Australian startup community. It has since been signed by hundreds of entrepreneurs, company leaders, VCs, media and other representatives of the startup sector, including Susan Wu, Paul Bassat, Daniel Petre, Phi Morle, Mick Liubinskas, Georgia Beattie, Alan Jones, Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin, Kerri Lee Sinclair, Jo Burston and Nicola Hazell.
Annie Parker told me this morning the letter came about after the four of them kept hearing stories of sexual harassment from women in Australia. “It was frankly shocking and we realised very quickly that we needed to do something.”
She said that ‘something’ couldn’t just be one person putting out a blogpost on the issue and hoping for the best. “It needed to be a collective voice in the ecosystem, people coming together to say, ‘this isn’t good enough’.”
After writing the statement, the four then worked their contacts to reach out to as many people as possible.
“From there, it kind of went a bit nuts, which is a great first step.
“But that’s all this is. It’s the first step of many. A list of names is just one thing.”
Annie added it’s not just a public statement regarding the position of those who signed it, but also a list of people individuals to help.
“If you are someone who has been getting away with it for a while, you know you can’t anymore,” she said.
— Annie Parker (@annie_parker) July 3, 2017
The letter calls on founders, startup execs, investors and journalists to have a no-tolerance policy to sexual harassment — and to think twice about promoting or working with individuals they know have acted inappropriately towards colleagues or founders.
“We, the undersigned, declare the Australian startup community will, to the very best of our ability take action against the kind of behaviour that makes women feel exploited, secondary or unwelcome,” declares the statement.
“We’ve got a long road ahead of us, and we will be stronger together.”
The signatories say solving this issue should not rely on those at the receiving end of harassment. “It is necessary and urgent that everyone address bad behaviour by their colleagues and peers.”
— Atlanta Daniel (@lants) July 3, 2017
This morning Daniel Petre from AirTree ventures has penned a piece in the Australian Financial Review outlining that his fund will do more to support female founders and not tolerate sexual harassment.
We’re stronger together. Thanks for having the courage to speak out.
— Nicole Williamson (@NicoleWill100) July 3, 2017