SAN FRANCISCO — On Friday, venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck said he would take an indefinite leave of absence after six women accused the Binary Capital partner of sexually harassing them.
His quick ouster signaled the growing backlash against sexism and discrimination in the male-dominated technology industry that began in February when Susan Fowler, a former Uber software engineer, publicly detailed her experiences at the ride-hailing company. Fowler’s blog post set into motion the resignation of Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick and the firing of more than 20 employees.
“I think we are at a tipping point in the industry,” said Kate Mitchell of Scale Venture Partners, who chairs the diversity task force of the National Venture Capital Association. “I am hoping that we will not only see more women come out and be heard but also that men will stand up and say: This isn’t tolerable.”
For years overt sexism and gender bias were an open secret in Silicon Valley. Women rarely broke their silence, worried that coming forward could damage their careers.
Ellen Pao brought national attention to the challenges faced by women when she sued her former employer, prominent venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, for gender discrimination. Women were riveted by the 2015 trial. Former Yahoo President Sue Decker wrote an essay for technology news website Recode that she obsessively followed the developments and took her daughters out of school to hear closing arguments. “I, and most women I know, have been a party to at least some sexist or discriminatory behavior in the workplace,” she wrote.