Business & Tech

Local venture capitalists pledge to fight sexual harassment, discrimination

Venture capitalists from around the region are pledging to protect against discrimination and sexual harassment, a response to recent reports accusing a Silicon Valley investor of making unwanted sexual advances toward women.

The response, to be released Monday, was engineered by the New England Venture Capital Association. It comes days after Binary Capital cofounder Justin Caldbeck announced that he would take an indefinite leave. Caldbeck formerly worked in the Boston area at Bain Capital Ventures, though the recent allegations relate to his time out West.

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Jody Rose, executive director of the association, said the more than 70 firms she represents are “outraged that this type of actions and behavior has been tolerated.”

The association issued a statement that said accounts of Caldbeck’s actions paint “a picture of a misogynistic start-up culture where women are systematically discriminated against and under assault.”

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It added: “We strive to create an open, transparent and welcome environment where individuals of all genders, ethnicities, nationalities and sexual preferences can thrive.”

The venture capital group also said it was examining ways to connect venture firms to human resources experts, offering training on conscious and unconscious bias, and continuing its efforts to increase minority participation in the world of startups.

Jeff Bussgang, a general partner at Flybridge Capital Partners who has been working on the broader inclusivity efforts, said the statement seeks not to allow “the behavior of one bad apple to spoil the perception of the good work and earnest work that VCs do.”

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Rose said she does not know of any allegations of improper behavior during Caldbeck’s time in Massachusetts.

“I don’t believe that this is any representation that this is who they are as a firm,” Rose said of Bain.

In a statement reported by the news organization Axios, Caldbeck, whose biography says he has a Harvard business degree, apologized for his actions.

“It is outrageous and unethical for any person to leverage a position of power in exchange for sexual gain, it is clear to me now that that is exactly what I’ve done,” the statement said.

Andy Rosen can be reached at andrew.rosen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @andyrosen.
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