Last summer, when we made a statement about Our Zero Tolerance Policy On Sexual Harassment, a number of people asked us to publicly release our formal policy. We wanted to take our time and make sure we covered as many different elements of the issue as we could. We’ve done that, and as part of #MovingForward we’ve made the Foundry Group Sexual Harassment Policy public.
Among other things, we’ve tried to address the issue of non-disparagement clauses. We’ve come to the conclusion that they should be excluded from agreements, and are encouraging our portfolio companies and the funds we invest in to do so as well. Following is the specific section about non-disparagement clauses from our Sexual Harassment Policy.
NON-DISPARAGEMENT CLAUSES. With respect to all agreements between the Company and any employee or contractor, the Company will exclude reports of sexual harassment or assault from any non-disparagement clause. In addition, the Company will encourage portfolio companies and funds to adopt a similar practice.
Please view this policy as open source. Feel free to download it and modify it for your own purposes. If you have any suggestions or feedback on ways to improve it, please email me.
Recognize that this is not legal advice from us, but merely a starting point for anything you’d like to incorporate into your policy.
Yesterday, my partners at Foundry Group announced financial support for the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund.
We strongly believe that sexual harassment is unacceptable in any form. While there can be a debate about whether sexual harassment is about sex, power, or something else, there’s an additional pernicious element of it when the harasser threatens to sue the person being harassed. This extends the harassment and reinforces the issue around the power dynamic, especially when the harasser has much more financial resources than the person being harassed.
My partners and I were considering establishing a VC / Entrepreneurs Sexual Harassment Legal Defense Fund. When we saw the launch of Time’s Up and the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, we decided to financially support this activity and try to create a sub-group for the tech industry. As a starting point, Foundry Group is contributing $100,000 to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund and Anchor Point Foundation is contributing $100,000.
In addition, we are reaching out to VCs and Angel Investors that we know to see if they will join in our effort. If you are a VC or Angel Investor who wants to financially support this effort, please email me. And, if you are an individual who wants to directly support the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund, please do so on the Time’s Up GoFundMe page.
Finally, for some inspiration, watch Oprah Winfrey’s powerful speech at the 2018 Golden Globe Awards.
I had a long conversation with a friend last night that included a segment about men, sex, and power. I had just finished Ellen Pao’s book Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change which I thought was phenomenal (more in a separate post soon) so there was a lot in my mind about this topic.
I woke up to several articles this morning that reinforced a simple concept that so many people miss. Sexual harassment – while it includes sex – is also about power.
Let’s start with Harvey Weinstein. For a preview, read the shorter article titled Another man behaving badly in Hollywood — this time, Harvey Weinstein. What a shocker. This line about narcissism is reflected in the behavior of many prominent men.
“I have always argued that power, particularly the Hollywood strain, infantilizes. Success in Hollywood frequently reduces fully grown adults to narcissistic babies. Babies have no self-control. They scream and cry when they get mad. Their needs are uninhibited. Gratification must be instant. Weinstein may be a talented moviemaker. But he is also just another overgrown Hollywood man-baby.”
The longer article in the New York Times that kicked this off, Decades of Sexual Harassment Accusations Against Harvey Weinstein, is worth a complete read. As you put the pieces together, Weinstein’s public response is similar to many self-reflective apologies that come out of this situation when things finally become public.
Back to the first article, here is another great section from Robin Abcarian.
“Weinstein’s behavior is also an excellent example of the hypocrisy that is so rampant in Hollywood — and politics, for that matter. He is a liberal Democrat who publicly champions women’s rights and professional advancement but demeans and exploits them in private. (And yes, I do include Bill Clinton on that list.) The conservative equivalent is the anti-abortion crusader who privately urges his mistress to abort an inconvenient pregnancy or the “devout” Christian who ditches his sick wife to marry his mistress.”
Power. And that led me to the second story I woke up to, which is the anti-abortion crusader, Tim Murphy, who privately urges his mistress to abort an inconvenient pregnancy. The article Inside Tim Murphy’s reign of terror shows very clearly how power is at the root of this. The statement from Congressman Tim Murphy is another typical one, which basically says “I’m resigning, I’ll spend my time remaining working on important things, I’ve accomplished a lot, and please leave me alone.”
At least Harvey Weinstein said, “I appreciate the way I’ve behaved with colleagues in the past has caused a lot of pain, and I sincerely apologize for it.” But, this was his fourth paragraph. As my mother taught me, the way to apologize is to start with the sentence “I’m sorry.” You can write anything you want after that, but start with the apology – that’s the lead – don’t bury it.
I’m really hopeful that we are at the tipping point of sexual harassment being completely unacceptable. I have a profound appreciation for the women coming forward with their experiences. I know there are many multiples of these stories being suppressed by non-disparagement clauses that were signed and sealed with money to keep people quiet. That’s just another form of power being used in this situation.
I don’t believe that one starts an apology with the sentence “The past 24 hours have been the darkest of my life.” In my world, the apology is to another person. It’s not a tone setting exercise, or a plea for sympathy, for the one making the apology.
I was fuming after seeing the public apology on Axios from Justin Caldbeck. I could be wrong, but it felt like it was written by a crisis management PR firm. I spent most of Friday evening angry and upset. Embarrassed by the behavior of some men. Proud of the women who broke their silence about the abuse they had been on the receiving end of. But mostly just ashamed of myself for not doing more about the issue of sexual harassment in our industry.
I read Reid Hoffman’s The Human Rights of Women Entrepreneurs and Joanne Wilson’s The Gig Is Up. My partners and I had an extensive conversation over the weekend. Amy and I talked about it over dinner Friday and Saturday night.
And then I read Brenden Mulligan’s Everything I hate about Justin Caldbeck’s statement. I nodded my head all the way through. I knew what I was feeling, which was what Brenden was articulating. His post is an angry one, which he acknowledges, and the fierceness of it makes the point even more powerful.
It takes a lot to get me angry. I continued to stew all day Saturday. I thought about this during my entire run. I tried to process what I wanted to do and how I wanted to respond. Every time I thought about my anger, I reminded myself that this wasn’t about me. I knew that a quick response, driven by my own anger, wasn’t healthy. So I kept talking to my partners and to Amy.
Clarity of thought for me finally came together on my run Sunday. After lunch and a shower, my partners and I co-wrote the post Our Zero Tolerance Policy On Sexual Harassment which appears on our Foundry Group website.
I hope I, and my partners at Foundry Group, am viewed as a safe place for anyone in our industry. Specifically, if anyone ever feels sexual harassed in any context, I offer myself up as a resource for them to try to be a source of good in the universe.
And, a hint for anyone who wants to apologize for anything. The way to do it, as I learned from my mother, is to say, simply, “Joan, I’m sorry.”