It’s not you, it’s them

imgresI always take the opportunity to speak to young women who are on the investment side.  It is not easy being a woman as an institutional investor.  We have all seen the data that roughly 6-7% of VC’s are women so you can begin there.  Partners in VC firms usually get together on Monday for an all hands meeting of an update of the portfolio and new deals that are being looked at.  After Monday everyone is on their own.  The week is spent at board meetings, meeting with possible investments, talking with the companies that you are already involved with and more.  Women love to be part of teams and it can be lonely without a daily team.  As an investor it is essential to find community in other places to fill that void of wanting to be part of a team.

Women tend to cross their t’s and dot their i’s.  They don’t always put their foot on the gas until they feel that they are on solid footing.  Perhaps that is why it takes longer for many women founders to build their businesses.  Women also network differently.  They are more interested in going home to their family, having dinner with their friends or having some alone time after a long day vs going out with the “guys” for a drink.  I applaud companies that create environments for after workday activities to get everyone involved because most women would choose not to go.

This past week I spoke with a woman who is making a go of early stage investment in Tokyo.  She is from the states but decided to build her career in Japan.  She is coming across many of the issues as she raises capital that we all hear about but until you have experienced them first hand it is unfathomable.  Men who are happy to meet but would prefer to do it in the evening for a drink, or ones that hit on you even though they are married with kids, or ones that make insanely inappropriate comments.  Some of them start with when do you plan on getting married and having kids as if that is will change their investing intellect.  I could go on and on but I will not.

We touched up on the article that was written on Lenny by Jennifer Lawrence.  She wrote something in Medium about this.  Lawrence realized when the emails at Sony were hacked and made public that she was being paid less than her male counterparts.  I doubt that Lawrence didn’t negotiate for what she thought was fair and well-reserved.  Just like many women negotiate for salaries that they believe that they deserve or capital for their companies or valuations that they believe to be fair based on the other companies around them.

Women love the word I am sorry.  We should take it out of our vocabulary when it comes to our behavior.  Sorry should only be used when you need to apologize to someone else about something that deserves an apology not anything else. When you are negotiating with mostly men on the other side of the table it isn’t easy.  You can be thought of as too aggressive or pushy.  But here is the thing that all women must keep in mind when they realize that they have not been treated equally….IT IS NOT YOU, IT IS THEM.

All of the points I write about above connect.  Women must continue to push, ask, challenge, invest, lead and remember that it isn’t you, it is them.

Comments (Archived):

  1. AMT Editorial Staff

    I heard this advice 20 years ago when I was in finance. Joined big bank in Chicago 1992. Always pushed. BUT part of it was I did assume that I’d want to leave at some point for family reasons. I wanted to get as far as possible so that when I left and then returned, I’d wouldn’t be at a disadvantage.

    1. Gotham Gal

      More people (men and women) are thinking about wanting to work in companies that strike the right family balance.

  2. Joe Cardillo

    This reminds me of something that a friend who is an engineer said to me recently – we were talking about negotiation and how to counter bias, and she pointed out that one of her favorite tactics is to make people spell out when they are being awful.I’ve thought a lot about what happened to Ellen Pao, both the KP suit and getting forced out at Reddit, and I wonder if that’s what she was really after. If it was, she did an amazing job of it, because the stuff that came out about investors and startups was damning and can’t be hidden anymore. That goes double for the “let’s have a drink and talk about how pretty you are to me” crowd.

    1. Gotham Gal

      social media has also helped nothing be hidden anymore….at some level.

      1. Joe Cardillo

        Good point, especially true about data reveals which are maybe the most damning (as opposed to having to collect a thousand micro-interactions to try to prove a case on the hidden negotiations that take place constantly)

  3. William Mougayar

    And I’m not with them, I’m with you all the way here.I can’t believe we are in 2015 in Western business societies, and still seeing this type of inequality and abuse.

    1. Gotham Gal


  4. Wd Doherty

    There was an EXCELLENT panel discussion last week put on by More Magazine & Harvard Business School addressing many of these points – women negotiating and discussing their value and the gender gap around pay that still exists for many reasons. Support and transparency rank high on ways to conquer this prevailing issue. There is an article in current issue of More discussing it as well with many of the panelists mentioned including the author. GREAT & important topic indeed.

  5. TamiMForman

    The world needs to stop telling women to change; women need to change the world.

  6. pointsnfigures

    Your one observation is pretty prescient and something a lot of men don’t understand: “Women love to be part of teams and it can be lonely without a daily team.” and “Women also network differently. “-simply realizing that can change behavior and structure making the workplace more hospitable to everyone.

  7. LE

    I doubt that Lawrence didn’t negotiate for what she thought was fair and well-reserved.I always found it unusual when the Lawrence story is talked about that people didn’t mention that it wasn’t Lawrence who was taken advantage of by Sony (if infact that was the case) it was that Lawrence was taken advantage of by her advisers.The story really is why didn’t the people who Lawrence hired to negotiate for her not get her as good of a deal as they would have for a man?Who believes that any salary negotiation for a big star is done by that star? It’s done by managers, perhaps a lawyer or maybe a specialized negotiator. The story line on this was very puzzling to me. As if the deal was inked in a vacuum by Lawrence herself.So the question becomes “why do the handlers treat women clients differently than they do men clients?”. What’s going on with that is what needs to be explored.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Good point