A fork in the road?

Sometimes we don’t know when we took a different fork in the road but we can look back and note when the new direction began.  Bruce Springfield wrote the line “there is something happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear” in 1966.  At that point, it was clear that something was happening in America and right now we are seeing that not only in politics but in female empowerment.

I remember when my mother read the Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan.  That book spoke to her.  Looking back, she was lost in a marriage with 3 kids and not exactly sure how she got there.  She was insanely entrepreneurial and at that point, she began to figure out a different path to get her back into a career.

This past weekend I walked into a store called Bulletin.co (Bulletin Broads). on Prince Street in Nolita.  The store (there at 2 and one more coming including an e-commerce shop) is dedicated to Feminism, aka girl-power products.  There are cards, art, t-shirts, coffee mugs and alike that essentially say “I am woman here me roar”, another music line but that one was written by Helen Reddy in 1971 and she was not interested in returning to the woman of the 50’s and 60’s.

A woman asked me about investing in women and their frustration in not finding as many as she wants to support.  I told her to just wait.  Change started about 10 years ago in the start-up space.  We are going to see more women in the limelight that began building companies in that time but you have not heard of them because that is how women operate. But sooner than later those companies will have exits, they will go public or be sold and my hope is their names become household business names.  Those shifts change the dynamic again for the next generation.

Ellen Pao’s book, Reset: My Fight for Inclusion and Lasting Change, that recants her lawsuit against Kleiner Perkins, a VC firm comes out this month.  I am looking forward to reading the book.  I have heard more stories than I need to from women in how they have been treated in the workplace and around raising capital but those not in the industry have not.  Reading Ellen’s book will have a long tail for the next generation of women who read the book.  The short-tail is women have begun to feel empowered enough to say “I am not going to stay silent anymore” when something inappropriate happens.  We saw a VC firm go down, 500 Startups founder leave and male partners including talking heads at Fox news be cut off and out of their organizations for sexual abuse.  That’s big.

This has all been sitting on the back burner mildly simmering for the past decade and we are now watching women bring it to a boil.  They are entering the door with a different head because of all that has come before them.  Seeing a store sell products to feed this fire makes me believe that we have entered a new normal for what gender equality is going to look like in the future.