Watch Out Little Lady

I self-identify as a woman in the tech/startup industry. I’ve run a collaborative workspace – spaces that tend to attract those with tech backgrounds. I’ve organized and facilitated multiple Startup Weekend events, a 54-hour frenzy of entrepreneurial learning that commonly results in a mobile or web-based minimum viable product. And I’m preparing to jump into a new role as a Project Manager for a digital strategy agency.

As a woman in the tech/startup world, I’m constantly being told it’s a man’s game. Watch out little lady! Your breasts and lack of an Adam’s apple are going to make it impossible to succeed!

Recently, Fast Company (my favorite publication) published an article titled ‘Practical Advice From Female Who Stand Out In A Sea of Dudes‘, providing guidance to combat this very problem. To summarize, female entrepreneurs should:

  • Speak up. As stated in the article, this means doing your homework, reading a lot and coming prepared with an ‘arsenal of information’.
  • Participate in pitch events so you can get practice and feedback. Concerned about tough questions? Practice ‘fielding zingers’.
  • Stand out. Leverage being in the minority.
  • Use your network.

Okay…clearly I’m missing something. Isn’t that what EVERY entrepreneur should be doing, regardless of their sex? With the exception of leveraging a minority position, all of this advice could just as easily be applied to an all male startup. Perhaps I’ve been sheltered, but no investor or Startup Weekend judge I’ve ever come across has let a male startup get away without knowing their stuff in a pitch just because they share the same chromosomes.

via http://textsfromhillaryclinton.tumblr.com/

It isn’t just the ridiculously common sense advice that gets me. It’s that somehow women need more hand holding then men when it comes to succeeding in the tech and startup spheres. I see so many¬†female-centric learning environments claiming they’ll solve the lack of female programmers, scientists, CEO’s, etc, simply by keeping men out of the picture. What happens AFTER we learn all these skills from women and then have to work with men? A female-only environment simply isn’t reality.

I’ve worked in all-female environments. I’ve attend female-only meetups. What I’ve come to find is it isn’t the men discriminating against me as a woman in tech…it’s my fellow females. I get much more discouragement, odd glances, judging comments when I talk to women about what I do then men. I’m criticized for my choice, yes…CHOICE, of a career over children by other women who have chosen otherwise.

Don’t take my comments as denial of the problem. I absolutely want more women entrepreneurs, programmers, scientists, CEOs, etc. I want more woman leaders I can look up to. I just don’t think we should have to exclude men or make them the enemy to get there. Put simply ladies, JFDI.

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