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More Than a Pledge: Using the Law to Combat VC Sexual Harassment

There seems to be an unending list of examples of sexism and bias in the venture capital industry. Whether it is the latest news of widespread harassment and subsequent “apologies” from harassers, or the longstanding pattern of female entrepreneurs struggling to get funding (and women of color receiving virtually none), it’s clear the industry needs to change.

Indeed, many in the venture capital world have gotten behind the idea of a VC-developed code of conduct as an informal means of protecting founders from investor sexual harassment. Others have supported Reid Hoffman’s #DecencyPledge which calls for VCs, LPs and entrepreneurs to hold the venture capital industry accountable. Implicit in both approaches is the assumption that good behavior in the founder-investor relationship must be voluntary because it isn’t required by law.

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Noreen Farrell is the executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, a civil rights organization. Joelle Emerson is the founder and CEO of Paradigm, which advises businesses on diversity and inclusion.

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Pledges can’t replace legal protections that ensure accountability and pave the way for systemic and structural change.