She spoke out about harassment in tech. Now, she's helping VCs 'move forward'

Solving sexual harassment in tech: Ask these female CEOs
Solving sexual harassment in tech: Ask these female CEOs

One of the women who spoke out against tech investor Dave McClure for sexual harassment last summer isn't done pushing for change within the industry.

Entrepreneur Cheryl Yeoh Sew Hoy has gotten more than three dozen firms to participate in her #MovingForward public directory, which asks firms to list a point of contact for entrepreneurs who want to report harassment and discrimination to the firm.

The directory launched on Thursday to coincide with International Women's Day.

Because the relationship between entrepreneurs and investors is inherently nontraditional, there's typically no formal employer-employee relationship. That means when founders think they've been harassed, or discriminated against, they may not know who to report to. This became evident last summer as women in tech came forward with their experiences of harassment in the industry.

To light the way for others, Yeoh Sew Hoy, who helped put the Malaysian startup ecosystem on the map, and Andrea Coravos, the CEO of digital biomarker startup Elektra Labs, started #MovingForward.

It includes information from 37 venture capital firms -- including top tier VC firms like Andreessen Horowitz, Menlo Ventures and Sequoia Capital -- who've posted their reporting contacts. In addition, the firms have identified they have anti-harassment and discrimination policies -- and in some cases provided public links.

"If their policies apply to external people, it should be a published link," Yeoh Sew Hoy told CNN.

Firms also provided a statement on work they're doing to foster diversity and inclusion, and to combat harassment.

Another 17 firms have pledged to add the information soon. The hope is for the directory, which is published on open-source platform Github, will grow as other firms add their policies and contacts.

Yeoh Sew Hoy said that most of the firms she reached out to didn't have anti-harassment policies that applied to external individuals prior to #MovingForward.

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Additionally, "many of these firms did not have policies that were clearly articulated -- and if they were, people didn't know where to find them," Niniane Wang, an adviser to #MovingForward told CNN.

Wang was one of three women who came forward by name last year with harassment allegations against venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck who ultimately resigned from his firm.

"When the policies are clear, people are more likely to report infractions," Wang said. "Policies are even more powerful than pledges."

LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, who is a partner at VC firm Greylock Partners, drew people's attention to an industry-wide need for change in a post on LinkedIn last June that called on investors to sign a "decency pledge."

A group of founders and investors, including Ellen Pao, helped bring #MovingForward to life, Yeoh Sew Hoy said.

Pao, a partner at Kapor Capital, is best known for her 2015 gender discrimination court case against former employer Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers. Although Pao lost the case, the high-profile trial brought national attention to sexism in tech. She is also an early supporter of #MovingForward.

Related: Months after sexual harassment allegations rock tech world, not much has changed

"We're trying to lower barriers for people to be able to report bad behavior. In the end, in this day and age, it is a liability to let these things go unaddressed," Ann Crady Weiss, a partner at True Ventures, told CNN. True Ventures, an investor in companies such as Peloton and Fitbit, is one of the #MovingForward participants.

Prior to being approached by Yeoh Sew Hoy and Coravos, True Ventures did not have a point of contact made public for anyone that had concerns about harassment or discrimination, said Weiss.

#MovingForward grew out of a workshop in the fall hosted by the National Venture Capital Association, a tech trade organization, said Yeoh Sew Hoy.

Encouraging firms to be transparent about who to report to, and what their policies are, is "meant to be something that should be easy for firms to publish," she said. "2017 was the year of stories, listening, processing. 2018 is the year of real action and commitment. That's what we want to see."

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