In a Room Full of Men

2011 August 22
by Grace Boyle

Last week, as I sat in a serious pow-wow of ideas, thought, strategy, process and sales innovation at work, I took a moment to step back and realized oh, I’m the only woman in this room.

I’m pretty used to that.

The thing is, I don’t feel enraged. I respect both genders. I think there’s a lot to learn from everyone. I would love to see more women in tech and online startups, but I also know you can’t force it. And I don’t think it’s someone’s “fault,” especially not the dudes fault.

With probably close to 70 years of experience sitting in this room, the ideas that were swirling were immense. I was learning, we are fine-tuning our process as we build this operation and workflow from scratch around this epic product.

Yes, of course I was heard. They looked to me for answers and resources and my opinion, is respected not to mention, needed.

I am not daunted and I see through gender. I’m also excited that for a typically male role, we’ve hired a UI/UX application designer…and she’s a woman. Want to know something? She was the only female who applied to the position and she was the best fit, without a doubt.

In that pow-wow last week, I do recognize I have the least experience, am the only female and am the youngest in the room but you know what? I also know a lot more about new social innovations because of my generation. More power to me.

Know what you don’t know and know what you do.

What is important is education, encouraging, role models and cultivating but it’s a statistic that there are fewer women than men in tech.

Technology investors Fred Wilson and John Borthwick said the industry needs catalysts to spark a virtuous circle of more successful women-led tech start-ups leading to more women in tech start-ups.

“From successes come role models and from the role models come change,” said Union Square Ventures’ Mr. Wilson, who recently called for more diversity in the start-up world. -Wall Street Journal

Maybe I’m lucky because I’ve always been respected, both my parents are entrepreneurs and I don’t “notice” that I’m one of the few females in the office (wherever I’ve worked in tech) but you have to lead by example, not complain about it.

I don’t feel singled out at my startup because I’m the only woman. Why should I?

Do something about it. Then be yourself. Always.

Does anyone else experience this equality? Do you feel singled out?

Additional Notes: I spent two years volunteering and being part of Ladies Who Launch and Girls In Tech. I wholeheartedly support these groups and continue to do so. What other groups are there?

I also love NCWIT – National Center for Women and Information Technology for encouraging women, from a young age to participate and expand into technology roles. Great organization.

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  • http://www.leslieforman.com Leslie Forman

    I, too, spend a lot of time as one of very few women in a room full of men. Such is the Start-Up life. I agree with you: it’s not the guys’ fault, and the men are usually very willing to listen to the women in the room. 

    I spoke with a female CEO, who is one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley, and she said that she never felt a glass ceiling until she became an author. In business, she always had a seat at the table, since she started her own company many years ago. But in publishing, she had to face the misconception that serious business books are written by men. Also, have you heard of Astia? It’s a network of womens’ entrepreneurs, focused on helping more women-run businesses access venture capital. My former boss is very involved in that group. 

    Thanks for making me think!

  • http://www.leslieforman.com Leslie Forman

    I, too, spend a lot of time as one of very few women in a room full of men. Such is the Start-Up life. I agree with you: it’s not the guys’ fault, and the men are usually very willing to listen to the women in the room. 

    I spoke with a female CEO, who is one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley, and she said that she never felt a glass ceiling until she became an author. In business, she always had a seat at the table, since she started her own company many years ago. But in publishing, she had to face the misconception that serious business books are written by men. Also, have you heard of Astia? It’s a network of womens’ entrepreneurs, focused on helping more women-run businesses access venture capital. My former boss is very involved in that group. 

    Thanks for making me think!

  • http://www.leslieforman.com Leslie Forman

    I, too, spend a lot of time as one of very few women in a room full of men. Such is the Start-Up life. I agree with you: it’s not the guys’ fault, and the men are usually very willing to listen to the women in the room. 

    I spoke with a female CEO, who is one of the most powerful women in Silicon Valley, and she said that she never felt a glass ceiling until she became an author. In business, she always had a seat at the table, since she started her own company many years ago. But in publishing, she had to face the misconception that serious business books are written by men. Also, have you heard of Astia? It’s a network of womens’ entrepreneurs, focused on helping more women-run businesses access venture capital. My former boss is very involved in that group. 

    Thanks for making me think!

  • http://twitter.com/sarahewelch Sarah Welch

    It’s never bothered me being one of the only or very few women at work.  I’ve always been one to hang with the boys, though, so I’m not sure if my comfort is just from that fact alone. Also, I’ve been lucky enough to have a female CIO and more than a few female bosses. However, the mentor (in my chain of command but not my boss directly) that probably helped me grow the most–personally and professionally–was male. 

  • http://alicialiu.net Alicia Liu

    I enjoyed your post. As a software developer and a tech entrepreneur, I’m used to being the only woman in far too many teams and meetings. Other than very rare instances, I have always felt I was an equal and valued member. However, I do think women have to prove themselves more as a capable technical person, whereas with men, it’s a given until they disprove themselves.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Leslie, thanks for sharing (and I love hearing women in similar situations’ stories). That’s interesting about the glass ceiling with publishing.

    I haven’t heard of Astia, love it. I also work(ed) with Ladies Who Launch and Girls In Tech! Love supporting that. Thanks for stopping by.

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Always interesting to see who people’s mentors are. My mentor and previous boss here in Boulder is a male. That’s probably a whole different post, isn’t it? It’s interesting learning from both sides and I would prefer a female and male to directly look up to!

  • http://www.smallhandsbigideas.com Grace Boyle

    Hi Alicia, thanks for stopping by and for your kind words.

    Interesting point that women have to prove themselves capable of being technical where men do not. I see where you’re coming from. I think being proved wrong can sway their beliefs and change how they think…forever. Although this isn’t really analogous I try to think of a predominantly female role that a male enters into…it would be the same for that male likely (e.g. quilting or something very female like that).

    I hope you keep setting this great example as you already are. Keeping rocking on.

  • http://www.marketingroiordie.com Rebekah

    Check out WITI (witi.com)