Star-up founder Sam Joel (lead image) has resigned from his position within crypto-based charity GiveTree after posting a series of offensive comments regarding women in Australia’s tech industry.
Venture capital investor Elaine Stead was among several women in the industry who received a slew of offensive comments on LinkedIn from Joel.
Screenshots that were viewed by The Australian Financial Review showed Joel telling Third Hemisphere founder and managing director Hannah Moreno to “Get off your period. Get good. Earn your salary with skill, not PR lol. Pathetic”.
In response to another comment, Joel said, “Are you single? Should we make a better baby? […] Assuming I wanna bang you because, let’s be honest – you look. Fat”.
In another post, Joel denied a gender imbalance in the workplace, saying: “[diversity] might be the dumbest shit of the entire century” and that women “have somehow secured majority employment in most verticals now. And still. Complaining. Classic women”.
On Sunday evening, Joel’s comments were deleted, and on Monday, GiveTree issued an apology on his behalf. “Unfortunately, these recent comments form part of a larger and ongoing pattern of behaviour for Sam that urgently needs to change,” the LinkedIn post reads.
The apology also detailed Joel’s plans to attend therapy to address his misogynistic attitude toward women and notes that he has been facing recent difficulties following a period of homelessness and the death of a family member.
In a statement provided to The Australian Financial Review on Tuesday, Joel confirmed his resignation from GiveTree. “One of the concrete steps I am taking to realise responsibility for my words and actions is to step down as CEO,” he said. “Women and Men deserve to be treated with respect, and that is a non-negotiable”.
There has been an outpouring of support from those involved and those on LinkedIn who have their own experience with a man who shares the beliefs of Joel.
“As one of Sam’s more recent victims – and there are more than a handful of us – this apology is the only appropriate first step in rectifying the situation he created,” Moreno said in a post on LinkedIn. “Women should never have to tolerate harassment of any nature in their workplaces, which, to be clear, does include LinkedIn. Full stop”.
New York-based CEO and founder of MakeLoveNotPorn, Cindy Gallop, was appalled by the comments, calling out LinkedIn for allowing them to appear on the platform at all. “It’s not about bringing diversity and inclusion into tech. It’s about kicking the sexists, misogynists, racists, sexual harassers, bullies, homophobes, ableists OUT,” she said.
Elaine Stead was also disgusted that the comments were allowed to appear on the platform, questioning how the platform can be better regulated when it is designed to be an extension of the workplace but does not seem to have the same regulations in place. “If LinkedIn doesn’t see that as sexual harassment… is it any wonder that our physical workplaces don’t respond adequately?” Stead questioned.
Elaine Stead welcomed the apology from Joel, saying: “Admitting when you have made a mistake shows courage, and doing so publicly in this way is the right thing to do”. However, in a comment to Startup Daily, she said this is not an isolated case. “We need to recognise that behaviour like this isn’t rare; it’s commonplace for women online and is symptomatic for how workplaces are often hostile to women,” she said.
Moreno also posted to LinkedIn, acknowledging the comments from Joel and GiveTree and saying that his apology and resignation are a reflection of the collective power of women. “Moving from the situation on the weekend to an apology today is also a strong example of the power of women collectively speaking out against this type of behaviour, and then organising to make sure it stops immediately, with the goal of ensuring no more women are subjected to it,” she said.
A spokesperson for LinkedIn told B&T; “As a professional network, our members rightly expect their experience on LinkedIn to be professional in nature and any form of harassment. When we see content or behaviour that violates our Professional Community Policies, we take action, including the removal of content or the permanent restriction of an account for repeated abusive behaviour. To create a safe experience for everyone in our community, we’ve also deployed new technology to detect harassment in private messages and give members an easy means to signal to us that it’s an unwanted message, allowing us to take appropriate action against the sender”.
This is not the first time Joel has found himself in hot water. He was reportedly let go from Fishburners, a Sydney-based early start-up incubator after he was accused of persistently harassing members and staff. “Sam was originally welcomed because we were inspired by his story,” said Alan Jones, chief executive of Fishburners at the time. However, due to claims of bullying and harassment, Joel was asked to leave.
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