June 16, 2019
Women in the Workplace
I have found in my experience that it is far easier as a woman to bootstrap a company than pitch for funding because so few investors put money into women-led companies. You are also seeing very few women working in the VC sector, citing toxic working environments, essentially being a boys club. While this is changing at a glacier’s pace, women are still starting more companies than men today, especially in rural areas with microfinance programs and more affordable telecom and internet.
People say that gender equality is the ideal here. But many people have different ideas as to what that means. It doesn’t just mean you get EXACTLY the same salary and benefits as a man in the same position. Here’s where I’m going to get some haters because this means you have to show up and work during your menstrual cycles or cite “women’s issues” as a reason to take a few days off. You’ll need to share child care pickups with your partner if you have one or pay extra for someone else to do it for you. You need to do your job and not use your gender as a way to underperform. Women need to work twice as hard to get equal respect from the men in their team. That is the reality. Because I’m a white American woman who worked in India for ten years, I was the only woman in the boardroom other than sometimes a relative of the owner of the company. I never saw women move beyond manager in traditional Indian firms. I experienced the same thing in Myanmar.
So your challenge is to be twice as good as the best dude in the room. You have to be smarter, faster, more analytical AND also not be too direct or act too ambitious. Your soft skills (interpersonal interactions) can’t be the same as the way men interact with each other because you’ll be considered a “b*tch” and reported as “not a team player”. Your challenge is to find the fine line between showcasing your skills without challenging the fragile male egos who have a different expectation as how women should work in the work place.
In my experience managing large male sales groups, it can be very tough to do, but you need to model the right behaviors, set proper professional boundaries, call them out when they say or do something sexist (I try to make a joke about it, but sometimes being direct is only way for people to understand their behavior won’t be tolerated), and be a role model for other women on the team. The more women stand up for each other, mentor each other, the sooner we won’t have to have this conversation again.