A Manifesto to All Men: We Have to Do Better

Like many of you I was shocked and infuriated by the news out of SoFi last week. I think we all expected better from the company and its leaders. Some of the behavior that has been reported is reprehensible and it points to a much deeper problem that goes way beyond fintech. The problem of sexual harassment in the workplace is bigger than any one company, any one industry or even any one country. It is rampant throughout the globe.

Men: we cannot keep behaving this way.

Talk to just about any woman in business today and you will hear stories of harassment. Some brush it off as no big deal, it is what you have to put up with to be a successful businesswoman. Others speak up and often find themselves being ostracized and passed over for promotion. Maybe I am being idealistic here but it simply should not have to be this way. I am saying that enough is enough.

Over the last few years we have had several examples of women speaking out over inappropriate treatment. Names like Ellen Pao, Susan Fowler, Cheryl Yeoh, Gesche Haas and many more have spoken out about their negative experiences with sexual harassment, sexism or even sexual assault from men who were in a position of power.

It seems that today change may be slowly starting to happen. This negative behavior is starting to have real consequences. The founding CEOs of Uber and SoFi are now gone largely because good people said that enough is enough. A culture of chauvinism might have been ok (it wasn’t – it was just the norm) in the “Mad Men” era of the 1960s and 1970s but today we are starting to demand more from our leaders.

But I think we have a long way to go. I have been drinking at the bar late at night at enough conferences to know that many men believe it is still ok to treat women as objects. This kind of attitude has consequences in the workplace. And if the leaders of the company condone this behavior there will be a culture that is at best unwelcoming towards women and at worst so toxic it can endanger the very survival of the company.

It is really pretty simple. Men, we just need to treat women with respect. This is particularly important for men who are in a position of power. If you are a CEO, supervisor or other kind of decision maker (like a venture capitalist) do not abuse that power. If you persist eventually your world and possibly your company can come crashing down.

This is personal for me. I have an eight-year-old daughter and I want her to grow up in a world where she can be in the workforce without having to worry about inappropriate behavior from the men in power. There should be zero tolerance for any bad behavior towards women.

Women in Fintech

People often complain to me about the lack of women in fintech. People say that LendIt does not have enough female speakers and there are not enough women in general at our events. This is something we are working on. Unfortunately, the news that consumed the industry last week does not help our cause of increasing the participation of women in fintech.

This article is the first step in what I expect will be a long journey towards making fintech a more welcoming place for women. I want to see us do better as an industry. We should do everything we can to make fintech an attractive career choice for young women. We have several initiatives around this that are in the planning stages that we hope to roll out at LendIt USA in San Francisco next year.

In the New York Times this past Sunday Ellen Pao penned an interesting op-ed. She was the person who sued Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers for gender discrimination back in 2012 and lost. She wondered whether anything has really changed for women in tech. While some progress has been made she argues that:

It’s all superficial until we see leaders actually changing company cultures by making hard decisions, leading uncomfortable conversations — and firing those who are unwilling to include everyone.

This is the key point here: accountability. We won’t see change until CEOs introduce a culture based on fairness and inclusion and then they need to hold themselves and their leaders to this high standard.

I am an optimist and I would like to think the extraordinary revelations at Uber and SoFi will be the catalyst for change. I, for one, am committed to seeing real change here. I owe it to my daughter, to current and future generations of women, to shine the light on this issue.

Men, we can do this. We must do this. We have to do better.

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Conor Neu
Sep. 20, 2017 11:25 am

Well put, Peter. We need more women in Fintech and the workplace must be inviting to them to be able to attract those talents.

I highly suggest Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg for all male leaders of companies. It’s a good eye opener for the challenges that women face in the workplace, beyond just sexual harassment, which can help us all think about how to make the workplace more inviting for women.

Sep. 20, 2017 2:43 pm

This is an absolutely ridiculous post. Not all men behave this way. Don’t stereotype men.

Rob L
Rob L
Sep. 21, 2017 5:17 pm
Reply to  Peter Renton

Stereotyping any amorphous group in this way is analogous to racism. It’s just plain wrong to “tar and feather” segments of society whether by gender, race, national heritage, sexual preference, or anything else. I am repulsed and insulted by the implication that for the simple reason I’m a man I “have to do better”. I, along with countless millions of men, have a moral compass and am disgusted to be lumped into the category of perverted individuals with which I have nothing in common. For the record, I can’t do better and would ask any woman with which I’ve worked to differ. Meanwhile, let’s have a world where each individual is accountable for their own actions. After all it’s “not the “color of their skin but the quality of their character”. Change skin for gender and same thing. Those that are not proud of their own actions should change them. Meanwhile, yes an apology is in order for stereotyping men (and me) in this way. Stereotyping is just another a semaphore for racism. Isn’t about time all this stopped?

Sep. 20, 2017 4:45 pm
Reply to  Men

Clearly, not all men are guilty of inappropriate behavior. Still, we must admit that men will typically follow suit of our peers, and especially leaders. That is the point I think Peter is making with this piece: that we not only must take a look at our own actions, but perhaps more importantly, we must hold each other to a higher standard and make it abundantly clear that we will not tolerate the behavior of a few “bad apples”.

Sep. 22, 2017 2:23 pm
Reply to  Jon


Sep. 20, 2017 4:53 pm

I would be happy to speak at your events Peter. I am a woman in this space that actually left Lending Club after being passed over for a promotion (took on the role of a male peer who left and wasn’t given the same title. Wasn’t even promoted to the same title during the promotional period after 6 successful months in the role). Now I am in a much better place at a company that respects me and values me for what I bring to the table.

Sep. 20, 2017 5:08 pm

The US probably needs to approach gender parity in both the house and the senate, and of course at the top of many more companies, in order for some of the last vestiges of sexism and systemic sexism wanes. A better system of state-sponsored childcare initiatives would go a long way for ensuring that women can be successful and be mothers.

Sep. 21, 2017 9:15 am

Jen-Not surprised to hear about sexism at Lending Club. But incompetent men who know little or next to little about lending made LC a great short. Peter’s blog is nice from an optics perspective but given his constant promotion of Lending Club over the years it rings a bit hollow.

Sep. 21, 2017 9:37 am

In fairness to Peter at least he is making an effort. Given the rampant sexism at most fintech firms-Lend Academy would not exist if they didn’t do business with them and I realize building a company from the ground up is an herculean task.

Sep. 22, 2017 5:52 pm
Reply to  Peter Renton

Make no mistake. I’m congratulating you on building a business. Which is incredible difficult to do, I respect that. However, your “manifesto” is BS since you defended Sofi before all of the articles came out and you tried to save face. You are still “cheerleading” for the rest of the sexist industry. That’s on you to be able to look in mirror.

Sep. 21, 2017 11:38 pm

The real problem, as I see it, is an old problem: Nouveau riche without any sense of ‘noblesse oblige’…

This problem is always with us, but it is exacerbated in “new” fields which attract a lot of capital accruing quickly to people who have been highly educated in very specialized fields without benefit of a ‘general’ or ‘classical’ education (or even the briefest of an introduction) in philosophy, history, ethics, et cetera…

This problem knows no particular “class”, “group”, “race”, “sex”, or whatever other taxonomy you prefer.

That’s my meta-diagnosis. Take it as one may.

As an aside, there actually exists an industry, within certain circles, called “wealth tutoring” – and one is able, if one looks around, to see this industry expanding its circle beyond just the UHNWI and into such places as the National Football League (to ingrain young, newly-minted millionaires with the respect for one’s self and one’s wealth to act with long-term ethical perspective regarding one’s use of their money or power – going well beyond just mere ‘money management’ and rainy-day retirement/savings advice).

A number of banks and investment companies have also begun to offer such things, though this is not panacea and will only likely have an effect at the upper echelons – but “tone at the top” does resonate.

It would be, at this point, asking quite a bit that people not be let out of college and pushed into career without benefit of some classical perspective, as this would require free and sometimes uncomfortable discourse, which used to be the raison d’etre of collegiate education (but is now deemed ‘dangerous’).

I see which is the real danger, but it appears that many are just now seeing the danger of “education” without much real learning attached, as we’re now dealing with a cultural divide based largely upon it.

Many of the troubling issues which arise today were often put to bed in kindergarten or gradeschool – though the services rendered, today, even there, are “off the gold standard” of the Old, Golden Rule.


Sep. 24, 2017 10:57 am

The biggest mistake that I see people making is believing that “wealth” = “phronesis” — a popular lie, too.