Standing Up Against Sexism in Silicon Valley

Standing Up Against Sexism in Silicon Valley

Minami Tamaki LLP assists employees in the technology industry in navigating workplace issues and developing strategies to advance their careers.  We ensure that employee legal rights are protected, and take appropriate action to hold employers accountable.  Minami Tamaki attorneys have vast experience representing female tech workers in combating unfair and inappropriate treatment in the workplace.

Recently, new allegations of harassment and gender discrimination in Silicon Valley have been reported on a near daily basis.  The resignation of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick following accusations of a sexist, toxic culture at Uber was followed by venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck of Binary Capital resigning due to alleged sexual harassment. A female engineer at Tesla claimed she was sexually harassed and paid less than men for doing the same work, which was followed by stories from other women at Tesla who had allegedly experienced the same mistreatment.  More female entrepreneurs, engineers, and tech industry veterans are continuing to come forward with their own accounts of being harassed and retailed against.

Predatory and sexist behavior has long been a known problem in Silicon Valley, but has rarely been exposed and addressed until recently.  However, as more individuals speak out, a cultural shift has begun to take place within the tech industry.  Increased awareness of this culture of harassment has created serious consequences for companies and investors who engage in such misconduct.


Major workplace issues related to gender discrimination in Silicon Valley include:

  • Harassment:  Sexual harassment in the legal context can be quid pro quo, which is characterized as unwelcome sexual conduct made as a condition of employment.  Or it can be hostile work environment harassment, which is an environment where harassment based on sex is sufficiently pervasive or severe to alter the terms and conditions of employment.  Both types of harassment are illegal under state and federal law.
  • Pregnancy Discrimination:  Employees are frequently denied their legally mandated maternity leave or, worse yet, “laid off” or dismissed during their pregnancy or while on maternity leave.  Employees can encounter difficulty in receiving legally required medical accommodations related to their pregnancies.  Also, new mothers may face discrimination when returning to the workplace after maternity leave, as they can be inappropriately viewed as less dedicated to their jobs.
  • Wage Gap:  In California, it can be illegal to pay women less money than men for performing equal work. Subjective and sometimes discriminatory criteria are used to negotiate starting salaries, pay raises, and promotions for individuals who have similar qualifications.  There continues to be a significant difference in the pay that men and women receive for performing the same work in the technology and engineering fields.  These wage differences are compounded over time, which can result in women being underpaid for many years of their working life.
  • Glass Ceiling: Even when women demonstrate their value in the workplace, they face additional challenges in receiving promotions and leadership opportunities.  Bias in the work assignment and performance evaluation process contributes to the creation of work environments where it is more difficult for women to succeed and advance.  A lack of mentoring and networking opportunities have been identified as factors in the lack of women in higher level and management positions in the tech industry.


The San Francisco Bay Area is the epicenter of technological innovation in the United States.  Silicon Valley startup companies and tech giants have the potential to change the way that we live and every facet of our society.

However, while these companies seek to “disrupt” the status quo, the fundamental tenets of fairness and equality in the workplace remain critical.

Minami Tamaki LLP works to ensure that the rights of all workers are protected.  There are numerous state and federal laws that prohibit gender discrimination and provide for pregnancy and childcare leave. These laws include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the California Family Rights Act, the Pregnancy Disability Leave Law, the Unruh Civil Rights Act, and the Equal Pay Act.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss your workplace issues with you.  You may contact us at (415) 788-9000 or through our online form.

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