BROOKLYN, NY — Her name is Cecilia Pagkalinawan, and her story of sexual harassment in the workplace is not uncommon — but, she says, is rarely shared.
“He started behaving inappropriately towards me. He started pushing his chair closer, leaning towards me. Next thing I knew he was touching my leg under the table. He started telling me how attracted he was to me. How he wanted to take care of me,” Pagkalinawan shared. “All of a sudden I realized, this wasn’t just about investment in my company. He wanted something in return.”
That meeting was in 2001, during the dotcom crash. Cecilia ended up walking away from a $4 million investment that could have saved her first start-up company.
Instead, she had to let go of her 26 employees.
Cecilia tells us of other similar unpleasant propositions she experienced working on tech start-up deals, including one instance from a tech founder she was trying to help.
“At one of our meetings, he found out that the potential investor was interested in me. And when he told this to me, he said, c’mon Cecilia, take one for the team. So this guy was actually encouraging me to have sex with a venture capitalist for investment for him.”
Similar stories of sexual harassment in the tech industry have recently come out in public.
Cecilia and other female tech entrepreneurs shared their stories recently with CNN.
Cecilia tells us each instance leaves her demoralized.
“When these situations happen, when you’re being sexually harassed and propositioned, inside you fall apart, and it’s very hard to get up the next day and do what you are normally good at.”
But Cecilia hopes sharing what she experienced does not discourage other women from being involved in the tech industry.
“It’s actually not a terrible industry to get into. There are some people who are bad people in the industry, and that’s being corrected. But for the most part, the tech community and industry have given so many opportunities and have so many friends that came from it and so many friends who support me,” she said.
The kind of support she hopes, that could empower more women to speak out.