October 3, 2023

#MeToo: Is this the beginning of the end of Patriarchy?

#MeToo: Is this the beginning of the end of Patriarchy?

What could literally hundreds of thousands of women possibly have in common with the likes of Angelina Jolie or Gwyneth Paltrow or Ashley Judd? They are all victims of sexual harassment. Since the explosive scandal around Harvey Weinstein’s decades-old allegations of sexual harassment and assault broke out recently, it was like an invisible dam had collapsed as a full torrent of damning revelations burst forth. And when Alyssa Milano took to Twitter with the now famous hashtag #MeToo, she launched a social media movement that brought attention to the victims rather than predators. Since then, millions of people have come forth, joining the chorus of voices calling for change.

Houston, we’ve a huge problem. And it’s not just Hollywood.

Of course, sexual harassment is nothing new or exclusive to certain industries. But the tech industry deserves a special mention as the frontrunner of this issue. Silicon Valley in particular, famous for its “bro culture” is currently embroiled in a spate of sexual harassment scandals like never before. When Susan Fowler’s blog on sexual harassment at Uber went viral in the beginning of the year, little did she know she was setting over a complex domino chain reaction. The ensuing investigation at Uber resulted in over 20 executives fired and culminated in the stunning downfall of CEO and co-founder, Travis Kalanick. The company that was once lauded as the darling of tech start-up scene, is now struggling to reinvent its sexist culture in order to save itself.

The saddest part is that Uber was not an anomaly.

Think Justin Caldwell of Binary Capital. 500 Startups founder Dave McClure. Even veteran VC and ex-Shark Tank host, Chris Sacca.

They were just the latest in a string of recent revelations that have exposed the known-but-ignored, ugly reality of Silicon Valley. The #MeToo campaign has seen so many women from tech going on the record these days with their allegations, something that’s practically unheard of, considering the potential repercussions in an industry that is rooted in unbridled patriarchy! The fallout of these explosive scandals has brought serval VC firms to their knees and resulted in a number of high-profile men resigning or being fired. And even as we speak, there are still more skeletons tumbling out of the closet as this wildfire continues to spread unabated and engulf moguls like Harvey Weinstein, Amazon’s Roy Price…and the latest causality - famed venture capitalist Steve Jurvetson who was recently ousted from Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

It is almost like a reckoning has begun. Will 2017 go down as the year of the creep? Or will it be the year that women found their voice?

That last thought caused me to hit the pause button. When you stop to think about it all, the underlying problem is so clear. It’s not even about gender, or about women being the ‘weaker’ sex. It’s about power and control, as simple as that. Powerful men with wealth and influence use their positions to prey on women, looking to advance their careers or build companies. But what has opened this recent floodgate? After all sexism has long since been like the proverbial elephant in the room.

I strongly feel we have reached an inflection point for women. While men have long held the upper hand since the industrial age where the brawn determined the role men held and earning power, we have since moved to an information, knowledge based economy. With some exceptions, the playing field at the workplace is gradually levelling out as women increasingly have opportunities that are not task-specific skills but focus instead on leadership abilities like decision-making, people management and problem-solving skills.

However, one fact stands out above all, practically negating the decades of efforts towards achieving equality. While women have steadily been climbing up the management ranks, it has been a journey rampant with sexual harassment and gender discrimination as the scales of sheer numbers tilt overwhelmingly in favour of men. Despite all that, things are practically changing overnight! After all, with more numbers in force, comes more courage and freedom to exit the shadows and stand up for themselves. Women have been pushed to a point where there is no return and with rage replacing fear and shame, there is power to be gained in speaking out…and being heard this time. It would be foolhardy to dismiss the recent happenings – this ongoing mass existential crisis has been long overdue and it signals a profound shift towards a world beyond gender. A world where men and women band together and rebalance the power dynamics at work.

And with that, the phrase comes to mind – “We can only fly with two wings and two wings can only stay in the air if there’s a balance.” Here’s to finding that balance!

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