Longtime and influential venture capitalist Vinod Khosla was back in the news after saying sexual harassment in Silicon Valley is rare compared to other industries.
Speaking at a trade event in Palo Alto Thursday evening, Khosla shared his non-statistical “impression” on the issue, saying he believes that it is overblown due to the high media profiles of the alleged harassers, Recode reports.
Silicon Valley has been embroiled in a spate of sexual harassment scandals involving high-power venture capitalists and female staffers and startup founders.
Former “Shark Tank” star Chris Sacca wrote a public apology in advance of a New York Times article on sexual harassment. Binary Capital founder Justin Caldbeck and 500 Startups founder Dave McClure took an indefinite leave and resigned from their positions, respectively.
A blog post by former Uber engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti on the company’s harassment culture in February triggered a chain of events that ultimately led to other women speaking out and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s resignation.
While Khosla was “a little surprised” by the revelations, he said Silicon Valley is a safe place for women.
“I did not know that there was any discrimination,” Khosla said. “It’s a reality because it’s perceived as a reality. And perception is more important than reality.”
Khosla also said no women felt harassed by him or his employees at Khosla Ventures.
Despite Khosla’s assurances, sexual harassment in Silicon Valley is considered to be a pervasive cultural problem. A 2016 survey involving 200 women in tech found 60 percent of women reported unwanted sexual advances at work.
One key reason more women have not come out may be due to companies’ strict non-disclosure agreements, according to employment lawyers.
“Those types of clauses can prevent people from coming forward, and end up covering up sexual harassment,” Maya Raghu, director of workplace equality for the National Women’s Law Center, told the Mercury News’ Marisa Kendall.
Social media reactions to Khosla’s comments were largely not kind:
Whoa from @vkhosla on sexual harassment in SV @cwclub: “I did not know there was any discrimination” and tech has no more than other places.
— Kara Swisher (@karaswisher) July 21, 2017
— Erin Griffith (@eringriffith) July 21, 2017
Vinod Khosla says in public what some other male VCs are saying behind closed doors. https://t.co/p5YWLEVr31
— Jessica Guynn (@jguynn) July 21, 2017
Perfect example of power dynamics giving a leader of the tech industry an embarrassingly distorted view. https://t.co/9aqdKYPNtO
— Sarah Mei (@sarahmei) July 21, 2017
Photo: Venture capitalist Vinod Khosla leaves San Mateo County Superior Courthouse after testifying Monday afternoon May 12, 2014, in Redwood City. Khosla was called to testify about his refusal to open public access to a stretch of beach along the San Mateo County coastline. Now, Khosla appears to be denying that Silicon Valley has a problem with sexual harassment. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
Tags: sexual harassment, venture capital, Vinod Khosla