Tech Spotlight: Lisa Gelobter is helping employees and employers navigate the complexities of work place harassment

Lisa Gelobter
Lisa Gelobter’s teQuitable uses technology to make companies more equitable addressing issues of bias, discrimination, and harassment. (photo courtesy of Lisa Gelobter)

Trending topics on Twitter change daily, but a couple are constant. Scroll through your timeline, and you will likely spot a tweet including #MeToo or #TimesUp. The two movements, which both became global phenomenas last year, publicize the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.

At the height of the hashtags’ popularity, many women took to social media to share stories of childhood trauma and workplace mistreatment. The campaigns undoubtedly sparked a culture shift, encouraging many to speak up about the obstacles they’ve faced for decades while forcing others to pay attention and listen.

Now that these details are out in the open and people are talking about the issue, what happens next?

Lisa Gelobter is offering a solution with teQuitable, her new tech company which “uses technology to make companies more equitable,” she explained to theGrio. The independent, confidential platform, which launched in June and currently works with four companies, addresses issues of bias, discrimination, and harassment.

The 47-year old tech entrepreneur knows a thing or two about developing important software for a variety of industries. With more than 25 years in the field, she’s lended her talents to the BET Network as its chief digital officer, Hulu as a member of the senior management team, and the White House as the chief digital service officer for the Department of Education during the Barack Obama’s administration.

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Unfortunately, Gelobter, who is part of the tech subcategory of the Time’s Up movement, isn’t immune to workplace racism and sexism herself. She has been mistaken for the administrative assistant at every company she’s worked for in the past. She’s been lauded by surprised male colleagues for her keen ability to follow a technical conversation. Most unfortunately, she has also been a victim of harassment.

“There are so many examples. They run the gamut,” she recalled. “I don’t talk about them much because they don’t make me exceptional. This is what happens to all of us.”

These are the forces behind Gelobter decision to combine her personal and professional insights to create practical fixes that help corporations tackle workplace issues before they even occur.

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The teQuitable founder and CEO said she is one of only 34 Black women to ever raise more than $1 million in venture capital. In fact, she received $2 million for her brand and continues to make money by selling the service to new employers.

With teQuitable, employees can use its website and app to discuss complaints and employers can find assistance on how to address them. The system analyzes the information given to create detailed reports about common trends alongside recommendations on how to improve in-office culture.

“We’re giving companies data that they have never had exposure to and we’re giving employees their agency back,” Gelobter said.

Here’s more on exactly how teQuitable is changing the game and leveling the field.

theGrio: How did you come up with the idea?
Gelobter: There are a couple of different answers. I wanted to figure out how to continue to use technology for good and really be transformative, but in ways that are pretty fundamental to the fabric of our society. The second thing that happened was a young woman, who was graduating from Spelman College and majoring in computer science, called me up and said, ‘Hey, I’m thinking about moving to Silicon Valley. Should I?’ I realized until I could tell her that she would be welcomed, that she would be successful, or that she would even thrive, we had so much work still to do.

theGrio: How exactly does teQuitable work?
Gebolter: If someone is feeling harassed or uncomfortable, they can open up the app and get a script to use on their boss or co-worker or human resources. One of the things we heard from people is ‘How do I know it’s not just me? Am I being too sensitive?’ So we created a library of stories, where people could see themselves reflected without having to take aggressive action. Every story has…what happened to me, how did it make me feel, what I did about it…and what the outcomes were.

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theGrio: What makes the product unique?
Gelobter: We realize these issues are intersectional. These issues have to do with gender, but also race, transphobia, homophobia, immigration status, agism, parental status, and all of the isms. You have to take a holistic approach to looking at the issues.

For us, it’s also not just about the severe instances like ‘My boss groped me in the bathroom yesterday.’ It’s also the more subtle, insidious, death by a thousand paper cuts things that really affect our everyday work lives like ‘My boss tried to touch my dreadlocks.’ Research shows that if you put interventions into place with some of the more subtle issues, you can prevent them from ever escalating. We’re the only platform trying to get in front of and prevent harassment as opposed to catching it on the backend.

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theGrio: What feedback have you received so far? 
Gelobter: Heads of diversity and inclusion really like this because we help provide a learning platform. We are empowering employees to address issues directly or make change. Heads of human resources are really keen on us because we are providing them with data that they’ve never seen before. And as we talked to users, people were literally like, ‘I wish I had this last week when this thing happened to me.’

theGrio: For those without access to teQuitable, how would you suggest they deal with sexual harassment?
Gelobter: You have to do the best thing for you. You need to do your job first and focus on the things you are getting paid to do. There are so many people carrying this burden, but they are getting dinged for it. Figure out the outcome you want, how to get there, and the risks. It’s about self-care whether that’s building a community, finding allies, or going home to walk your dog. Figure out how to stay healthy for you and not necessarily solve the worlds’ problems.

Najja Parker is an Atlanta-based culture and entertainment reporter whose work has appeared in Jet, Ebony and The Huffington Post. Follow her via @NajjaNotes on Twitter.