After reading the NY Times article on Why are so few women in Silicon Valley? and all the reaction posts talking about the importance of women support groups and women-only venture firms, I have to express my opposing point of view, with only hope to provoke some thought among women and inspire them to take a risk.
The problem with women organizations. With all the good intentions of supporting women, these groups make more harm than good by accentuating the issue and essentially separating women from men. I truly believe that the only way to change the current imbalance between male and female forces in the tech and entrepreneurial communities is by encouraging women to become more active within those communities, and not by creating their own, women focused groups. Our energy should be spent not on “supporting” and “empowering” each other, but on the active integration within the male-dominated groups.
The role models issue. We keep complaining about lack of female role models – what’s wrong with male role models? Most of my business skills I learned from men and I am honored to have them as my mentors. As long as a person can inspire you and give a solid advice, it shouldn’t matter if it’s a male or female. Why do we need to see other women making it happen in order to convince ourselves we can do it too? Look at successful men around you and ask yourself why can’t you do the same?
Who to blame? I truly believe we have no one to blame but ourselves. Sure, there are stereotypes and I’m the first to confess about pitching countless VCs and not being given a real chance by most of them. You know what was the only thing I wished after every VC meeting I had? I wished they’ve seen more female entrepreneurs before me. That would make my job so much easier. Perhaps if they were used to seeing women founders they would be less outraged by the fact that I was wearing a dress and not a suit.
What can you do?
Perhaps if more women applied to speak on the panels at tech conferences, there would be more great female speakers.
Perhaps if more women joined groups like NY Tech meetup, the startup community would be more balanced.
Perhaps if more women thought they can build a successful company without having a male co-founder there would be more female founders.
Perhaps we are just too afraid to step out of our own comfort zone, while it’s so convenient to blame the glass ceiling.
Perhaps we are too afraid to admit that the only people we can blame for the male-dominated startup community are ourselves and our girlfriends. We are the ones who are guilty for not aiming high enough, not believing in ourselves and for allowing men to convince us in our own stereotype.
There is no better time than now to prove this stereotype wrong.