Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has been getting well-deserved national attention for a timely effort to address sexual abuse in the venture capital industry.
She has introduced a draft of SB 224, a bill that aims to deter investors from making unwanted sexual advances to entrepreneurs seeking funding. Her effort comes at a time when the tech sector is trying to create more opportunities for women.
It also comes in the wake of the scandal at Binary Capital, where women came forward with shocking stories about harassment at venture-backed firms and two well-known figures resigned.
If enacted, Jackson’s bill would add a new class of relationships – between investors and entrepreneurs – to those protected under the Unruh Civil Rights Act, which already protects doctor-patient and landlord-tenant relationships. Jackson has said she wants to eliminate confusion about contact between entrepreneurs seeking funding and investors who can make or break a fledgling company.
To its credit, the venture capital community has recognized that it must draw a line between social relationships that are part of Silicon Valley’s networking culture and professional conduct between a funder and his or her clients.
As reported, LinkedIn co-founder and Greylock Partners investor Reid Hoffman has gotten a number of firms to sign on to a “decency pledge” to report inappropriate behavior. And the Silicon Valley Business Journal reports that 30 venture investors are working on a code of conduct to submit to the National Venture Capital Association.
Drawing the line between social relationships that arise out of informal meetings and formal relations between funders and portfolio companies won’t be easy.
But Jackson and the venture capital community clearly understand what is at stake. California depends heavily on its billion-dollar VC industry for the seed funding of startups that then go on to generate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue for the state.
If women are going to participate in larger numbers in the entrepreneurship culture, they need to have the same comfort level as their male counterparts that they won’t be subjected to harassment or “quid pro quo” propositions.
Following the law on harassment in the workplace is a fact of life for managers and workers across California and the nation. There can’t be a different set of rules for venture capitalists and entrepreneurs who are approaching them seeking funding.
AMGEN INVESTMENT WORTHWHILE
When we invited Eduardo Cetlin of the Amgen Foundation to keynote our Champions in Health Care program in June, we were impressed by his passionate commitment to science, technology, engineering and math education in area schools.
And we’ve applauded the effort by Amgen to develop STEM curriculum in partnership with Ventura County middle and high schools as well as CSU Channel Islands.
Now comes word that the foundation will invest an additional $10.5 million toward the Amgen Biotech Experience, its flagship program, with the goal of expanding the biotech curriculum in Thousand Oaks, Oxnard, Simi Valley, Fillmore and Newbury Park.
Total commitments to STEM education by Amgen to date have reached $125 million, and that’s an impressive total.