This post originally appeared on Girlboss.
A professional request for career advice went straight into creepy territory for one young woman, and it’s all too familiar.
Lydia Jones is an entrepreneurial 18-year-old from Liverpool, England. But the startup founder’s enthusiasm was used against her in a particularly sad way, when an industry influencer used her request for advice as an opportunity to be sleazy.
Seeking to make connections in the London tech industry, Jones reached out to an entrepreneur she’d seen posting on the Facebook group “London Startup and Entrepreneurs,” according to Mashable.
Unfortunately, the conversation wasn’t what she had in mind. As the young Troops founder told her Twitter followers, the man quickly began asking about her age and relationship status, and posing personal and rather insulting questions about the teen’s sexuality.
Lydia told the news outlet she gets an overall sexist “vibe” from the tech industry when she contacts people “on a daily basis,” and feels that many industry types don’t want to “help females and especially someone aged 18.”
“In my opinion, this vibe won’t really change until we have a female founder/CEO of a platform on the same scale as a Airbnb or Twitter. But it should not have to be that way for women to be heard,” she said.
Upon reaching out to the man, Mashable confirmed that he did send Jones the messages but defended himself, saying “Richard Branson said all publicity is good publicity, so I’m glad she’s spreading my brand around. I haven’t committed a crime here.” Interestingly, he chose to comment on the condition of anonymity.
In a study earlier this year, the Kapor Center for Social Impact and Harris Poll found that one in 10 women in tech experience unwanted sexual attention, and nearly one in four people of colour face stereotyping. Their results show the tech industry’s rate of sexual harassment and discrimination is disproportionately high compared to other industries.
And with the recent deluge of sexual harassment cases coming out of Silicon Valley, the saddest part is that Jones’ story isn’t particularly surprising. Just completely infuriating and unacceptable if we’re to see tech and STEM flourish from the contributions of more women.