The Gig Is Up

I have been reading the slow but meaningful fall out of the “boys” in the tech industry over the last week.  It was bound to happen, it was just a matter of when.  I have spent the last decade investing in start-ups.  When I began this journey of my career, I made a conscious decision to invest in women and minorities.  It isn’t that I don’t invest in men but the men that I have invested in are strong supporters of women and treat them as equals with the utmost respect…just as it should be.  Some would say that they are part of the girls club and I am sure that they would all welcome that title.

Over the past decade, I have heard from almost every woman I have invested in about all the inappropriate comments.  That includes sexual innuendos, dismissive respect over their businesses, coming straight out and saying that they do not want to invest in women who are going to have children, noting how hot they are, asking to meet in a hotel room, texting that they miss them and so much more.  It is vile and a complete misuse of power.

Women in tech and many other businesses have heard it all, but we have ignored it or talked among ourselves about that “asshole” to our female peers and moved onward.  Coming out in public takes tremendous strength because the fear has always been if I say anything, I will be marked and it will hurt my career and my company.  I believe, and certainly hope, that times are a changing.

A woman I am invested in noted that as women and people of color rise to the top of the media, more stories like this will come out.  Women have been putting up with this shit for years. In my book, Niniane Wang, Susan Ho, Leiti Hsu and Susan Fowler are heroes.  It takes serious “balls” to do what they did.

Women keep their guard up every time that they enter a room of men and they shouldn’t have to.  I am hoping these heroes have turned the table.  That this will push every single man to think about their behavior and that includes calling out their peers or even partners when it comes to blatant harassment or unconscious bias because women have reached the boiling point.  We are not going to take it anymore.  There should be repercussions for bad behavior and it appears in the past week there was.

The power is shifting.  As more female-led companies become unstoppable, go public or exit at high valuations, our power will shift.  When more women lead publicly traded companies, the power will shift.  When more women make multi-million dollars movies, the power will shift.  The foundation for change has been built over the last ten years.

So all you bad boys….I believe the gig is up.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Nicole Sanchez

    Thank you Joanne for being someone who walks the walk!

  2. Robin Bobbe


  3. johndodds

    I hope that’s true. This needs to become a systemic shift and not be looked back on as a blip. Too many offenders are in denial and, I fear, will remain that way.

  4. Pranay Srinivasan


  5. Twain Twain

    The gig’s up in the systemic biases that happen in data sets and AI too. I invited Rachel Thomas, the co-founder of and a math PhD, to lead our workshop into Stanford GloVe and Google Word2Vec — which affect search results, employment opportunities and product recommendations.Now we have data, proof and video evidence that female talent (engineers, data scientists, product managers and designers) are more than skilled and interested in making AI => All Inclusive and will be hands-on designing and coding better AI for everyone.* Turn-up rate for the all-day AI workshop was 50%. This compares with the typical 30% for tech events, including ones that are mostly male.* 60+ women attended. That’s the most women that’s been in any hands-on event in Bay Area. The typical male:female ratio at AI events is 25:1 and we switched it to 1:16.

  6. Kirsten Lambertsen

    No doubt this’ll go down as a pivotal moment for women’s equality. And I think we all need to be ready for the storm that comes after. We must show solidarity, and that means for *all* women, not just the ones who do everything right and are perfect. Let’s all keep that in our minds in our day-to-day as we see what kind of backlash — both overt and covert — this brings.Let’s hope it’ll also serve as a ‘teachable moment’ for those who’ve remained silent, or even openly apologetic, for the leadership at Uber yet are speaking up loudly in support of women founders now in the wake of this story. If you stand to benefit from Uber’s success, and you couldn’t bring yourself to support the women (and men) whom Uber has hurt, but now you’re up in arms about VCs hitting on founders, it’s time to decide if you *really* believe your own story about yourself as an ally. It’s easy to ‘call out’ VC’s, especially if they’re not part of your firm and calling them out makes you look like a good guy. The *real* test is calling out leaders of ‘unicorn’ companies in which you hold a substantial stake (which will likely make you very very rich). The truly woke do the hard, scary, risky things.

    1. Twain Twain

      Pivotal … From Pando: “As you can imagine, Wang was distraught when she heard that the delaying tactics may have worked for Binary. “I felt helpless for seven years,” she told me. “Then for one day, I felt like I actually made a difference. Now I feel helpless again.” An hour later she added, “You know what? No more feeling helpless. I am going to ask the LPs to withdraw from fund two. We must fight.”…

    2. Anne Libby

      idk, many of you are much more optimistic than I am about the change we’ll see. I hope you’re right.I’m already done with the “I’m so sorry, I have to change” public statements. Are they sorry — or are they sorry that they got caught?#sigh

      1. Gotham Gal

        there are a few posts on that very subject. being caught seems to be the number one reason to be sorry.

        1. Anne Libby

          Crocodile tears, as my mom used to say.

          1. Gotham Gal

            that’s good.

          2. Twain Twain

            I’m thankful for decent and principled people who stand up against discrimination, harassment and racism.I know, though, there’s the deeper and more insidious problem of biases in data sets and AI algorithms — which is why I HAD to organize that Practical AI workshop so we could show+share where those biases are.As a data point, 33 folks at LinkedIn read my post about the workshop’s video. If that leads to LinkedIn and other companies de-biasing their data sets and algos so that “engineering” is also representatively associated with women, then that would be a step forward for inclusion and keeping women in tech.Whilst in SF, I’ve raised awareness about data biases with the (mostly male) data scientists and AI researchers who design systems at Uber, Intel Nervana and AirBnB. They weren’t being intentionally sexist. They simply used tools they thought were convenient and fast for processing — without thinking about the tools’ biases.Those biases affect the employment and pay opportunities of women.The Carnegie Mellon Ad Fisher team found that when Google presumed users to be male job seekers, they were much more likely to be shown ads for high-paying executive jobs. Google showed the ads 1,852 times to the male group — but just 318 times to the female group.And the bias isn’t only about gender. It’s about a bunch of socio-demographics.* https://www.washingtonpost….* https://www.technologyrevie…It’s vital that female investors champion the ambition of female founders. It’s equally vital that we all CODE THE CHANGE we want to see in the world so AI => All Inclusive.

          3. notes

            Isn’t this the same person who defended Emil Michael from Uber??? This is why it’s hard. You feel like a lot of them say this but when it comes down to it, they defend their friends when the shit hints their fan. [Emil Michael was involved in getting health records from a woman in India was who was a raped by an Uber driver].Quote by the person above on the Bloomberg article below:”“An Uber without Emil is less valuable than an Uber with Emil,” said Hadi Partovi, an early investor in Uber and close friend of Michael’s. Partovi, who purchased shares of Uber in 2014, said Michael is a scapegoat. “Firing a brown executive — one who had nothing to do with the issues in the engineering organization — isn’t going to help you become more diverse.””There has to be a zero-acceptance policy. The My Friends Are Good People Excuse “oh people who do this are assholes. But when my friend does it it’s not the same” doesn’t work.

          4. Twain Twain

            Thanks for sharing. I wasn’t aware of that Bloomberg quote.Our instincts are, often, to initially defend our friends. Then, when new information surfaces, we may update that initial position.What matters is that the industry takes a long hard look at the way its practices may be holding back the potential of under-served folks. And it invests $$$ and implements better policies for everyone.

      2. Kirsten Lambertsen

        I’m a hopeless optimist 😉 But I also think we’re still in for a helluva a fight, your point being part of why.

        1. Anne Libby

          That, and widespread willingness to accept the redemption story arc (see David Petraeus)…

      3. PhilipSugar

        As I’ve said, I think it will take a generation, but it will happen. I know that sucks because I get the feeling (I have no idea) that you are about my age 50’s although I’m sure you look much younger which means it will happen in the twilight of our careers (I plan to never retire)

        1. Gotham Gal

          I plan on never fully retiring either. What would I do all day?

          1. PhilipSugar

            Exactly.As I have said publicly before I don’t acknowledge that it happens. I know it happens.We were bought my a marketing company that has a majority of female employees. Sadly in tech which I run we are very male dominated, but our Lego Robotic team was half female (10 year olds). I now travel with mostly female co-workers and I have witnessed it by strangers and heard stories which are too detailed to not be true.How could you possibly ask somebody to meet you in your hotel room?How? It boggles my head. It is wrong on so many levels. Awkward?: Check, Opening yourself up to liability? Yup. Offensive? You bet. The stupidest move I can think of? Pretty much. I could go on.Every hotel from the cheapest Hampton Inn has lovely meeting areas where we can all feel comfortable.To be blunt I do not even like the bellhop in my room. That is my private space, my one refuge on my 100 nights on the road a year where I do not have to share a space with another person. I have another co worker that does not allow even the maids in his room.

        2. Anne Libby

          I think it will take longer — and yes, we’re in the same age range, lol.Though I think that when people like you take action, it matters! And when you speak up, it matters.

          1. PhilipSugar

            I think it is very hard for the victim who feels ashamed and scared. That in no way is blaming the victim. I told you the story of having a woman come to me and tell me another woman was being harassed. When I asked the woman who was in fact being harassed, she put her head down and said she would rather not discuss it. I knew something was up, the easy thing is to turn your head, the right thing is to get to the bottom of it.

          2. Anne Libby

            The thing about that other woman, the one who didn’t want to say anything — if you hadn’t come to her, my guessis that she just simply would have written it off as the cost of doing business.So, good for you, Phil! Onwards.

          3. PhilipSugar

            That makes me very sad, because the truth hurts.

          4. Anne Libby


  7. Emily Keeton


  8. Connie Lynne

    Can we not say “balls” or use other metaphors about male genitalia when we want to compliment women? “Guts” is a perfectly serviceable, gender-neutral, anatomic term for courage.

    1. Gotham Gal

      fair enough.

    2. pointsnfigures

      Grit. Man, I respect the hell out of gritty women.

    3. Janet Harrison


    4. reece


  9. Twain Twain

    According to Niniane Wang, it took 7 (!!!) years to expose Caldbeck. And he’s married with kids. Disgusting behavior by a VC.*

  10. David Waxman

    Right on! They’re heroines in my book too.

  11. gbattle

    Kudos! Agree with everything here other than saying these courageous whistle-blowing women have “balls” – let’s grant them fortitude, chutzpah, moxie, bravery, vigilance, anything but “balls.” ??Also, you may wanna edit the last two paragraphs as I believe there’s a repetitive cut/paste editing error.

  12. pointsnfigures

    “Over the past decade, I have heard from almost every woman I have invested in about all the inappropriate comments. That includes sexual innuendos, dismissive respect over their businesses, coming straight out and saying that they do not want to invest in women who are going to have children, noting how hot they are, asking to meet in a hotel room, texting that they miss them and so much more. It is vile and a complete misuse of power.”This paragraph makes me ill. It’s just hard for me to believe that people are that stupid. But, I know it happens. In the 80s when my wife was working and checking into a hotel, her boss made a snide comment about getting one room to save on expenses. Unforgivable then and now. A friend of mine was trying to raise money for a fund. The male on the opposite side of the table said if she slept with him, he would invest. Really?I have daughters, sisters etc.At the same time, we aren’t all the same. In my home both growing up and after we were married and had kids there was a constant conversation. My brother in law stayed with us. He had two boys. In his home, if there was conversation or noise it meant something was broken or a fight was going to break out. In mine, if it was quiet, there was a disturbance in the force.When we started our venture fund focusing on B2B Fin tech, we assumed that we would see a parade of men of all shapes, sizes and colors since the industry is dominated by men. Our first check went to a woman. She’s awesome and building something great.

  13. Sarah

    Excellent and one reason (beyond the food/travel inspiration) that I keep coming back to the Gotham Gal. The job is not done and I appreciate everyone who continues to keep the spotlight on the where change needs to happen. I was scarred in my pre-motherhood career and am now re-entering the work world. The conversations here are helping me to choose and shape an improved environment.

  14. OregonJon

    Powerful women are curvaceous, wear tight fitting costumes and expose their legs all while looking like they’ve prepared for a SM gig? So says the depiction at the top of your column. Talk about objectification! Are not there better graphics with which to make your point?

    1. meredithcollinz

      Women can and should be able to wear whatever they want, and men can and should be able to handle it. That simple.

      1. Gotham Gal


      2. OregonJon

        Absolutely. But that is not really the point when a blog about women and power chooses to depict only one kind of woman in the graphic.

        1. meredithcollinz

          What they’re wearing has nothing to do with power. If we were talking about powerful men and put up pix of traditional cartoon superheroes, they would be in tight clothes showing off their bods, too, and no one would blink an eye – and they certainly wouldn’t call it objectification. Even mentioning what they’re wearing sounds suspiciously like the beginning of the old “blame the victim game”.

          1. OregonJon

            Nice pivot, as Senator Franken would say. ( But the point is neither male superheroes nor “blame the victim.” It is simply the appropriateness of the graphic. If that works for you then it works for you. Being online means inviting comment. I’ve made mine. Thanks for the time.

  15. Emily LaFave Olson

    Well said. Women are finding their voices. It’s going to be better for everyone as the balance of power shifts. The world certainly needs it. Thanks for all the work you’ve been doing to invest in female founders and amplify our voices and work.

  16. reece


  17. STASH

    I am the Founder of I want as many talented developers, engineers and AI wonder women in my company as possible. We’ll be hiring slowly at first since we are still securing our first round of funding. But a company that chooses gender equality gets a company with a deep and broad expertise in capturing and interpreting data in very nuanced ways, in building not only extraordinary tech but extraordinary culture. It has always been my plan. So glad that the timing is ripe.

    1. Gotham Gal

      gender equality from day one makes all the difference in the world.

  18. Dina Kaplan

    This is so so great, Joanne. Thank you. Sharing.

  19. @KarinBellantoni

    and we will be much kinder to them than they have been when we are ruling:)