Do We Ignore Women In Professional Life?
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.