My binders of women: a story of personal regret
I feel deeply ashamed I wasn’t more vigilant throughout my career. I’m even on record for some of this before I realized what it actually meant even for me (mainly bc “Lean In” was kinda BS). I AM the definition of a “guilty feminist.”
My confidence, grit and luck have gotten me far — but I’ve always known I’ve typically been paid less than male counterparts (despite my negotiation skills) while I knew more was expected (right down to talking less). It made me determined to show my worth by working harder, longer, and taking on more.
But to what end? Watching C-level dudes with an MBA and no operational experience take public credit for the work of the whole? Fire or systematically undermine women? I've often been the token female in the room — particularly as I move up the chain. But the struggle of the whole is very real. The microcosm of my own struggle has been real too, even if I denied it to myself.
No woman can surpass her own time, for the spirit of her time is also her own spirit. — Georg Hegel on “zeitgeist” (pronouns adapted for my own purpose!)
I’ve had court side seats to the hiring, layering in or promoting of FAR lesser-qualified men that carry no accountability — men that don’t understand the feeling of constantly having a target on their back because their gender is “annoying” (including subconscious bias of both men AND women. With this target comes the understanding that men are waiting in the wings to feast on your carcass).
And DO NOT get me started on what it feels like to be OLD in the workplace, while the out-of-touch men are clinging to the life raft of old methodologies that are literally holding most companies back in a way that is quantifiable (trust me, I’ve done the math). Or the feeling of being a wholly single mom in those (many) companies that determine worth by the hours people are tethered to their desks, often eating lunch with a plastic fork from a take-away container and having dinner delivered to the office (look at the revolving door of Bay Area food delivery services — ever wonder how they developed their financial model? People feeling obligated to be at the offices all hours — despite the sound evidence this is bad for productivity).
Who has time to help with homework or give a hug to a kid who had a bad day, with no guilt, in that dynamic. Who is paying forward to the next generation in this model?
Soooooo many times I’ve seen truly brilliant, inspirational women who challenge the status quo shown the door because the men bosses either felt challenged or just love playing politics. Watching men truly not grok when you say that you love what you do and no, you don’t want to be CEO one day still feel threatened is mind blowing. Not to mention the all too often occurrences of things like cretins putting their hands on your knee under a table and whispering “If only I wasn’t married…” (in your dreams, pal).
Having to play the “cool girl” to even be invited to *some* of the meetings that you should be is exhausting and frankly total fucking BS. The times I, and other women, were conspicuously NOT invited to drink bourbon, gamble (I happen to love bourbon and a good game of craps), or play golf at the lavish bro-fest of startup “strategic offsites” is too many times to count.
I definitely would do things differently now; Hindsight is 20/20 and all that. It’s funny because I’m suddenly regularly called by VCs for “creepy” checks on men who have paid me less and gave me half the equity of my male peers. But, this is a small-world industry and honestly, I am afraid to call them out. Scandal in this day and age is one press cycle. An axe to grind is forever. Like most, I need to stay employed to get my kids through college (if I can, giving the earning differential compounded over time).
Studies show people prefer women bosses. Companies with more female execs and board members literally make more money. So I now see a lot of lip service paid to these concepts but still, no real or meaningful action. After the press of the last few months, COME ON PEOPLE! (PS: I am available for your board if you run an ethical organization 😉
So my heart breaks a little bit with every Ellen K. Pao, Julie Ann Horvath, Zoë Quinn Unburnt Witch story — because I should have been more vigilant with these things in the 90s — but instead did nothing but try to move my own mountain of growing up poor in the deep RED Southern Baptist state of Louisiana to get where I am. And that is a shitty excuse. I know better, always have.
Pioneers came before me upon whose coattails I rode, they have come since, and they will come after I’m gone. I just wish I could have been a better mother, sister, daughter, developer, colleague, manager and executive by carrying a bigger stick for ALL women despite the potential consequences. I’m truly so sorry for that and I promise to do more. xoxox
Inspiration for this: The Tech Industry’s Gender-Discrimination Problem https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/11/20/the-tech-industrys-gender-discrimination-problem