The chief executive of an Australian crypto charity has resigned after posting a series of offensive remarks against women in tech, which his own company has described as “misogynistic”.
Sam Joel, founder and CEO of GiveTree—a “game for good” in the Metaverse where a percentage of every transaction goes to charity—made the comments in response to an article that was shared on LinkedIn about women in start-ups featuring the high-profile scientist-turned-venture capitalist Elaine Stead.
“Get off your period. Get good. Earn your salary with skill, not PR lol. Pathetic,” he wrote to Third Hemisphere founder and managing director Hannah Moreno, according to The Australian Financial Review who first reported the story.
Joel deleted the bulk of his comments on Sunday, before stepping down from his role on Tuesday afternoon. However several media outlets have reviewed screenshots of his offensive posts, including “bang you then abortion.”
“Are you single?,” Joel allegedly responded to a LinkedIn comment. “Should we make a better baby? Assuming I wanna bang you, because let’s be honest – you look. Fat.”
Another of Joel’s posts described diversity as “the dumbest *** of the entire century” and that women “have somehow secured majority employment in most verticals now. And still. Complaining. Classic women.”
Part of a larger and ongoing pattern of behavior
GiveTree confirmed his resignation and issued an apology on his behalf on the platform.
“I started GiveTree five years ago when I was homeless from an internet cafe. My goal was to help people not hurt them,” he wrote on his company’s profile page.
“After speaking with Hannah Moreno and Elaine Stead it is clear to me now that my words and actions have hurt people deeply and no longer align with GiveTree’s core values, or the reason I started GiveTree in the first place.”
He added: “One of the concrete steps I am taking to realize responsibility for my words and actions is to step down as CEO. Women and Men deserve to be treated with respect and that is a non-negotiable.”
In a second apologetic post on its LinkedIn page, the company revealed that “these recent comments form part of a larger and ongoing pattern of behavior for Sam, that urgently needs to change.”
“He understands that any act of sexism against one woman makes the world a less safe place for all women,” GiveTree wrote, adding that Joel plans to “attend therapy to address his sexist and, at times, misogynistic behavior towards women.”
“He will also use therapy to address underlying issues stemming from PTSD due to a period of homelessness and loss of family members.”
Neither Joel nor GiveTree responded to Fortune’s request for comment.
Research shows this situation isn’t uncommon
“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 wrote on her LinkedIn page.
“Women should never have to tolerate harassment of any nature in their workplaces which, to be clear, does include LinkedIn.”
Sadly, harassment on the networking platform is exceedingly high: Research indicates that over 90% of women report having received at least one unwelcome message or romantic advance on LinkedIn.
Although women are being targeted across every social media channel, the risk specific to LinkedIn is that women will exit the platform leaving a void of female representation on the app.
About 74% of women have dialed back their activity on LinkedIn at least once as a result of the inappropriate messages they reported receiving, according to Passport Photo Online’s survey.
“As a professional network, our members rightly expect their experience on LinkedIn to be professional in nature and any form of harassment is not tolerated,” a spokesperson for the company told Fortune, while adding that when it sees “content or behavior that violates our Professional Community Policies, we take action, including the removal of content or the permanent restriction of an account for repeated abusive behavior.”
Moreno echoed that Joel’s account has been suspended in light of his recent offensive activity.
Stead, on the other hand, revealed in an op-ed on the matter for Medium that Joel’s “barrage of comments” was initially reported to LinkedIn but that they didn’t contravene its Professional Community Policies.
“If LinkedIn doesn’t see that as *** harassment, and their remedy is simple (delete the comments and remove the commentator ) is it any wonder that our physical workplaces don’t respond adequately?”
A history of harassment
As GiveTree suggested, this isn’t an isolated incident and several women have since come forward to AFR to share the “frequent” abuse they received from Joel.
Earlier this year, Joel had approached Claire Bristow, who works as a senior investment associate at Skalata Ventures, for funding. When Bristow could not meet with him straight away, he sent scathing messages to her boss on LinkedIn suggesting she was a “terrible, incompetent employee” and that she should be fired.
Meanwhile, when Joel was snubbed from the Techstars’ start-up accelerator program earlier this year, he launched an attack on the women who were picked for the program over him.
‘So far, it’s not looking good for techstars. I mean you are both obviously very good looking females – but you have no finsiehd [sic] product,’ he reportedly said.
In other posts, he told two women their accomplishments were ‘nothing inspiring’ and described their posts as ‘just a bunch of word vomit women-supporting-women just cause nonsense’.
His previous employer, Fishburners, an early-stage startup network, also told AFR that Joel was ‘asked to leave’ the company because of bullying and harassment claims.
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