What else do women have to do to be taken seriously?
We're still battling egregious sexism in tech and finance. This week made the blatantly clear. And earlier today, Chris Sacca, a former American venture investor (he was an early investor in Twitter and Uber), and ABC Shark Tanker with a front-seat to the happenings in Silicon Valley published the following essay on Medium. (We encourage everyone to click and read the whole thing.)
A crucial except reads:
“In my mind, because I hadn’t acted in a way that exploited an imbalance of power or vulnerability in a VC-founder relationship, I’ve generally considered myself one of the “good guys.
But’s that’s the crucial lesson I am learning right now in real-time: It’s the unrelenting, day-to-day culture of dismissiveness that creates a continually bleak environment for women and other underrepresented groups. I contributed to that, and am thus responsible for the unfairly harder road that everyone other than white men must travel in our industry.
I am sorry.
It’s also become clear to me that I didn’t consistently use my power and influence to call out bad behavior by industry peers. The passive acceptance of exclusionary words and deeds is not okay.”
To this we say YES, but we also want to know why? Is it something we said? Or wore? Or didn’t. Does misogyny and gender-biased investing really run that deep? Yeah, it does and a vital element of what Sacca is saying is that even well-meaning men are part of the sexist hamster wheel. To this we say: work harder. The investor is going on record that “As a white guy, even before I made any money, I benefitted from extensive privilege.”
A privilege not afforded to women or any minority.
Outspoken entrepreneur, founder and CEO of MakeLoveNotPorn and self-professed “Michael Bay of Business,” (she blows shit up) Cindy Gallop took to her Twitter in praise of Sacca’s words. Gallup tweeted: “Tech world has missed out on many female-founded potential unicorns bc of systemic bias + sexual harassment.”
It’s a bias that runs through almost every single meeting. Even though, as Austin mayor Steve Adler pointed out at the beginning of June in response to an angry letter about a female-only screening of Wonder Woman, “What if someone thought you didn’t know that women invented medical syringes, life rafts, fire escapes, central and solar heating, a war-time communications system for radio-controlling torpedoes that laid the technological foundations for everything from Wi-Fi to GPS, and beer?”
Yeah, what if. Again, is there something else we need to do to be taken seriously? More beer? Better GPS to steer you away from your sexism?
Earlier this month, Neil Blumenthal, co-founder and CEO of Warby Parker, told the crowd at inaugural Vanity Fair Summit that as his wife, Rachel Blumenthal, was securing funding for her company Rockets of Awesome her experience was vastly different than his. “When my wife was raising money,” the CEO shared with the crowd, “every male VC would ask, ‘How do you spend your time?’ She would say, ‘What do you mean?’ What they meant was, ‘You have kids.’” This was always a deterrent for male investors. Neil went on to say, “When I raised money VCs would use kids as a reason to bond with me. ‘Oh I have a great nanny recommendation.’ It’s insanity.”
Here’s ONE of the many problems woman face: it’s the every damn day micro-aggression (like those that Sacca refers to) that make women question their own competence. Micro-aggressions grind slow, but they grind fine. And they make us wonder if we truly do deserve a seat a the table. Or the money. Or the position. (Yes, we do.) But it’s hard to continually pump yourself up, when the world around you wants to bring you down. Or when we have a sitting President calling out a woman’s supposed freakin’ facelift on his Twitter. Talk matters.
So does putting your money where your mouth is. Investing in female-led and diversified companies IS the future. Those who aren't on board are welcome to fall off the ship. Men aren’t owed a life-preserver at this point.
Women like 52-year-old former Wall Street maven, Sallie Krawcheck know this. Krawcheck who once ran such elite institutions as Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, and Smith Barney, is leveraging her 30 plus years of professional expertise to help women build and invest wealth and “unleash women’s financial power.” With Ellevest, Krawcheck is on a mission to close what she calls the “gender investment gap,” an extension of better-known disparities such as the gender pay gap and the gender debt gap. “I have become truly convinced that getting more money into the hands of women is a positive for everyone,” explains Krawcheck, asserting that the “gender investment gap” costs professional women hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not more, over their lifetimes. “Closing this gap helps the women themselves, but also their families, society, and businesses. It also solves a lot of society's problems: for example, the retirement savings crisis is actually a women's crisis, given how much longer we live then men (and that we retire with less money than they do).”
Cindy Whitehead, CEO and founder of the Pink Ceiling is on the same mission. “What rips the sheets off in the morning for me is fighting injustices," the CEO shares. "It is an injustice that women get 2% of funding. It’s a ridiculous idea that half of the population only has 2% of the good ideas.”
They say a woman’s work is never done. But not this time. This time men should heed the words of Sacca and put in the work.