"You know what? Hands off." A CEO takes on sexism in the tech sector

Sarah Nadav creates an anti-sexual harrassment clause in contracts for her investors.

In an effort to stop sexual harassment and assault in the tech industry, startup founder Sarah Nadav had a pretty radical idea -- insert a sexual misconduct clause in her investment agreements. The clause would strip the investor of their shares should any employee of the investor make a sexual advance toward her or any of her employees.

Sarah is the CEO of Civilize, a startup that helps Americans manage debt collectors and fraudulent debt. She recently wrote an article about her clause on the Medium website.

Sarah describes the more passive types of sexism in the tech industry -- in which men outnumber women considerably -- from men ignoring her at meetings, even though she's the CEO, to much more serious offenses.

A while ago, at a venture capital fundraising after-party, she was sexually assaulted by a man who worked for a VC company. "Someone who I had to push off me, numerous times," she says. "What it really did was destroy my self-confidence."

So Sarah decided to do something serious about the issue of sexual misconduct. She's inserting a clause into her contracts with venture capital investors that covers sexual harassment. Any investor -- or employee of that investor -- who sexually harasses her, or any of her employees, will lose all their equity in the company without compensation. That harassment can be verbal, text, or physical, she adds.

She says the language will be similar to other "bad actor" clauses in existing contracts that cover acting in bad faith, damaging the brand, and so on. At least one investor has already contacted her saying he's supportive of the clause and they are currently in funding negotiations.

She's also had messages from hundreds of other women wanting to know the final language in the contract so they can insert it into their investment contracts too. She hopes that it gains enough traction to become and industry standard, she says.

There are so few women in the startup industry, she says, that it should be common sense that investors should avoid engaging them in a sexually aggressive way. "Of all the women in the world, stay away from the women you invest in."


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