Common behaviours can make women feel uncomfortable.

I recently discovered that our company is sexist. Megan is a senior member of our team, and I was conducting her quarterly performance review over lunch. As we discussed her progress, the business and our future, she offered some observations about the social climate of our team. I asked her to describe our company culture in one word. She chose “blokey”.

Blokey! A woman co-founded this company – me – and we have several women in leadership positions. I think of myself as a staunch feminist and I’m acutely aware of the dynamic between women and men in our office. I strive to nurture a culture of equality and respect. But as I listened to Megan describe her experiences, I realised I’d failed.

Megan’s complaints were not the type she would take to the Fair Work Commission. But as she detailed a series of small instances that, in aggregate, made her uncomfortable, I knew that we could do better. I suspect these behaviours are common to most Australian offices. Business leaders have come a long way in promoting equal pay and opportunity. Now it’s time we address some of the systemic, seemingly harmless, activities that create a culture of sexism.

When a joke is not on

Here are some of Megan’s concerns:

1. Jokes

Light-hearted sexist jokes sometimes aren’t called out. Several months ago at Friday afternoon drinks, I mentioned we were getting a dishwasher for the kitchen: “When does she start?” one of the men responded. It was a quick joke and the team members in earshot laughed. I grimaced, but laughed too. I felt awkward but, in the context of Friday drinks, I didn’t want to look as if I didn’t have a sense of humour. But the moment stuck with Megan: “You should have called out the joke as inappropriate,” she said. She was right.

2. Language

I often find myself feeling uncomfortable with the casual language in our office. Everyone is referred to as guys. It seems almost endearing to address emails “Hi guys”, no matter who we’re writing to.

Much worse is when people use crude expressions like, “We can’t drop our pants on price.” I can’t help the split-second visualisation of that person actually dropping their pants (which isn’t pretty). And my least favourite of all is being told person X needs to “grow some balls”, meaning to become more courageous. I’ve never been told to grow balls but when it’s said about someone else, I feel like an outsider.

3. Behaviour

Megan mentioned she thought some of the rituals in our office were geared towards men. For example, we regularly host tech meet-ups and puzzle over our inability to persuade more women to attend. She pointed out that we only ever put on pizza and beer; if we wanted more female attendees, we should cater for a wider audience.

She also thought that some women in our office and at partner organisations talk themselves down, and that it was our responsibility to prompt them to change. When a smart, experienced female product person constantly jokes in meetings that she doesn’t understand “techy stuff”, she is putting herself down in order to be liked. Megan thinks this sets a bad example for other younger women.

Learning to speak up

I find it very hard to put a stop to this kind of behaviour. When people talk about growing balls, a twang of discomfort shakes me inside. I want to say something but I’m scared I’d look overly sensitive.

When I was 21, I interned at a very blokey radio station in Auckland. A stripper turned up in the middle of the day to perform for the program director’s birthday. I was in the room next door, and seeing a naked woman twirling around the desks to music and cheers from the team made me feel sick. I knew it was wrong but didn’t want to speak up; that moment has stuck with me. It’s easy to ensure a company promotes women and puts policies in place that prevent discrimination. It’s harder to call out everyday comments and behaviours that, taken in isolation, could be interpreted as fun, but combine to create a culture where women are uncomfortable.

I should have said something about the stripper in our office; I knew it wasn’t right. Now I know that I should speak up every time. Australian culture is laid-back, and it’s hard to call out as inappropriate what others see as jovial behaviour. Megan and her peers are watching, and from now on I’ll make it my mission to create an environment of respect. I’ll question language and jokes that border on being inappropriate. I’ll risk being seen as uptight by some so as to be strong for Megan.

I’m certain it will be difficult. But as a business leader, it’s my responsibility to catalyse change.

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Rebekah Campbell: "There are so many advantages in being a female founder."

Female founders are hot property. The country needs more start-ups, and women represent just 4 per cent of people who launch technology companies. A succession of conferences and white papers address this issue: why are there not more female-led companies?

Three years ago I launched Posse, now named Hey You, an app to order and pay at cafes and restaurants. Creating and building a technology company is heavy going for anyone.

Raising capital, making mistakes, running out of capital, inspiring teams on low budgets to work hard for long periods with no end in sight, yet hanging on to optimism, realism and sticking with the vision is tough.

I launched my start-up with great enthusiasm. I read biography after biography of start-up superstars – Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Rupert Murdoch, Barry Diller – and imagined copying their words, actions and mannerisms. To become successful, I thought I’d need to become like them.

But as my journey unfolded, I learned that I’m different. It’s hard to tell if my experiences of life as a start-up founder are specific to being female or unique to being me. I suspect that women do face different challenges.

Here are some of mine:

1. It's lonely

There are very few other women in the ecosystem. Earlier this year, I raised our latest capital round; I pitched our company about 50 times to Australian corporate and venture funds, each time to an average of three investors, so 150 people in total. I had one woman at one meeting. Out of the 122 angel and professional investors in Hey You, there are no women. Despite significant efforts, I've yet to recruit a female engineer.

There are lots of fantastic men in our industry, some of whom are involved in Hey You and have invested both money and hours of advice. But I suspect my relationship with them differs from their relationships with male founders. I may be invited out for coffee or occasionally lunch, never to dinner, the pub or to sports. The business support is there but the personal backup is missing.

2. I handle stress differently

In a start-up, every week is an emotional roller coaster. Once, things became extremely tough. Team morale was low, we hadn't yet found a financial model that worked, key members had left and I couldn't afford to replace them. We downgraded from our funky Surry Hills warehouse office to a dark, cold Redfern garage.

Motivation was low, team members slumped in and out, glum and lethargic. Everything slowed down and we needed more capital. The end was on the horizon. Determined not to lose our investors' money, I worked long hours to try to kickstart the company into growth. I was exhausted, and dreaded that month's board meeting. An unfriendly director hammered me on our metrics and productivity.

I've seen men in this situation and they fight back. Perhaps they bang the table and speak in a loud voice, but I'm wired differently. I cried. My all-male board looked back at me, perplexed, wondering what to do next.

3. I'm no Steve Jobs

Start-up founders have to be able to make stuff happen. We can’t wait around for months being nice to everyone. My research of other successful founders led me to think I had to act like Steve Jobs to be successful. Our team has now grown to 45. I’ve found it hard to direct young, energetic groups of developers, product designers, sales, marketing and operations to jointly focus on our objectives. We’re all inexperienced and we all think we have the right answers.

In an effort to keep on-track, I found myself channelling Steve Jobs – running strict meetings and dictating outcomes. It didn’t feel right, but I had to balance retaining motivation alongside clear strategic direction. That’s not easy. I asked a mentor to observe one of our meetings, and he made this observation. “You are using hammer mode. The hammer is the most ineffective of all leadership styles, and for you it is very unnatural. You are good at other types of leadership that most people find difficult. Stick with them.”

That was it! I’d spent the first three years of my start-up journey thinking I had to act like a man in order to make it. The only people I’d read about were men and, when I discovered couldn’t emulate their styles, I felt inadequate. The role of founder is difficult, whether male or female. I have qualities that are distinctly mine. My style is my own; I’m not afraid to show my emotions when I need to, and I strive to lead with my strengths – inspiration, care and integrity.

4. Individual styles

There are so many advantages in being a female founder. We are rare. We get more media coverage, are asked to speak on more conference panels and stand out in a room of mainly male investors. We have our individual styles. My advice to female founders starting out on this crazy adventure is to embrace yours. I thought I had to act like a man because it appeared the only available role models were men.

Since then, I’ve sought out other women at different stages on their start-up journeys. These friends and mentors provide great emotional support and, rather than trying to emulate the style of someone completely different from me, I try to recognise approaches and skills in others who are similar to, but more advanced, than me. I seek to learn from them in order to become a better version of me rather than someone else.

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Rebekah Campbell, founder of Hey You, an app to order and pay at cafes and restaurants.

I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve led businesses solo and have been at the centre of every meeting I’ve taken since I launched my first company at the age of 22. I joined forces 18 months ago with a male co-founder: he’s charismatic, charming and attracts attention. And, for the first time in my career, I found myself taking a back seat. My strength has always been my ability to get stuff done, while my co-founder is great at building relationships. Almost all our meetings are with men, so I’d sit back while my co-founder established rapport by opening with a discussion about sport or which school everyone attended.

With nothing to say, I’d wait in silent frustration. Meetings would often drift between casual conversation and business: I wasn’t able to achieve my objective because I didn’t drive the discussion. I suspected people looked to my co-founder for leadership because he was male, but more likely because he spoke early, connected with other attendees and deported himself like a leader.

Charm and command

I suspect many of us struggle in situations like this. I knew what I wanted from each meeting but found myself uncertain when or how to interrupt. The folk with the loudest voices got all the airtime. I knew I had important contributions and felt that others were dodging the tough topics. I wanted to speak up but didn’t know how to push my agenda without coming across as aggressive.

I took my dilemma to a mentor, a senior executive in the banking industry. He’s an impressive character with a strong presence, one I have observed in meetings. He may not say much, but people look to him for leadership. He has an uncanny ability to charm and command attention simultaneously. He’ll ask direct questions up front and always gets what he wants. Over coffee, we discussed my discomfort when sharing meetings with my co-founder, whose charisma debarred me from controlling the room. I averred this was because I’m a woman and all other attendees were guys. Were I a man, people would look to me rather than him. But at heart, I knew the problem wasn’t my gender or co-founder. It was me.

I remarked to my mentor, “I’d like to learn to be more like you. Every time I see you in a meeting, you own the room. You come across as a natural leader.” I expected a list of tips for controlling meetings, but his comment surprised and inspired me. He gazed across the café table, head tilted, disappointed, as if I had asked a supremely stupid question. “Rebekah. You have to own the room. You must know that. If you don’t own the room, you’ll never get anywhere. Even if you don’t know what you’re talking about, it doesn’t matter. Every meeting. Own the room.” That was it. No tips. Just an instruction to own the room or give up.

Into practice

The next day, I was in a meeting with our partners at Westpac: 12 male executives, my co-founder and me. I had prepared a PowerPoint presentation outlining what I’d like to cover, knew exactly what I wanted and who in the room could give it to me. The first 10 minutes passed as normal. Then, with my mentor’s words ringing in my ears, I decided to take control. I asked the person at the head of the table if he’d mind switching seats. He agreed, and I announced my presentation. My first slide outlined our objectives for the meeting and the decisions we needed to make that day. Sure, my entrance to the meeting was clunky, but I now owned the room.

From that point on, I ran the agenda, made direct requests of those I knew could make decisions, agreed on follow-ups, made notes and distributed them afterwards. I haven’t looked back since. I make sure I write down my objectives before every meeting so I’m clear what the outcome should be. I always sit at the head of the table and try to make the opening statement, outlining the reason for the meeting and the outcome I’d like to achieve. It works.

Working on it

Perhaps I can come across as rude. Maybe some folk think I’m an inexperienced know-it-all. I’m aware people often think I’m aggressive. None of this makes me comfortable – in fact it makes me very uncomfortable. But the alternative doesn’t work. I am sure as I mature, I’ll develop a style that owns the room, achieves my objectives and is charming. I’m working on it. For now, I’ll settle on owning the room, getting stuff done and making my business a success. As my mentor said, “If you don’t own the room, you’ll never get anywhere.”

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post that asked whether a female boss can manage a chauvinist. I’ve struggled with this issue for many years, and from your replies it’s clear that other women have endured similar experiences.

More than 300 people wrote comments, and hundreds more contacted me through Twitter, LinkedIn and email. I had asked for feedback in the article but was amazed by the level of interest. From helpful advice to shared dismay to fierce criticism (of me), there were lots of opinions on this topic.

I have now read every comment and email, and I have learned a lot from your thoughts. And while I can’t write to everyone individually, I wanted to thank you and share some of what I took from the messages.

First, your answer to my question, “Can a female boss successfully manage a chauvinist?” was a resounding no. In the post, I told the story of a male I’d interviewed who displayed signs of chauvinism but was otherwise a great candidate. When I wrote the post, my business partner and I were considering whether we should give the guy a go. I was worried that he wouldn’t respect me but conscious that we needed to fill the role quickly.

Almost every person who responded to the article implored me not to hire this person. One of my favourite comments came from a relationship expert who said, “The reasons for divorce are almost always apparent on the first date.” And the same is true in recruitment. If he showed signs of disrespect in the interview, that would most likely lead to a painful breakup in the future.

Others reminded me of the close working relationships we must develop with employees. Posse is a small but ambitious tech start-up. We’re a tight, passionate team that works round the clock to make our company a success. There are tough times when we need to pull together, and great highs when we celebrate together. We’re a family, and this only works because of a foundation of mutual respect. As the chief executive, my relationship with all members of the team is vital. If they don’t respect me, they won’t buy into my vision — and I won’t be able to inspire them to perform.

Many of you will be pleased to hear that we decided not to hire this particular candidate. Initially, I thought I’d be able to change his perspective. Surely after we started working together he’d see how awesome I was and respect me. One of the emails I received told a story of how, as leader of a company, this person thought she could change one of her colleagues, but after months of frustration and stress gave up. She reminded me that it can be difficult to change ourselves and all but impossible to change others.

Another lesson from your feedback was for me to take responsibility for my own leadership style. In the post, I described the ways I’d attempted to manage an engineer who didn’t listen to me. First I tried to be tough and aggressive. Then I brought in others to support my ideas. Finally I turned to acting like a “hopeless girl” in order to elicit his sympathy and help. One commenter said she couldn’t believe how I had “wound myself up into a pretzel” to deal with the situation.

Reading the post again, I couldn’t believe it either. Many of you urged me to be confident in my own management style, more direct: “It’s your business, and if someone isn’t respecting you then let them go. Don’t try to lead from the shadows.”

You’re right! I wonder if women find this approach more challenging than men do – I know I do. I want people to be happy and I adjust myself to make relationships work. It takes confidence to hold your ground, but I suspect that’s the only way to establish authority.

Thank you for all of your stories – I wish I could share every one of them. I especially enjoyed reading emails from women around the world, all of whom had experienced chauvinism in their workplaces. Many had overcome much tougher situations than my own.

One woman wrote about her experience as a senior member of the United States Air Force whose male subordinates wouldn’t accept orders from her. She told of her frustration when they refused to return phone calls or answer emails and would respond only to a man. She didn’t have a magic solution but wrote about how she’d battled through, up the ranks. It’s women like this who teach men that women can lead powerfully and become role models.

A woman from the Middle East wrote a heartfelt email about her experiences establishing a business in the construction industry. In my post, I described how a male tried to shake my hand in the dominant position – with his hand faced down. She described how, where she lives, most men refuse ever to shake the hand of a woman – even if she’s the boss or a client. This reminded me how far we’ve come here and how much harder it may be for women entrepreneurs in other cultures.

In my post, I wrote about a senior job candidate who checked out an attractive waitress mid interview and gestured to my male colleague to do the same. Several of you wrote that you were disappointed that I didn’t comment on this unacceptable behaviour at the time, and I think you were right about this too. We should call out sexism when we see it and raise awareness of these issues for the next generation.

I accept that by being direct and confident in my leadership style and by not associating with idiots, I can overcome many of these challenges. But I had to write a New York Times post in my mid-30s to fully understand this.

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A few weeks ago, my business partner and I interviewed a candidate for a senior communications role at Posse. We met at a coffee shop and he seemed perfect: charming, smart and passionate about our business. He’d been successful in similar roles, and he came to the interview prepared with suggestions relevant to our strategy. I was impressed. But a couple of things bugged me. Ten minutes into the conversation his eyes swung behind our table and toward the counter. I turned to see what had caught his attention: an attractive waitress. I looked at him quizzically — he knew I’d noticed what he was staring at but he didn’t seem to care. He smiled and gestured for my male business partner to check her out.

I couldn’t help but notice for the rest of the interview that whenever he spoke about anything serious he focused his attention on my male partner. He answered my questions well, but often with a flirtatious smile before shifting his attention back to the male in the room — the person he obviously assumed was the boss. At the end of the meeting he held his hand out to shake mine in the dominant position — palm facing down. By now I was fuming — I grabbed his hand from the side and we had an uncomfortable moment.

When my business partner and I discussed the interview afterward, we both had the same concerns. He also felt that his behavior toward me in particular, and possibly toward women in general, was poor. But we also agreed that in every other respect, this guy was ideal for the role, and we had been searching for a strong candidate for quite a while. We considered that one of his assignments, if hired, would be to relate Posse to prospective corporate partners, which meant his flirtatious nature might come in handy. Some of the best business communicators apply their skill and charm to their advantage. Still, that left us with some big questions. Could he respect me as a founder and leader of the business? Can a female boss successfully manage a chauvinist?

Working in the technology sector means that just about everyone surrounding me is male. I’ve learned to deal with loneliness, lack of emotional support and prospective investors who sometimes make inappropriate comments. But what really gets me is knowing that it may be fundamentally impossible to lead some people who cannot respect me because I am a woman. This bothers me because I want to be a great C.E.O. I’m not suggesting all males are like this. It’s unusual for candidates to demonstrate disrespect toward women in an interview with me. Once I’ve hired them and struggle to connect, I often question what has gone wrong. Do I have a poor leadership style, or are they not listening because they think I’m inferior?

A few years ago in another business I had a senior engineer who was brilliant but a chauvinist through and through. I tried every approach I could think of to win his respect. I started by acting like a man myself — aggressive, tough and demanding. It didn’t work. He wasn’t used to a woman acting like that and was offended. Worse still, he sniggered to colleagues and ignored me altogether. Then I brought in other people to support my positions. We had some high-profile investors and board members, and when I wanted to convince him of something I would Skype one of them into the conversation so that the idea would sound as if it were coming from someone he respected. This often succeeded in helping me win an argument but deflected the long-term problem.

Finally, I tried to charm my way into his heart. I played the “girl” role — unsure of myself and in need of his help. I acted as if somehow I had managed to put this whole company together by luck. I joked about how I was running a tech company but didn’t know anything about how it actually worked. This was a lie — I had studied physics, and I’ve spent a lot of time learning about code and frameworks for development. The approach failed anyway. I was able to get him to like me but it killed any authority I might still have had.

Eventually, I had to let this engineer go. It was hard because he was the office superstar — the smart guy everyone respected. But he wouldn’t take my product road map or my development schedule seriously because he thought I didn’t know what I was talking about. I learned that there was no way we could work together. Those of you who follow my posts know that I generally write about issues I’ve faced at Posse once I’ve figured out an answer. Then I share what I’ve learned and my tips for addressing the problem.

This time, I haven’t figured out a satisfactory answer, and I’d like to hear from you. Are you a female leader who has faced similar challenges with your male employees? Have you worked out how to harness the confidence of chauvinistic characters and have them succeed in your business? If you’re a male who has experienced working with a strong female boss — what was it that won your respect? If I hire the candidate I mentioned at the start of this post, can I manage him successfully?

Please write your opinions and experiences in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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I hate to admit it, but the life of a female tech entrepreneur is different. I’m tough, ambitious and at times ruthless in pursuing what I want. Leaning in has never been my problem. But I have learned that female technology founders have to survive in a world where virtually all investors, engineers and other entrepreneurs are male. I’m not suggesting that the challenges are the same for all women in tech. This is my story, and these are my perceptions.

A group of angel investors had invited me to speak at a fancy dinner in the city, and this was my first big opportunity to raise money. I was nervous. Having rehearsed my pitch for days, I arrived at the venue early and started up the stairs. A porter at reception shouted, “Come back!” This was a gentleman’s club, he explained, and I would not be able to use the stairs to reach the event. “Ladies,” he said, took the elevator.

As the guests began to arrive and the room began to fill, I looked around uneasily. Something odd was in the air, but what? Then I noticed. In a room of 60 investors, there were no other women. I’m not easily intimidated, but this threw me. Eventually, one female investor arrived. We made eye contact, and I felt a little better.

This happened three years ago when I started my technology company, Posse. Since then I have raised more than $4 million from more than 50 individual investors, all of them men, most of them in their 50s and 60s. I recently learned that only 3 percent of technology entrepreneurs and no more than 10 percent of venture capitalists are women. When I started Posse, I knew it would be tough, but I never appreciated the scale of operational differences experienced by women in a world almost entirely populated by men.

The relationship between young female entrepreneurs and older male investors is especially challenging and complex. I have chatted with other businesswomen over drinks, and we all whisper the same stories. We all have similar experiences but don’t express them aloud for fear of appearing ungrateful. My supporters have invested countless hours and their own personal money into me and my business, and without it, I would not have left the starting blocks. For that, I am extremely grateful, but I’m sharing my story now, because it would have helped me if I’d known the scope of the task at the outset. Here are some of the things I have learned.

1. Emotional Support Is Hard to Come By

None of my friends could relate to my challenges, so my first year as a tech founder was lonely. My investors became my mentors, my cheerleaders and my support group. Their advice was great, but the softer emotional support was missing; I was surrounded by helpful people yet felt alone. Male founders, I suspect, enjoy a different relationship with investors. Maybe they are invited to golf or to the pub. As a single woman in my 30s, I can’t call up an investor in his 50s and invite him out for a drink without raising some awkward questions. It’s never vocalized, but we’re all aware of the problem. That said, every relationship is different, and on several occasions I felt as though I struck gold when I developed close working relationships with male investors. So it can be done — I’m simply suggesting that these relationships can take time and be tricky to navigate.

2. Some Older Men Won’t Relate to a Younger Woman as a Peer

At first, the relationship dynamics with men confused me, so I discussed the issue with a mentor, a high-profile female chief executive of a software company. She offered some straight advice: “Most older men have two settings for younger women in business, wife and daughter, and they’ll box you into either of these roles.” This sounded bizarre, yet often when meeting older businessmen, I can decipher within 30 minutes which role I have been assigned.

At first, recognizing this helped me establish close relationships, yet it came with drawbacks. Emotions that help you bond can also explode, and fall-outs are more extreme than other business disagreements. Once, I had a director who had slotted me into the daughter role. He told me what to do, and I told him how helpful he was. This made him happy, and he spent a lot of time supporting the business.

But when he gave me advice that I didn’t agree with — and that I challenged — he exploded. He seemed to consider it a personal rejection. He tried to discredit me with shareholders and sack me as chief executive. Months later, he resigned from the board. Other directors said they didn’t understand his extreme reaction; they said he was stable and professional in other businesses, where he worked with male chief executives. Since this experience, if I notice someone is relating to me as a wife or daughter, I avoid doing business with him altogether. These relationships are just too risky.

3. I Don’t Always Get Straight Feedback

I suspect that people are nicer to me because I’m a woman. When my male friends who are founders describe their experiences with venture capitalists, clients or stakeholders, I’m often surprised to hear the frankness of the conversations. They will describe how an investor has said their pitch was the worst the investor had ever seen — or that there is no way their product will work. In three years, doing thousands of meetings, no one has ever spoken to me like that. It would be helpful to get straight feedback, even if it hurts.

4. I React to Stress Differently Than Men Do

I handle the emotional roller-coaster of running a tech company in different ways than my male counterparts. I push myself hard, because I’m responsible for other people’s money. In fact, early on, when I was finding my footing, I worked around the clock and made a few mistakes. For a while, I had an unfriendly board that hammered me close to the breaking point, and on one occasion, exhausted, I let a few tears trickle down my cheek. It was my natural way of releasing stress. I have seen men in this situation, and they get angry and fight back. It’s their natural reaction, but it wasn’t mine. My all-male board stared at me across the table, dumbstruck, wondering what to do. Tears don’t work in a business setting; I’ve learned to suppress my emotions.

5. It’s Easy to Find Yourself in Difficult Situations

I raised money by signing up individual investors and asking them to introduce me to their friends. I’ve pitched my business more than a thousand times and about 990 of them have been to men. In Silicon Valley, I’d take eight meetings each day before catching up with advisers for drinks and retiring to my hotel room alone. For weeks, the only women I encountered were the receptionists at the venture capital firms who handed me water bottles and helped me set up my computer before meetings. Angel investor pitches can be worse, especially when I would meet individuals I didn’t know at informal settings like coffee shops or bars.

Once, an investor to whom I had been referred asked to meet at his apartment. It was in a huge complex, and as I wandered through winding staircases to find his apartment, I began to feel uneasy. I arrived to meet a rotund man in his late 50s, puffing a pipe. He offered me a glass of wine as I pulled out my PowerPoint deck, ready to pitch. He plainly wasn’t interested in the business, but he asked me questions for two hours. I knew it was stupid for me to be there, but I was dedicated to my business, needed to raise money and didn’t want to pass up an opportunity. Several times since, I have met potential investors at their apartments. I don’t know if there was any real risk, but it felt uncomfortable. I went ahead anyway.

6. My Skills Aren’t Always Valued

As a woman, I think I bring different skills to a technology business. I’m more people-focused and instinctual. I talk to customers, using this information to decide what they value about our product and what needs to be changed. Most members of our team are software engineers. They’re all male, and I’ve discovered that I think differently, reaching decisions along a different path than they do. Specifically, I have difficulty convincing engineers that my research is valid. They want numbers. I’ve come to believe that great start-ups are a combination of customer-based intuitive vision and the application of metrics to engineer a good user experience. I’ve learned that, to win over engineers, I must back up my assumptions with data. It’s a powerful discipline, for in combining the strength of both approaches we design better products.

I’m sure there are advantages to being a female entrepreneur. I raised $300,000 that night at the gentleman’s club, and I went on to raise another $1 million or so from the contacts of the people I met there. Being a woman might have helped. It certainly made me stand out. And again, I’m grateful to the wonderful men who have supported me in my journey the last three years.

My advice to a young female founder starting out today would be to develop a support group of other founders whom you trust and to whom you can turn for advice. Avoid doing business with men who relate to you as a wife or a daughter — no matter what you think they can bring to the table. And keep looking for gold — those men who give direct feedback and consider you a peer. It’s amazing how a few people like this can make a huge difference.

But recognize that there will be times when you are stressed and emotional, when you will find yourself in weird and uncomfortable situations. It’s all part of the journey for members of the 3 percent.

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