Rachel Payne spoke out on the realities of harassment in the tech industry and the difficulty of women entrepreneurs getting their fair share of venture capital funding on NPR’s Morning Edition.
Rachel shared her experience at Fem Inc., a holding company she founded that focuses on research and development at the intersection of media, technology, and gender. It is one of the few firms started by women and raised $5 million in venture funding.
Here is an excerpt of the story:
"…it wasn’t easy to get the funding for the company…
It was a surprise to me that it was more challenging to raise money given our stage and level of experience than earlier in our career. And some of them (the investors) quite frankly offered up the advice that it's because we're women."
One of Fem Inc.'s three founders has a degree from Harvard in mathematics and a Ph.D. from Caltech. Another has a master's in computer science and led engineering teams at Google. Payne has an MBA from Stanford and this wasn't her first startup.
Payne says that in her 20 years in tech she saw and experienced harassment and bullying because she was a woman. Yet she doesn't want to share those stories publicly.
If there's any hint of something like this — of which many VCs ... could be guilty, then you're definitely going to have problems raising money. It’s hard to imagine a situation where you're being embraced for speaking out."
Yet the choice to stay silent about her own experiences isn't a simple one for Payne, who considers herself a feminist. She wants women to speak out. But she also believes that one of the best ways to stop harassment is for women to succeed in tech.
"We would need more ... women to reach places in power to actually make this difference. Because then they don't depend on someone else for their power and they won't tolerate it.
Payne is not alone in making the choice to stay silent. NPR spoke with many women who would only talk off the record about verbal and physical harassment by CEOs, venture capitalists and colleagues at big tech companies."
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