mondays are about women

Images I have written about women and identity many times over the past years.  Recently I wrote about two women who are entrepreneurs that you might not come across on your daily read, Stephanie Webster and Jill Stern.  I am going to start writing about women every Monday.  It might be about an entrepreneur, it might be about a company geared towards helping women or it might be a story.  Regardless, it will be about women. 

No doubt there are differences between men and women.  Could be nature, could be nurture but does it really matter.  What I have found over the years is that women don't tend to beat their own drums.  They ask for money differently, they promote themselves differently and they even ask for raises differently.  Of course that doesn't always apply to all women but the majority of women approach things differently than men. 

For instance, a few weeks ago I had two really bright women come talk to me about their business.  An interesting idea that could scale big or could be a life style business.  They had thought the idea through from beginning to end and had written a business proposal.  We sat down and the first thing they said was that they know they are not business people and they probably have to hire someone who understands business better than they do but this is what they want to do.  I leaned over and said to them, I hope that you have not said that to anyone else that you have met with.  First of all, you are business people.  You have a business idea, you wrote a business proposal, you might not think that you are business people but you are now.  Second, if I was sitting in front of two men, they would never say that, ever.  Third, if you want people to believe in you and give you funding, act like you deserve it. 

The particular meeting kept reminding me of something that happened to me many years ago.  Fred was invited down to DC to a small conference put on by Coopers (Accounting Firm).  They put together a group of people who were involved in the Internet business, mostly from NYC, to get together and discuss the future of the industry.  There were a variety of different panels throughout the day where people sat around a large rectangular table and discussed a topic.  I went along for the ride.  At the time I was working with Silicon Alley Reporter and knew most of the players in Silicon Alley.  When the person who was running the conference found out I was coming, he asked me to join in on some of the panels.  I was delighted.

I am sitting around a rectangular table with about 25 other people.  I don't even remember the topic but it is irrelevant.  Whatever it was I wanted to participate in the conversation.  I kept trying to jump in to the conversation when there was a lull.  I started each sentence with "I think…".  Next to me was someone who had become a friend through business in the Alley.  He turns to me and says "stop saying I think, women say I think and men don't, that is why you can't get in the conversation".  I remember looking at him and thinking….really?  Next time there was a lull, I jumped right in starting off what what I wanted to say instead of starting with the words I think and there I was talking to 25 other people and engaging in the conversation.  I was blown away. 

Lesson learned.  Sometimes it is worth seeing how the other side plays in the game. 


Comments (Archived):

  1. atryon

    You’re “I think” story reminds me on one my dad taught me about saying “I’m sorry” too often. He pointed out that every time I bumped someone on the sidewalk or in the subway I said “I’m sorry”, apologizing whether it was truly my error or not. He also pointed out that all the men around me simply said “excuse me”, which was truly more appropriate. It was a tough habit to break, but it is now oddly empowering for me when I say “excuse me” – and save my “I’m sorry’s” for when they matter.Looking forward to reading more Mondays.

    1. Gotham Gal

      so true. women do apologize more than they should. i like that. excuseme!

      1. Kelley Boyd @msksboyd

        as long as it is not like Steve Martin….excuzzzzzze me! ;>) I go with “dude, seriously?” No, I don’t but that made me laugh. I miss commenting on blogs.

    2. Yule Heibel

      Canadians on the whole are accused of falling into that trap! We tend to say “sorry” when someone bumps into us! Drives me nuts – and I find myself doing it, now, too… :-/

  2. elaineellis

    You know who I’d love to see profiled? Emily Olson from Foodzie. Every time I talk to her I’m so impressed.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i love her! she’s on the list!

      1. atryon

        I’ll second that! The whole Foodzie team has been hugely helpful to us while we developed Artsicle.

        1. Emily

          Thanks Elaine and Alexis. This made my day! This is one of my favorite stories, I remember reading it in a previous post and now I’ve made a conscious effort to jump right into what I have to say. I met with a bunch of more experienced female entrepreneurs back when I was still in Boulder and one of them gave the advice that we don’t always have to say “Yes”. Yes isn’t always a bad thing, but I think as women we’re often people pleasers and forget that we’re allowed to say “No”. This advice has served me well a time or two in the board room and I believe I earned more respect for it.

  3. Barbara from Ohio

    Great theme for Mondays. And thank you for sharing your insight about phrasing. So true.

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks barbara. so true!

  4. nakisnakis

    Would be great to feature women from Sara Holoubek’s and apply the founder/influencer/dealmaker angle. I look forward to your next Monday column! 🙂

  5. Liz Rueven

    women, pay attention!! Gotham gal is spot on!

  6. Liz Rueven

    women , pay attention here!

  7. Yule Heibel

    Love this post, Joanne. The “I think” meme is definitely overused – when men do it, it’s what I call weasel-speak (they’re just trying to sound ‘friendly’), and women do overuse it, for sure. (May I add, before someone rightly flames me for this blanket statement, that I’m being slightly tongue-in-cheek with the weasel-speak comment? …Just slightly, mind… 😉 )I hope the two women you spoke with took your advice to heart. No one cuts anyone any slack for stating up front, “I’m a dummy” [or some variant of “I don’t have business-person experience”], even if the person confessing ignorance thinks that sort of honesty is a virtue, and that virtue is strength.

  8. Beth Ferreira

    Looking forward to this series, Joanne!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks beth. Me too!

  9. rebeccastees

    In “woman’s world”, “i’m not a business person” is a perhaps a good strategy for getting you to champion them.I used to work for a non-profit and really had to radically shift my thinking when I started my lifestyle business. In the world of overworked social workers, to get heard I needed to present my case as the most inept, needy or dependent. I had to be the most sympathetic. lol. (Um, that is not the case in my business now)How do women think? bond? build? support? trust? encourage?—— all interesting topics!And yes, I used um and lol…… because god save a woman that comes across too cocky.

    1. Gotham Gal

      rebecca you are so right on that last comment. god save a woman that comesacross too cocky. a man can be cocky. a woman is referred to as a bitchand too aggressive. there is a fine line on how to massage that area.there is definitely a learning curve on how to do it right. pathetic buttrue.

      1. Kelley Boyd @msksboyd

        HA! There is “I think” and “I’m sorry but”. There was a book many years ago on this “Talking 9 to 5”. It highlighted the “speak stuff” pretty well. Onto the other point, working with a startup here a few weeks ago we went to a meeting with a VC. The guy was giving us time and attention but was saying he was not a prospect for funding….so I walked him through the qualification meme and he gave me a buy signal at every point. I went for the “test” close. If I could would you? He said yes and is now in the fairway. The startup founder hit me back later and said the “feedback” was that I was “aggressive”. If I was a man, I would have been a “fucking rock star”. You get used to it. If someone is not calling me a name, I am probably not moving the needle.

  10. Amy@springboard

    Doesn’t matter whether you have a PhD or MBA or Mrs. Most all the women who present their businesses at Springboard make the same disclaimers. Hard to change but won’t be that noticeable when we get more women at the table.

  11. Joana Picq

    We’ve noticed the same in Europe; women founders pitch their business differently and that might not have to be a blocker for investment if the investment community wasn;t so male… The first recurring point is that they don’t raise as much (they tend to plan small salaries for themselves if any at all, and they minimize all costs in their BP), and they tend to make realistic forecasts, unlike their male counterparts who all project over 5M in revenue in year 3, so in comparison they don;t look as attractive… And yes, even the most confident women do not like to promote themselves, because to their eyes it’s not necessarily a good thing. but to the male investors you have to be blowing your own trumpet or you’re not as worthy, which is the main problem. women are much better in execution, but they are generally not as good in selling themselves.

    1. Gotham Gal

      women are absolutely at better execution. why is it that they are not asgood as selling themselves?

      1. rachelsklar

        It’s “the Pushy Problem” – women apologize and pre-disclaim to not seem pushy. I hear myself do it all the time, fight to push it down. When would it have started? I distinctly remember being very bossy to the boys when I was a kid. Actually I’ve always been bossy – women are more likely to be described as “bossy” than “leaders.” Currently having summer camp flashbacks.

        1. Gotham Gal

          i get it. my middle daughter used to always say “i apologize but..” notsure when it started but i quickly put an end to it.

  12. Brittany Laughlin

    Great post! Business is constantly moving and frankly, won’t stop for anyone. If you want to get involved in an industry then learn as much as possible about the people you’re going to be doing business with. There are books, blogs, panels and networking events that help get you in touch with the community. Start going, start conversations, observe the way other people are speaking. It’s just as important that you learn about the industry as you learn about how to speak about the topics. It’s not changing who you are, it’s translating yourself not to a ‘man’s’ language but to the language people do business.Observing how other successful (female and male) entrepreneurs speak in a business setting is always a great benchmark to figure out what you want to do or not do. Observe, test it, repeat.