Jackson Introduces Bill To Address Sexual Harassment In The Venture Capital Industry

August 17, 2017

SACRAMENTO – Today, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) announced she will be introducing legislation to prohibit sexual harassment in the venture capital industry. Jackson will be amending a prior bill to address this issue, SB 224, once the California Legislature returns from its summer recess on August 21.

Jackson is introducing this bill in the wake of recent media reports in which dozens of women entrepreneurs reported being sexually harassed while seeking funding from tech investors. While current law already prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace, Jackson’s bill would specifically prohibit sexual harassment when it occurs in the unique relationship between entrepreneurs and venture capital investors.

“Every woman deserves a workplace free from harassment, especially women who are starting their businesses and may be even more vulnerable to inappropriate coercion. Gender discrimination in business relationships must end,” said Jackson. “Many of these investors act as gate keepers to an industry. The brave women who have come forward in recent weeks to share their stories and experiences have peeled back the shroud of secrecy and exposed behaviors that are not acceptable in any industry, let alone the growing tech industry which is so important to our economy.”

Noreen Farrell, executive director for Equal Rights Advocates, a national civil rights organization dedicated to gender and economic justice for women and girls, joined Jackson on today’s call to announce the legislation. The organization is sponsoring the bill.

“Sexual harassment can no longer stand between a great woman entrepreneur and the launch of her company. If we want to see the venture capital industry change and an end to sexual harassment of women in technology, we need strong legal protections. No matter how well intentioned, decency pledges and promises are not enough. Senate Bill 224 demonstrates to all women that the law has their back,” said Farrell.

Jackson added, “This week, we saw a number of CEOs recognize that bigotry, racism and hatred are not good for business when they resigned from President Trump’s advisory council. We also think harassing and excluding women is not good for business either and urge this innovative industry to also be innovative leaders when it comes to supporting women as well.”

Senate Bill 224 will amend the Unruh Act, one of the civil rights laws in California, to make it clear that there is legal protection for women entrepreneurs who undergo sexual harassment. Further, the unique nature of the investor/entrepreneur relationship is one that could stand additional clarity in the law.

Due to the introduction of this bill late into the legislative session, which effectively ends September 15, Jackson will move the bill forward in January for thorough policy analysis and discussion. The bill will have its first committee hearing in January  and a vote on the Senate floor by the end of January.

Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson has long been an advocate for women’s issues. She is the author of Senate Bill 358, the California Fair Pay Act, landmark legislation to strengthen California’s equal pay law, and was named by the Huffington Post as one of 11 women around the country “blazing new trails” in American politics.

Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County.

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