Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg

Harassment Is Rampant at Startups, and Few Have Diversity Plans, Study Finds

Only 17 percent of startups have put in place a formal strategy to promote diversity and inclusion.

Half of technology entrepreneurs have either been harassed in the workplace or know somebody who has, according to a study published Wednesday by First Round Capital, a venture firm.

The findings come as Silicon Valley and other industries fix their gaze on issues of gender inequality and sexual misconduct by powerful men. Harassment allegations have pushed investors, chief executives and other powerful men in technology out of their jobs this year.

A crisis surrounding the treatment of women at Uber Technologies Inc. early this year helped kick off a broader debate in the industry that has persisted. On Tuesday, Shervin Pishevar, an early Uber investor, said he was taking a leave of absence from his companies after a Bloomberg report detailed six alleged incidents of harassment or assault. First Round Capital is also an early backer of Uber.

Despite the talk, just 17 percent of startups have put in place a formal strategy to promote diversity and inclusion, up slightly from 14 percent in 2016 and in 2015, the study found. Most diversity plans are informal, but more companies intend to develop a strategy compared with those in past surveys.

The number of all-male or mostly male startup teams had declined to 58 percent, from 67 percent two years ago, but the gender gap in tech remains stark. About half of male founders blamed the underrepresentation of women and minorities on a lack of those groups going into tech, a common refrain known as the “pipeline problem.” But most female entrepreneurs pointed to unconscious bias.

For its annual State of Startups report, First Round Capital surveyed more than 800 entrepreneurs in August and September. This was the first time that First Round asked about harassment.

Two-thirds of women startup founders said they believed their gender had hurt their ability to fundraise. A third of men said they had an easier time fundraising because of their gender. Men also had a more optimistic view of how long it would take to correct the discrepancies in their industry.

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