Be Tough but Be Yourself

I got an email from a woman I know through the tech world who has been binge listening to my podcast, Positively Gotham Gal.  She noted that the recurring theme is that women do not behave like men when it comes to building their businesses or looking for funding.  There are many factors but she wondered are there skills that men possess that women do not?

How do we teach more women, for lack of a better word, be badasses?  I am not a fan of women taking the lead of being more like men but figuring out how to be, again for a lack of a better word, tougher and more important to authentically be themselves.  To stand up, speak their mind and own it.

As an investor in over 70 women, I have witnessed the shift in all of them as their businesses start to grow and they realize that they know more than anyone else in the room.  They become stronger and more confident when they walk into a room.  It is incredible.

My second job out of college was an assistant buyer at Macy’s.  After about 3 months on the job, my buyer who I reported to, was promoted.  I was put in the position of having to put forth the financial plan for the next year.  Now I reported to the head of the division.  I was 23.  He was not a nice guy.  All the buyers were women and he was verbally abusive to all of them.  I had witnessed many of them crying in their offices after dealing with the wrath of his abuse.  He wasn’t personable and made it known just from his body language that he was not approachable.

I was told to get him the financials.  There were no computers at this point.  I had a long paper graph with a number 2 pencil and a calculator on my desk to calculate all the information.  When I finished, I walked into his office and handed him my work.  He took a quick glimpse and threw it back at me saying this is wrong, fix it.  And so I did.

I came back again believing that I had done it correctly but obviously I didn’t because he did the same thing again.  A quick glimpse at my work and then tossed it back at me.  I didn’t leave his office this time.  I just stood there while he kept his head down working at his desk.  He finally looked up and asked why I was still there.  I told him that I was not going to play this game.  If he wanted me to do the work, then teach me how to do it right the first time.  He looked at me and it was if I had unlocked his coat of armor.  The smirk on his face said it all.  He told me to sit down and he began to explain what I needed to do.

I went back and did the work and this time it was right.  What changed was that from that day forward he had respect for me.  He let me challenge him and engage in a conversation.  He listened to what I had to say.  Once I got promoted to the next job, he would come out to the store I worked out, he would seek me out to see how I was doing and talk business.

That interaction made a huge impact on me.  I was always tough but what I realized is that standing up for myself gave me the respect I deserved regardless of the job I was doing.  Everyone deserves respect and he did not respect anyone who just caved under his belittling behavior.

I have told countless women when they come across an investor who behaves in this matter, push back or leave.  Own your business, own your fundraising, own your self and you will get the respect you deserve when you walk into a room.  Let’s also hope the future is rooms full of diversity instead of a room of white men.

Comments (Archived):

  1. JLM

    .In life and business, one does not receive power, one TAKES POWER.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

  2. Corie

    “As an investor in over 70 women, I have witnessed the shift in all of them as their businesses start to grow and they realize that they know more than anyone else in the room.” You have not just “witnessed” this. You have played a pivotal role in causing this shift — at least in my case. My entire career pre startup I worked primarily with men so I assumed I needed to model their behavior to be successful as that is all I had seen. That was and never will be something I can pull off as it comes off so inauthentic. Your positive reinforcement and support helped me find my voice and figure out how I can be forceful in a way that is authentic for me.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks Corie. That means the world to me.