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Work from home exacerbates harassment against some tech workers, survey finds

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Employees stage a walkout, holding signs saying "Time's up tech" and "Worker's rights are women's rights."

More than a third of workers surveyed by Project Include didn't expect their employer to address the harassment fairly. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images

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The tech industry has long struggled to create more inclusive workplaces, and a new report says the widespread shift to remote work over the last year hasn’t helped matters.

Project Include, which advocates for diversity in tech, found underrepresented workers in the industry are experiencing greater stress and more incidents of harassment and hostility during the pandemic.

The survey of 3,000 tech workers found many experienced longer hours and anxiety. But women, people of color, transgender and nonbinary workers were more likely to report that they have been harassed, according to Ellen Pao, founder and CEO of Project Include.

“The problem is there’s systemic racism, there’s systemic sexism, there’s systemic bias,” Pao said.

And the transition to a digital workplace has brought with it some of the toxic culture of the internet, said Caroline Sinders, a design researcher and expert in online harassment who worked on the report. “We’re using tools designed for a business context. They’re not designed to mitigate harassment, they’re not designed to have moderation tools.”

Some remote tech makes it difficult to block people and stop abusive behavior, and the line between the personal and professional has blurred, said employment attorney Euell Thomas with Livelihood Law in Denver, Colorado.

“When people work from home sometimes they’re more casual, so they may think it may be more appropriate to make a certain joke they wouldn’t make in a physical workplace,” Thomas said.

The report found more than a third of respondents didn’t trust their employer to address harassment fairly.

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