I have written about women and identity many times over the past years. Recently I wrote about two women who are entrepreneurs that you might not come across on your daily read, Stephanie Webster and Jill Stern. I am going to start writing about women every Monday. It might be about an entrepreneur, it might be about a company geared towards helping women or it might be a story. Regardless, it will be about women.
No doubt there are differences between men and women. Could be nature, could be nurture but does it really matter. What I have found over the years is that women don't tend to beat their own drums. They ask for money differently, they promote themselves differently and they even ask for raises differently. Of course that doesn't always apply to all women but the majority of women approach things differently than men.
For instance, a few weeks ago I had two really bright women come talk to me about their business. An interesting idea that could scale big or could be a life style business. They had thought the idea through from beginning to end and had written a business proposal. We sat down and the first thing they said was that they know they are not business people and they probably have to hire someone who understands business better than they do but this is what they want to do. I leaned over and said to them, I hope that you have not said that to anyone else that you have met with. First of all, you are business people. You have a business idea, you wrote a business proposal, you might not think that you are business people but you are now. Second, if I was sitting in front of two men, they would never say that, ever. Third, if you want people to believe in you and give you funding, act like you deserve it.
The particular meeting kept reminding me of something that happened to me many years ago. Fred was invited down to DC to a small conference put on by Coopers (Accounting Firm). They put together a group of people who were involved in the Internet business, mostly from NYC, to get together and discuss the future of the industry. There were a variety of different panels throughout the day where people sat around a large rectangular table and discussed a topic. I went along for the ride. At the time I was working with Silicon Alley Reporter and knew most of the players in Silicon Alley. When the person who was running the conference found out I was coming, he asked me to join in on some of the panels. I was delighted.
I am sitting around a rectangular table with about 25 other people. I don't even remember the topic but it is irrelevant. Whatever it was I wanted to participate in the conversation. I kept trying to jump in to the conversation when there was a lull. I started each sentence with "I think...". Next to me was someone who had become a friend through business in the Alley. He turns to me and says "stop saying I think, women say I think and men don't, that is why you can't get in the conversation". I remember looking at him and thinking....really? Next time there was a lull, I jumped right in starting off what what I wanted to say instead of starting with the words I think and there I was talking to 25 other people and engaging in the conversation. I was blown away.
Lesson learned. Sometimes it is worth seeing how the other side plays in the game.