The Courage of Speaking Up

Where do we start?

It’s hard to fathom some of the behavior we’ve heard about recently — from “locker room talk,” to Uber’s culture, to Bill Cosby’s trial, to inappropriate behavior in the VC community. The New York Times asked readers to share examples of workplace discrimination toward women. More than 1,000 replied.

It’s disgusting, and hard to stomach.

What’s reported is the tip of the iceberg. We’re hearing more of these stories not because they’re happening more often, but because people are speaking up.

Amid it all, there’s a silver lining. People have shown enormous courage in sharing these experiences. Their doing so is causing winds to shift and culture to change.

Our community has identified a rotten nook, and the light is starting to shine bright and clear. How it gets dealt with will inevitably take time and have fits and starts. But the progress can’t be stopped.

One of the catalysts for this massive shift is the bravery displayed by the women who have spoken out. Susan Fowler is a hero. Her impact has forever changed the course of Silicon Valley and hopefully will have a ripple effect for other businesses around the country (and world).

Others have written and acknowledged the courage and guts it took for victims to speak out publicly and on the record. That can’t be underscored enough. The risks associated with speaking out are real and palpable. But as more men and women do speak out, this hopefully reduces fear and stigma, which leads even more voices to come out and more light to shine on the problem.

Every social advancement throughout history has started as something you couldn’t discuss. Then a few voices protest, and are silenced and punished. Then a few more voices break through, and gain traction. Then an avalanche occurs, when the stigma and fear of speaking out drops low enough that tolerance for misbehavior disintegrates. While progress is a long and messy path, none of it would be possible without the few trailblazing voices who speak up when it’s dangerous and stigmatizing.

Pando recently wrote:

We are now in a post-Susan Fowler world, where the power of one woman coming forward and saying things so many other women experience on the record has never been clearer.

We couldn’t agree more.

While Collaborative Fund is a tiny speck of sand in a massive beach, we want to do our part in shining as bright of a spotlight as possible on the courage of those who are speaking up. Their leadership serves as a beacon: for doing the right thing. For being a role model. For taking risk that will inevitably pay dividends for others.

We are committed as an organization to supporting our community and progress therein. We see it as our duty to stand for and with those who face any kind of discrimination.

We are eager to hear ideas about ways we can work together towards a future that celebrates tolerance, equal rights, respect, and decency.