March 2, 2014

Stop It, Guys

Yesterday I watched the live stream of Y Combinator’s Female Founders Conference. 12 female CEO’s took the stage, sharing their story, learnings, and challenges building a tech company. Watching from afar, I appreciated the positivity and genuine support from the speakers and crowd.

I’m a white male living in Silicon Valley. For better or worse, my physicality doesn’t stand out in the tech industry. Hearing Jamie Wong, founder of Vayable, retell her story of being called “incredibly good looking” when first meeting an investor and being slapped in the ass by a VC, gave me perspective of the context and discomfort women in technology sometimes face. While she admits these were extreme, rare cases of mistreatment, it only takes one instance to cement distrust and skepticism in the heads of female founders.

Situations like this can cause emotional distress for female founders and turn women away from predominantly male, tech entrepreneurship. We need to encourage all types of people – women or otherwise – to pursue entrepreneurship if it’s their calling.

Furthermore, and independent of the gender gap, I can’t stress the importance of treating people with respect and kindness, especially in the startup community. Silicon Valley is driven by its pay-it-forward culture and relationships. What you do and say, good or bad, will be known. Make it the former.

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