The founder of a lingerie label, Ilana Biasini, organized the network meeting SHEDoes | Gründerinnen Netzwerk (female founder network) with other women in Mannheim. There she presented her underwear brand and the company. Since she was looking for investors, she exchanged business cards with those present. In the course of the event, one of these investors approached her from behind, grabbed her buttocks and asked her
Are you wearing your underwear today too?
That’s what New Work designer Kira Marie Cremer reported on a LinkedIn post. And she was just as shocked as Biasini herself and every other woman who had heard about it.
Even though the problem is not new and has also come into focus in the venture capital scene since the @metoo movement at the latest, we should not make the mistake of continuing to regard it as normal and only discuss it among women and behind closed doors. There are some measures that we can and should take. And these also bring attention to the problem.
So one measure is that organizers can announce that already at the beginning. As someone who organizes visits to Silicon Valley with delegations of companies, thought leaders and other interesting people, I always list a few ground rules at the first meeting with the delegations. Among them are how to behave toward minorities and women during the visit. Neither do I want to hear any derogatory remarks nor of any assaults. Anyone who is reported to me must leave the delegation immediately and will not be present again.
Even as a woman, you should take initiative when possible. A female Google employee friend recently told me about a delegation from the Middle East at Google headquarters in Mountain View, where, after exchanging contact information, a delegation member asked her if she was free for dinner with him and if she would like to come to his home country, where “they would certainly have fun.” After a brief shock and wondering how that had been meant, she reported it to her colleagues, who then relayed it to the delegation leaders. This person was no longer wanted as a guest or customer.
At an event at Berkeley University, I first came across an anti-harassment code that had been read out by the organizers right at the opening. And I was delighted. Not because this code of conduct was necessary. No, I was because it was explicitly mentioned, sending the clear signal of what unacceptable behavior is and how the code of conduct will be enforced. Sometimes you have to spell it out. I would like to see such a code at every event, and especially from the organizers who think their event doesn’t have this problem. Then all the more I want it!
Here is TechCrunch’s code in full, which also included email addresses and phone numbers to report incidents:
TechCrunch will not tolerate any type of harassment of attendees, including the following but not limited to:
- Inappropriate physical contact
- Unwelcome sexual attention
- Display of sexual images in public spaces
- Deliberate verbal or physical intimidation
- Sustained disruption of talks or other events
- Advocating for or encouraging any of the above behaviors
Because of the following but not limited to:
- Gender identity and expression
- Sexual orientation
- Physical appearance
- Body size
As an attendee, you are expected to abide by the guidelines set above. At TechCrunch’s discretion, those deemed in violation will be removed from the venue immediately without a refund and barred from future TechCrunch events.en.
If you experience or witness a Code of Conduct violation, report it to TechCrunch staff by calling +1 (415) 579-3838 or emailing email@example.com. You may also report it directly to:an:
- Security staff stationed throughout the venue
- TechCrunch volunteers, identifiable by their TechCrunch T-shirts
- TechCrunch employees
We base the TechCrunch Code of Conduct on the principles of inclusion, equality, diversity and respect. These guidelines are necessary to ensure that everyone can safely enjoy TechCrunch events. By purchasing a ticket to, working for, vending at or sponsoring any TechCrunch event, conference and conference-related social event, you agree to the policies set forth above.
Incidentally, the BBC already turned the initial situation around five decades ago and sent reporter Nicky Woodhead out onto the streets to pinch men’s bottoms. How did they react to that? Here’s what they had to say about it:
This post includes, in part, an excerpt from my book (in German) coming out in November on online harassment of women by toxic men.
Cyberf*cked: How Women Are Insulted, Threatened, and Harassed by Toxic Men on the Internet – and What We Can All Do About It