Recently, we were contacted by a female entrepreneur who is a long-time friend. She had experienced sexual harassment by a well-known VC but was terrified of going public about it. While she was struggling with all of the issues one would expect around this, she was also worried about being sued. She felt like she had the emotional resources to cope, but she didn’t feel that she had the financial resources to withstand a lawsuit.
Using litigation, or the threat of litigation, to intimidate a person who has been harassed is a common tactic. It’s another example of the power dynamic in a harassment situation. The powerful harasser continues threatening behavior against the person who was harassed who now has to face a legal battle, often against a person with far greater financial resources.
We were discussing this challenging situation and Jason came up with the idea that we help create a Sexual Harassment Legal Defense Fund for the venture capital industry, to help VCs and entrepreneurs who have been sexually harassed. We started working on it, figuring out what we actually needed to do to put this together and operationalize the idea.
On January 1st, a group of 300 prominent actresses and female agents, writers, directors, producers, and entertainment executives formed Time’s Up Now to fight systemic sexual harassment in Hollywood and in blue-collar workplaces nationwide. As part of this, they are raising over $16 million for the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.
Rather than create a separate organization, we’ve decided to commit $200,000 to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. Half of it is coming from Foundry Group and half is coming from the Anchor Point Foundation.
In addition, we’ve reached out to Time’s Up to volunteer to lead a sub-segment for entrepreneurs and VCs who are sexually harassed. We are beginning to reach out to all of our VC peers and encourage them to join us in this initiative.
We’re committed to ending sexual harassment. While it’s important to adopt policies such as Our Zero Tolerance Policy On Sexual Harassment and help facilitate curated resources such as the Venture Inclusion Network, we are committed to engaging with and supporting organizations like Time’s Up to help build real support for people who experience sexual harassment.