Do We Ignore Women In Professional Life?

Published on 17 Jan 2017 . 3 min read

We Don’t See Things As They Are, We See Them As We Are

 - Anaïs Nin

I have been an entrepreneur and have run large organizations and now engage with several startups as a mentor, investor, and academic. Most of my interactions have been mostly with men – by sheer virtue of their numbers in the workspace.

However, something happened recently that made me cognizant of the fact that women get ignored or under played in professional settings, a lot.

I was at a prestigious venture event the other day. As these events are, full of investors at one end, mostly Ivy-leaguers, and entrepreneurs on the other, mostly trying to hustle introductions, trying to get some mindshare etc. Now I am a guy, entrepreneur and investor myself and investors and entrepreneurs alike generally are courteous, make place for me in groups, let me have a word in, and show general interest. I assumed it’s the same way for everyone.

On this occasion, I had a friend woman entrepreneur with me. Over tea, I introduced her to a pre-dominantly male group, part of usual business courtesy.

However, turns out, the same rules don’t apply to men and women – she just went ignored. She was completely un-noticed as if she was invisible.

Her business is probably a bigger and better business than most entrepreneurs, but in this setting, I could see that the guys basically ceased to notice her after the initial hello. The reasons could be any – lack of interest, lack of confidence or sheer lack of courtesy. But invariably the same isn’t likely to happen if the person in question was a guy.

I now remember discussions in my previous company GlobalLogic almost a decade back that when salary discussions came up, being a woman was a factor. HR factored this in. I didn’t resist either. Everyone solved to their own convenience, I did too.

It leaves me wondering for sure, do we (men) ignore women professionally? Do we slight them knowingly / unknowingly / sub-consciously. Maybe we just assume that they are not in this setting for business. Maybe we carry a stereotype bias around?

There are only a few women entrepreneurs and wanna-preneurs around in the ecosystem. As a percentage, they are a minority. Now this one in question is an Alpha. She has won at her terms and could occupy the conversation, if she stepped it up.

However, when I extrapolate this incident to all women, I am certain this happens in all professional settings and often. They get slighted by default. Or women make a different group and men make a different one.

When food is ordered in offices, women open the boxes by default and serve to everyone. Combine this with a life-long doze of “fitting in” through having to look good and all other usual expectations; it’s miraculous that even some women make it.

I know better now. It’s a tricky situation. I don’t want to ignore women, at the same time I don’t to over-compensate, because that’s a form of slighting too.

I don’t want to be secular. I want to be agnostic. I am working at it, I would encourage my brethren to be too.




Rajul Garg
Rajul is Co-founder and Director of Sunstone Business School. Previously, Rajul co-founded GlobalLogic, sold for $420M in 2013 to Apax partners in the largest deal of the year in India. Rajul built the operations of GlobalLogic from ground up in India and then expanded through global acquisitions, until 2008. He also consulted with top tier venture capital firms such as Sequoia Capital and Aavishkaar, where he got exposed to the education sector. Fresh out of college, Rajul founded Pine Labs, a leader in the Indian market in credit card transactions. Rajul serves on several Boards, including publicly traded S Mobility, a leader in digital mobility. He is an active mentor to several startups, a sought after angel investor and a participant in several industry bodies such as TiE, NASSCOM, IIT Mentors and others. Rajul is a 1998 Computer Science graduate from IIT, Delhi.

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