2017 was a period of sharing, listening and processing. 2018 is the time for action, accountability and #MovingForward
On International Women’s Day, March 8, we’d like to introduce Project #MovingForward, a collective open-source initiative that makes two specific things transparent: 1) VC firms’ external anti-harassment and discrimination policies for individuals outside the firm, 2) formal points-of-contact for reporting incidences.
For the first time, 57 venture firms (and counting) – including Andreessen Horowitz, Accel, August Capital, Costanoa Ventures, Canaan, First Round, Greylock, Kapor Capital, Sequoia, True Ventures, Techstars, 500 Startups and many others – have established their commitment to move forward by sharing their current progress in the wake of harassment & discrimination stories bravely shared in the past year.
This new public directory is open-source to which any firm can add and update their policies using this form. We hope that every major player in the venture ecosystem will add theirs too.
Why Are External Policies & Reporting Contacts Important?
Founder-VC relationships are a particularly challenging space because they’re not governed by legal requirements (as they would be for employees within a workplace). Founders have to pitch many VCs and it’s hard to find good information about all of them or where to go if bad behavior happens.
Setting a Baseline
#MovingForward has spurred many firms to have serious conversations at partner meetings about what’s acceptable/unacceptable behavior, to set clear guidelines, and to establish reporting line(s) that didn’t exist before. This gives founders the confidence that any reporting will be taken seriously. Firms can also learn from each other when there’s visibility around individual firm efforts, all in one place.
This directory was built in collaboration with many different VC firms and serves as an industry baseline. We’re grateful that many top VCs are in this initial list, but there are hundreds more, so this is just the beginning. While some firms are not yet ready to share their anti-harassment policies that apply to individuals outside the firm (it’s available on request), we believe that by definition, an “external policy” should be public and hope that links will eventually be made available.
Raising The Bar
We recognize that this resource is only a first step towards much more work around the larger topic of diversity and inclusion. We see #MovingForward as a living, on-going directory that is regularly being updated with new initiatives by the firms themselves.
From here on, we can collectively brainstorm how to raise the bar and keep improving efforts to create a diverse, inclusive and harassment-free workplace. Some examples of this could be: creating safer (and more objective) ways of reporting, publishing more metrics on D&I, making a commitment to hire more female partners / fund female founders, and getting LPs to publish their policies.
Please join our effort to keep improving the venture ecosystem and help spread the word about #MovingForward!
- If you’re a VC and want to join the movement, please fill out this form.
- If you’re a founder and don’t see your investor here, please share this project with them.
* Special thanks to our advisors, Niniane Wang of Evertoon, Ellen Pao & Tracy Chou of Project Include; fellow collaborators, Ginny Fahs, Lynn Hu and all of the founders who helped us review/edit/share the project; early supporters for this project: Martina Lauchengco of Costanoa, Elisa Schreiber of Greylock, Lisa Marrone of August Capital, Kate Castle of Flybridge, Christine Tsai of 500Startups, Jess Ladd of Project Callisto.
Background on how #MovingForward Got Started
When my investor harassed me in 2014, there was no formal anti-harassment policies to protect entrepreneurs from retaliation or reporting lines that people feel safe turning to. Most incidences never get reported and the perpetrator continues to prey on victims. Not everyone want to or can take their stories publicly.
In the wake of #metoo stories in 2017, a few VC firms have put effort into creating their own anti-harassment & discrimination policies, some created policy templates for their portfolio companies, established a transparent reporting contact, made founders’ commitment, and others have established ways to nurture underrepresented groups, etc. However, for most firms, there wasn’t any urgency to tackle the issue with real action.
At an NVCA workshop to discuss sexual harassment in tech last fall (where Niniane & I spoke from a founders’ perspective), it was unanimously agreed among the 70+ attendees that a neutral, 3rd party reporting tool should be created for entrepreneurs to report incidences safely. I shared my views with CNN in Oct 2017 that every VC firm should at least publicly commit to publishing their anti-harassment policies and reporting mechanism, since many firms have not taken any firm action to do so yet.
On Jan 9, 2018, I gave a testimony at the California Senate Judiciary Hearing to pass Senate Bill 224, introduced by Senator Jackson, to legally and explicitly include investors, lobbyists, elected officials, directors, and producers. The bill was passed and makes it clear that perpetrators have legal consequences for their behavior when they take advantage of their positions of power, whether in the office or outside, and victims can report harassment without fear of reprisal.
The unanimous support for this legislation inspired me to push forward for more positive and actionable change in the tech industry. Rather than just shaming or calling out bad actors, I believe that the way forward is for all parties to present a unified front, have serious dialogues on this topic, and take actionable and transparent steps to raise the bar.
When I met Andy Coravos at a founders dinner, we realized that we had independently started working on our side projects with a very similar vision. By Jan, we decided to partner up on #MovingForward.
Over the past few weeks, we had a lot of help from a wide group of collaborators, entrepreneurs and VCs who collaborated with us on the project language/copy, VC connections, logo, website, data input, and all the things we needed for launch. We’re grateful for the positive grassroots support and hustle, and what was just a seed of an idea a few months ago is now turning into a larger team effort with real commitments and impact.
Thank you to of all the entrepreneurs, VCs and larger community for #movingforward and sparking positive change in our industry.