“The Only Woman In The Room” & How To change That By 2186
An All Too Familiar Story
Two weeks ago, I joined for dinner alongside forty CEO’s, angel investors and venture capitalists in Los Angeles. It was quite a senior group of the who’s who of media and technology, with frequent flyers in from SF, NY and Chicago. Even though I could physically feel that I was getting sick, this gathering seemed like one not to miss.
I walked into a private room at a happening restaurant, where a lively bunch surrounded the open bar enjoying the first round of drinks. Some were catching up with colleagues and friends of 10 or 20 years, while others were forging new connections with fellow captains of industry. Looking around, I realized I was the only woman present.
Are you surprised? I hope not. As a woman in technology, this happens all the time. Our industry faces a stark gender imbalance. Whether in entertainment, engineering or venture capital, gender issues are woven into the fabric of a woman’s professional identity.
Ladies (and gentlemen), now let’s get in formation
Selfishly for ourselves and for our children, businessmen and women must act with intention everyday to fight against the gender gap. While the Women’s March is a glorious illustration of progress, marching isn’t enough. Marching that day reinvigorated a movement, but it’s the tiniest actions from both genders in the workplace and in the home that matter most.
We’ll need to work through layers of psychology and deep-rooted belief systems to re-wire our brains and hearts for the better. With passionate voices working everyday to redefine the standard for gender equality, I believe we can move the needle.
To start, here are some bold, everyday actions from multiple perspectives:
For women towards other women:
Go out of your way to help other women succeed, and steer clear of gossip/drama
Be vulnerable and willing to share fears, struggles and past experiences to make sure other women don’t repeat the same mistakes
Guide each other through promotion and salary negotiations with the mantra “you won’t get what you don’t ask for”
For women towards men:
Recommend talented women to men for professional relationships as co-founders, co-investors, board members, advisors and employees
Discuss the gender gap openly with friends, colleagues and significant others and ask for feedback and guidance
Speak up when you see sexist behavior, and don’t hesitate to speak to HR. Per Susan J. Fowler, take screenshots
For men towards women:
- Compliment a woman not for her physical appearance but for her invaluable contribution to a deal or partnership
- Listen and observe with empathy, and ask clarifying questions before acting based on assumptions or gender stereotypes
- Encourage women to go for opportunities they may not have self-identified as perfect based on perceived lack of experience or merit