A big part of a woman’s life is making peace with an amount of exclusion from certain networks, and I feel that entrepreneurship is traditionally one of them. Fortunately, people are becoming more versed in conversations about privilege and the pervasiveness of sexism, and of course it’s extremely rare to meet anyone deliberately promoting discrimination. But when I go to meetings with my peers, I’m still one of the only women at the table. I’m still asked to speak at conferences “because we needed to add a woman.” When I meet others at industry events, I’m still asked whose wife I am (and the not-at-all better “sorry, I thought you were just a wife” backpedaling ensues). While women and other minorities are working hard to change the ratio, what would help us are more active male allies who don’t only avoid discriminating as individuals, but address institutional privilege by actively calling out the discrimination of others.
I feel like the entrepreneurship culture is coming to a critical moment for women–people are talking more than ever about the strength and under-utilization of female founders. Ultimately, our individual advantages are just that–individual. But in a culture that is so paternalistic, finding that equal playing field can be a struggle. All we can do is keep developing ourselves and building positive relationships. I do believe that our individual strengths and reputations are our biggest advantages. The best thing a woman can do as an entrepreneur is understand her strengths.