- Social Finance Inc. (SoFi), a fintech startup, may be mistreating its women employees, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). CEO Michael Cagney stepped down Monday evening, CNBC reports.
- Nearly a dozen SoFi employees, both current and past, told WSJ that the company's former CFO and some executives tolerated — and/or took part in — what they saw as improper behavior toward female workers. Nino Fanlo, SoFi's former CFO, said he occasionally complimented men and women on their attire and touched them in friendly ways, but that his behavior had no sexual intentions, per the report.
- A statement by the So-Fi's board read that Fanlo left the company to pursue another career opportunity and no longer has a relationship with the company. The board admitted paying a settlement fee for a dispute between Cagney and a lower-level worker, but denied any sexual misconduct took place.
Silicon Valley firms have a high share of sexual misconduct complaints. Uber, Tesla, UploadVR and GitHub all made the list this past year. In many cases, the problem has roots in a "bro" culture that Silicon Valley tends to celebrate — a boys club only made worse by the fact that the number of women graduates in computer science has decreased over the years.
Many of these organizations lack women leaders, which immediately places barriers in front of women looking to join any company. Without visible women leaders, young women workers have a harder time finding mentors and networks to help them climb the ladder. In many cases, young women face bias and bullying at higher rates compared to men.
One company CEO has taken a preventive measure; Kristina Bergman, CEO and co-founder of Integris Software, had investors sign an agreement to remove board directors if there's a "reasonable probability" that misconduct took place. This approach might not work for all organizations, but it gets key stakeholders involved in curbing the problem.
HR can take the lead as the first defense against sex discrimination and misconduct by following up on claims, investigating incidences and overhauling cultures if necessary.