by Byron Connolly

Australian startups tackle harassment, discrimination

Jun 21, 2018
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A group of Australian tech startups have drafted a code of conduct in an attempt to stamp out sexual harassment, discrimination and offensive language across the community.

In a blog post on Thursday, Paul Bassat, co-founder of Melbourne’s Square Peg Capital said startups are launching the first version of a ‘Model Code of Conduct’ for the Australian startup community.

Airtree Ventures, Blackbird Ventures, Blue Sky Venture Capital, Rampersand, Square Peg Capital, and Startmate have been working with San Francisco-based diversity and inclusion expert, Valerie Aurora on the code.

Aurora co-founded not for profit, the Ada Initiative, which seeks to increase women’s participation in the free culture movement, and open source technology and culture.

“As of today, we have all adopted the code, and invite others in the Australian startup community to do the same,” Bassat said in the blog.

He said that although the code “does not by itself ensure a healthy culture,” the group believes it has a role to play in creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for marginalised groups.

The code applies to a variety of companies from venture capital funds and accelerators through to startups, co-working spaces and conferences – and covers online and offline interactions, said Bassat.

“The code clarifies what a sexual advance is and when it is considered unacceptable. It calls on people to consider whether they exert power over another person, and if so, whether their behaviour might be considered an advance that should be avoided.”

Bassat pointed out that the code is also about offensive language and “how sexualised environments can be allowed to form that are in themselves harmful.”

“It is about how these environments can also increase the probability that an act of harassment or assault may occur,” he said.

Although the code sets out how reports can be made and what actions may be taken, it does not provide a framework for mandatory reporting, he said.

“Although at face value, mandatory reporting has merit as a tool to discourage bad behaviour, in reality, it creates a less safe environment. Marginalised people are less likely to report when they do not feel they have control over the outcome. Ultimately, people need to use their own judgement when to decide when to report something,” he said.

The Code of Conduct can be found here.

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