Things Said to Me as a Female Founder That Would Never be Said to a Man
Over the last few years on my journey to building a successful company, I’ve encountered a ton of individuals. From investors to industry and subject matter experts to well wishers, haters and everything in between.
I’ve also gotten a ton of feedback (both positive and negative, mostly positive) from these varying individuals and some of the comments I’ve received I know would never have happened if I were a man.
Some of the things I’ve been told as a female founder
For instance I’ve been told -
“You shouldn’t wear your wedding ring to meetings. It tells people that you might have too much going on in your personal life and might not be able to commit to building a serious business.” - By a tenured female founder who thought she was giving me good advice.
“You should wear high heels and lipstick when meeting specific male investors. They’ll tend to take you more seriously.“ - By this same tenured female founder.
“What does your husband think about you becoming a CEO?“ - By a male executive who cut me off mid sentence.
“Don’t ever talk about your kids. It’s too much baggage.“ - From an industry expert, right after they asked me - “Do you have kids?“. I gave them my honest feedback.
“What you are building is too techy for black women. You need to bring it down to their level. They don’t really use computers like that.“ - By a minority focused black VC.
”You should smile more.” - Right after I talked about the depressing stats that women of color have a median net worth of between $50 and $150 depending on which minority demographic we are talking about. Not sure why that would be cause to smile.
And this is just what I can remember off the top of my head right now. I seriously doubt that if I were to exchange stories with my male counterparts they’d tell me they’ve also been told not to wear their wedding rings, to smile more, to dumb things down or to wear high heels and lipstick to look attractive to investors.
However, despite the ridiculousness of these comments and the people behind them, there’s always a lesson to be learned. Well not always… some of them just need to be wished Godspeed and good riddance…but at this stage of my life, I’m all about looking on the positive side of things.
3 Lessons I’ve learned from some of the nonsensical comments I’ve received
Lesson 1: You’ll need to grow some thick skin. Like alligator thick. In the business of building a business, thick skin is a must. You cannot survive without it. I haven’t always had it though. I’ve let comments people made affect me. I’ve gotten emotional. I’ve clapped back. But, I’ve also realized that some people just have problems and it’s not my job to help them solve those problems.
Some people also need justifications and will act out accordingly but it’s also not my job to entertain that. I’m at the point where I make it a goal to not let myself get affected by comments but I’m not anyone’s push over and I won’t pretend to be someone I’m not. So now my approach is super simple. I’m polite and matter of fact about my opinion or disagreement, all while killing them with kindness and that’s it. Next.
I also wear my wedding rings to meetings and I shine them up just before. If you ask me about my kids, I’ll tell you all about them and I’ll be damned if I’m wearing high heels or lipstick to impress some random man because I want him to take me seriously.
Lesson 2: Not all women support other women and that’s ok. You probably already know by now that sometimes the people you expect to support you the most will support you the least and unfortunately that’s been the case with a percentage of the women I’ve met in this business.
Don’t get me wrong, a lot of women I’ve met, whether they are just getting started or industry vets, have been incredibly supportive but there has been that small percentage who have had nothing good to say.
However, I’ve learnt not to take things personal. Like I already mentioned, people have their own problems and many of them will try to project their experiences on you and that’s just unfortunate.
Lesson 3: Never forget why you started what you started. Another thing that’s not my job, is to please the world. I’m also not here to fit myself into the mould of anyone’s expectations including stupid ideas like “Black women don’t use computers“.
And so on incredibly trying days and upon meeting those incredibly trying people, I remind myself why I started what I started and why I can’t afford to let anyone’s expectations take me off the path of my big vision. I get clear, and get back to focusing on my focus.
I know i’m not the only one though. What are some of the most ridiculous things you’ve been told that you know for sure wouldn’t have been said to a man? How have you dealt with it? I’d love to know!