Amid an avalanche of sexual harassment allegations that has turned upside down Hollywood, Washington, D.C., and nearly every hamlet in between, a high-powered law firm known for its Silicon Valley ties has teamed up with several other investors to back a new tool that seeks to turn the tide against workplace harassment.
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati, which late last month installed a new female leader in corporate partner Katharine Martin, is helping to launch AllVoices, an online tool that seeks to make it easier for men and women to come forward and report instances of sexual misconduct in the workplace.
Claire Schmidt, vice president of technology and innovation at Rupert Murdoch-owned Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp., is poised to leave the Los Angeles-based movie studio to serve as CEO of AllVoices, according to various media reports. The startup developed by Schmidt will allow users to bypass the human resources department of their employer to report harassment and discrimination directly to CEOs and company boards.
Employees using the services of AllVoices will be permitted to anonymously report instances of harassment, discrimination or bias—either experienced or witnessed—directly to the CEO and board of their respective company. In a blog post, Schmidt explained that AllVoices will aggregate reports filed on its website about a certain company and deliver that information to CEOs and boards without any personal or identifiable information.
“We believe that this increased transparency and accountability will help companies see that they must take action, and help them prioritize what to do first,” Schmidt wrote in her post.
Yahoo Finance and the Los Angeles Business Journal reported this week that AllVoices is in the process of closing out a $2 million round of funding led by Wilson Sonsini and several prominent Silicon Valley executives, including Sean Rad, founder and chairman of online dating app Tinder Inc.; Spencer Rascoff, CEO of online real estate database Zillow Group Inc.; and former Amazon.com Inc. and Google Inc. executive Sukhinder Singh Cassidy.
Susan Fowler, a former engineer at Uber Technologies Inc. who earlier this year blew the whistle about a hostile work environment for women employed by the ride-sharing giant, is serving as an adviser to AllVoices. Gender discrimination and bias claims, which have recently gained new prominence in Big Law, have become a particular problem in the technology industry, as noted in a feature story in the current issue of The New Yorker.
Wilson Sonsini declined a request for comment about its investment in AllVoices. The firm, however, has a long history of making investments in startup companies. Earlier this year, The Recorder noted that Wilson Sonsini was one of the first large law firms based in the Bay Area to create partnership investment funds. (Google, a longtime Wilson Sonsini client, remains one of the firm’s most profitable investments.)
As for AllVoices, the Santa Monica, California-based startup shares a name with San Francisco-based Allvoices Inc., an online platform that connects story writers with readers.
Roberto Ledesma, a Brooklyn, New York-based lawyer with intellectual property boutique Lewis & Lin listed on trademark filings for Allvoices, did not immediately return a request for comment about whether that company had any relationship with Schmidt’s startup.
A spokesman for AllVoices also did not return a request for comment on the matter.