Whitney Wolfe, ex-vice president and former co-founder of Tinder, is suing former co-workers Sean Rad and Justin Mateen for sexual harassment and discrimination that went on during about a year and half of the time she spent employed at Tinder. She claims that because she was a woman in a predominantly male field, she was treated unfairly and belittled because of her gender.
Mateen, who was Wolfe’s boss and former romantic interest, allegedly called her demeaning names, ridiculed her during group meetings, spread rumors about her, and sent her harassing text messages, and when she went to Rad (then her superior) for help, he did not protect her rights as an employee. Instead, he called her a “dramatic and emotional girl” and pressured her to resign from the company because he and Mateen felt that she made the company look bad just because she was a woman working for a company that made a dating app. It was bad enough that they stripped her of her co-founder status in 2013 when she did not deserve to have that taken from her; they had to go even further to push her out of the company completely.
Wolfe’s case is one of many instances where women who work at tech start-ups in Silicon Valley or Los Angeles have been treated poorly in the workplace and have not been protected by an employee code of conduct that should be in place for all sexes, whether male, female or transgender. Because tech is a field predominantly controlled by men, men often react in a hostile way when a woman enters their territory. They often take it as a challenge when a woman strives to equal or surpass them in business power and they try to intimidate her so she will leave the company and no longer pose a perceived threat of emasculation.
Wolfe did resign from Tinder in April of this year, but she is not giving up the gender battle without a fight. She knows her rights as a woman and as a person and she is willing to stand up for herself publically. As she is surely aware, she is standing up for not only herself but all other women who have been sexually or verbally harassed in the workplace. Wolfe is living proof that women will not take abuse without holding the guilty party legally accountable for their words and actions, because women have just as much of a right as men to be successful leaders in any field of their choosing if they have the proper skills and qualifications.
The stereotype that “girls aren’t good at math/computers” will no longer stand in a world where more and more women are entering technical fields and excelling, rising to powerful leadership positions and paving the way for more women to be empowered to do the same. Women like Wolfe must continue to stand up for their legal rights in the workplace if gender equality in the workplace is to be achieved and honored in our future.