We’ve seen over the years through conference anti-harassment work that when people who have experienced harassment speak up, others are often empowered to share their own experiences of harassment from the same perpetrator, or other perpetrators in the same community.
Yesterday, a courageous New York-based entrepreneur named Geshe Haas came forward about having been the target of what one Valleywag commenter called an “entitled demand” for sex from an investor named Pavel Curda. Today, Berlin-based Lucie Montel also published a screenshot of a very similar advance from Curda:
Tech industry magazine The Next Web summed up the reports and stated that they will no longer publish Curda’s writing.
While there has been previous discussion of women entrepreneurs being sexually harassed by investors, those who have experienced harassment talk of widespread fear about naming names, even anonymously. The price of speaking up can be very high even without the particular power that investors hold over entrepreneurs, who lack even the bare minimum protection that employment law provides. Much of what we know about the gender climate in the investment and venture capital fields comes from whispered one-on-one conversations between women, as well as some details from lawsuits around such harassment in the VC industry.
To my knowledge, Haas and Montel are the first to come forward about this kind of harassment outside the context of legal action. In a climate where prominent incubators must “remind” their investors not to harass participants, this is a huge step forward. I hope that their brave examples will make it easier for other women to speak up in the future.