Are the gender comments generational?
I have been reading the daily updates of the Ellen Pao vs Kleiner Perkins trial with interest. Sexism exists and now we are watching it come to trial. Then the article came out around Vivek Wadhwa who has now decided to step out of the debate of women in technology although he has supposedly been a huge proponent of change through his writings and research as a professor (at least he believes he is). I say supposedly because he moderated a panel I was on several years ago (which he could not recall when I tried to remind him of it) where I got so angry at his lack of understanding the women issues on our panel that I found him demeaning. I got so furious on the panel that I remember raising my voice to a breaking point and then several woman cheered me on.
I have heard all the stories, read the texts from married men harassing women entrepreneurs and witnessed a few things that have just left me aghast. Yet I do want to believe (an eternal optimist) that these men are just stupid. For many of the older men I wonder how they treat their mother and I certainly hope that they have daughters who can put them in their place.
A few things happened to me over the past few months that are still rambling around in my head. Fred and I made a decision together to move to LA during the winter months. Granted that I do not have partners or LP’s but I do have a fiscal responsibility to many companies. More than a few people have remarked to me how can Fred do that? Can Fred be in LA? Someone who I do business with wanted to know if Fred would be coming back and forth. When I said no, he asked if I was holding him hostage. They have not all been men who assume that Fred can make this move but I can. I get it, he has partners and LP’s but still. Each of their comments towards me essentially discounts what I do.
Another person asked me what we did in order that we could both move out here for an extended period of time. My answer was that we both invest in mostly technology start-ups. Fred has partners and I am a lone gun investing our money. This person responded that we must make a good team because I can talk to Fred about the investments before making them. I said that I actually don’t. The response was I guess he has seen you have some success so now he trusts you to make those investments. Trusts me? I wanted to respond with I now trust Fred to pick up the groceries on occasion but I didn’t.
Perhaps all of the above are not connected but in some ways they are all connected. I just spent a day and a half at Launch in SF and not only saw but felt that overwhelming male universe. I sometimes do wonder is that attitude generational or is it just an extension of the boys locker room. Not sure but as women we need to be bolder than our male counterparts and not let those comments go unacknowledged.
Germany just passed a law that all corporate boards must have 30% of the seats held by women starting next year. Fred said why not 50%. Good question. Let’s hope that in five years that the number changes to 50% because there impact and it is obvious that there are enough women in business to fill those seats. That there also more women who have said enough is enough like Ellen Pao. That more women get funded and that their companies go public, get purchased and become household names so that the next generation of boys don’t made stupid assumptions or behave inappropriately. Truly the time is now.