Post-festival blog post from a young man who was behind the camera

Images-1I love this post because it was sent to me from a young man who was behind the camera, not an attendee and not a woman.  It is a great read…and I thank Dekunle for sending this to me.


I’m a 22 year-old male and the women’s entrepreneurship festival that took place at NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program last Wednesday turned out to be a huge source of inspiration for me. I hope I don’t lose an street credibility for that statement but let me preface my thoughts on the event by explaining exactly why I was at the conference in the first place.

Currently I am graduate student at  ITP. As a former undergraduate student entrepreneur I am all too familiar with what the tech/entrepreneurship/leadership  conference has to offer. While building my company as a student at the University of Maryland I travelled across the country, regularly attending conferences to build connections and relationships that could potentially prove beneficial to the growth of my small company. So last weekend when shifts for my student job on the ITP floor were posted and the schedule read that I was to work the WE festival I was fairly confident I knew what to expect.  

The role appointed to me by my boss was to video tape the Knowledge Makers panel during the AM breakout session and the Taste Makers panel during the PM session. At the outset my efforts were more focused on getting the camera to work than on finding out  what entrepreneurs would be speaking on the panel. Luckily I got the stubborn thing setup correctly and was comfortable enough with the video being captured to share my attention between the camera and the discussion taking place.

Initially the discussion appeared to be going as I anticipated. Diana Rhoten, the Senior Vice President for Strategy in the education division at News Corporation, was moderating the panel involving women entrepreneurs in education. Rhoten asked questions to the panelists that provided unique insights about the education sector that could only be given by someone that had been through the industry’s wringer and lived to tell the story. This was normal. What wasn’t typical was what happened next.

In both Knowledge Makers and the Taste Makers panel moderated by Rachel Skylar there appeared to be a sense of genuine personal interest and concern for the mutual success of both the women attendants and the panelists that simply doesn’t exist in male dominated tech conferences. I repeatedly noticed a tone of discourse that resembled a sisterhood or sorority gathering where current sisters were mentoring future members of the organization. Like a mother warning her young daughter of the perils that awaited her upon entering the real world. Each question or inquiry asked by an attendant wasn’t just returned with a textbook answer but instead was filled with compassion.  I defintely got the sense of a community.


My question is, when and where was this  bond formed? Why did people who had probably never seen each other prior to the conference care so much for each others well-being and success? Was it perhaps the shared experience of giving birth while running a company, having to juggle work life with ones responsibilities as a mother, or maybe its having to face the similar struggles of being a leader in a male dominated corporate world? What these experiences have in common is that they attempt to defy the logic that has defined society for centuries. A society where the role of women was was that of reserved house wives and not confident leaders.

I believe the sisterhood atmosphere I witnessed at the festival can be attributed to a “me against the world” type attitude that has been formed in the women entrepreneur community. Like a mid-major team that has overcome adversity and made it to the final four of the NCAA tournament and is poised to take on the traditional powerhouse school. The blood, sweat, and tears incured during the journey now acting as the material for the bond that unites them.

The attendants at the conference were willing to make that extra effort to teach, mentor, and support each other because they were in this together. When you see someone going through the same tough challenges you are it becomes that much easier to root for them and do all you can to see them succeed. This same unbridled compassion and collaboration is what entrepreneurship conferences were intended to represent.  A place where those who know can connect with those that don’t know. An environment where the first and foremost objective is to exchange ideas and build relationships. I saw this at the Women’s Entrepreneurs Festival and it made me smile. It doesn’t hurt that these specific crop of entrepreneurs consisting of grandmothers, mothers, and sisters have been doing this out of necessity for their entire lives.



Comments (Archived):

  1. Rohan

    Very nice, Joanne! Congratulations. 🙂 

  2. Amy Bevilacqua

    I sat next to Dekunle during the Knowledge Makers panel and could hear him chuckle and see him nod throughout.  Great to read this post, and raises an interesting question of what might happen if just a few more men applied to attend the festival!

  3. AG

    I read your blog often, but this is the first time I’ve been compelled to post. The fact that women are by nature nurturers is, I think, what sets us apart from men. And Dekulne’s letter points to why this nurturing spirit and sisterhood we create can be so vital to any business community and why more women need to continue rising to the top of their fields and embracing other women.

    1. Gotham Gal

      i am glad you posted. hope you continue to.i totally agree, it is that nurturing spirit that sets women apart. we should embrace it and use it as we forge ahead in our businesses.

  4. Melinda Byerley

    I’m glad you noticed a nurturing spirit, and I applaud you for taking the time to write this.  One nit:  it’s important to separate the experience of giving birth from this.  Many women do not have children and still have a nurturing spirit.  I’d argue that a lot of this “help each other” mentality comes out of years of being in the trenches of being minorities in the world of work, where our unique strengths and abilities are ignored and unappreciated; and realizing we won’t make it any other way.  It’s as dangerous to apply the “mother” stereotype as it would be the “bitch” stereotype. 

    1. Gotham Gal

      you are absolutely right.

  5. Anne Libby

    I love this!   Dekunle, I hope someday a daughter is fortunate to call you Dad.And I’ve had the same experience at alumnae gatherings.  When gathered by a common bond, whether it’s entrepreneurship or an alma mater, I think we naturally look for (and find) ways to connect and to help one another.

  6. Nilofer Merchant

    This reminds me of what competition should be. The Latin word which is the basis translates to ‘seeking together” — effectively assuming a non-zero game, and it sounds like that is what was happening at the WE festival

    1. Gotham Gal

      Yes. Collaboration vs CompetitionRefreshing

  7. hellosailor

    That’s great praise. I do think there’s an often feminine spirit of cooperation (that men can have too). It was interesting to me that, in my last job, my boss teamed me with another person (male) in my same position and asked us to take charge of a client. We worked very cooperatively, and the client was happy. (My coworker and I also became good friends as a result.) Later, our boss told us that the client was happy, but he was disappointed. Why? Because there was one spot for a promotion, and he had expected us to “claw and scrape” our way over each other, and hoped one would “end up trampled.” We pointed out that working together was the best way to make the client happy (who loved us both) and it was best for the company. Still, my old boss basically told us that we were weak. So, that long story is to say that my coworker and I had a typically “female” way of working and my boss had a typically “male” and it was counted against us. I much prefer the cooperative way.

    1. Gotham Gal

      my guess is that your boss was of another generation. the sharp elbows take no prisoners generation. it creates bad environments in the long run. hopefully over the next decade we will see more of the collaborative work places that you yourself experienced as it is much better in the long run for everyone involved.

  8. Andy Ellis

    Come to think of it, this blog community kind of functions as a microcosm of how Dekunle portrays the WE festival. Many of the posts highlight the great and exciting things that women are doing coming from non-traditional places that require them to overcome obstacles. The collaborative and genuine interest and realization that entrepreneurship is not “a zero sum game” I think totally captures the essence of what entrepreneurship can achieve.  The world has plenty that can be improved upon and there is a lot of room for everyone to make an impact, the nurturing aspect of the women’s entrepreneurial community seems to intrinsically get that.  Maybe it is because I can’t devote all day everyday to my startup that helps me identify with a lot of what I read here, or something entirely different. Either way, I read a lot of startup centric blogs and am most often motivated by what’s on here. There’s no way that women having a bigger role in new business can be a bad thing, rock on ladies.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Nice one Andy!

  9. Michael George

    I love festivals and I really dig the videos and reviews on yoursite about different festies bands and things of the such. nice post. keep itup. Thanks. IStillGotMyGuitar