#BROLASH: Women in Australian tech are starting to call out men of ‘influence’ for sexist behaviour

500 Startups founder Dave McClure. Source: Facebook

Revelations over the weekend of a prominent Silicon Valley identity’s alleged pattern of sexual harassment have prompted female figures in the Australian tech industry to speak out.

500 Startups co-founder Dave McClure apologised and stepped down as chief executive after a New York Times article revealed a history of inappropriate behaviour towards women in the workplace, including making advances on one person that had approached him about a job at the famous accelerator.

That scandal prompted Melbourne-based Signal Ventures Australia general partner Atlanta Daniel to coin a new term on Twitter.

“I’m calling the recent stories of women speaking out against men of power who abuse it to sexual advantage, the #Brolash.”

That brought out a range of other women and men in the Australian tech industry to recount some of their experiences, vowing to call out bad behaviour from this point on.

“I’ve been called a lesbian behind my back so many times I’ve lost count,” said former chief executive of Sydney education body Lighthouse Annie Parker.

“Ladies – it’s time we draw the line. Time to start calling it out & making things better for the ladies that come after us.”

Techfugees founder Nicole Williamson said on Saturday that she decided to report “someone of influence” that had recently harassed her through Facebook Messenger.

“I’ve had a guy send me a series of hand drawn cartoons via Messenger with his pants down,” she said.

“As a Gen X woman, I tried ignoring it or humour. It doesn’t work. My biggest regret is I didn’t have the courage to call it out [before].”

Atlanta Daniel recalled one particularly shocking incident when an investor told her she “owed him a blow job” for his assistance.

“He moves in #startupaus circles. He’s a normal dude. He invests in women and supports diversity campaigns. I could never understand it,” she said.

“I told a couple of people of influence what he was doing. They seem to still hang with him. He deleted me on FB and Twitter shortly after.”

She said such tolerance of bad behaviour in the Australian tech industry discouraged women and men from speaking out.

“Same dude: ‘I’ll know your age when I see you naked’ and ‘I have a job for you under the table’. Another asked me if orgasms were my hobby,” said Daniel, who is also an advisor at accelerator QUT Creative Enterprises Australia.

“This kind of thing makes me pity them more than anything. I’m not into utter morons.”

In a blog post, Daniel urged everyone in the Australian startup industry to report inappropriate behaviour before it “becomes a career-ending problem”.

“Yes, it might be awkward. But sexual harassment allegations are way more awkward.

“If you see someone creeping, tell them to stop. If you think someone *may* be creeping, tell them you think they may be crossing the line. If you yourself are creeping, stop it ffs (and apologise).”

Do you have experiences of bad behaviour in Australian tech? Email me at tony.yoo [at] businessinsider.com.au. Discretion and sensitivity assured.