Subtle Things That Hold Women Back

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Founder's Poker at the MattPad.

There is a glaring shortage of women in the field of technology entrepreneurship. The industry, in fact, is often described as a “Boy’s Club” filled with chummy male investors and entrepreneurs. I am hardly the first person to notice this problem. What follows is a brief exploration of how that all plays out at the practical level, despite the best of intentions.

Recently, a friend introduced me to a female entrepreneur. She wanted feedback on her burgeoning online publishing business. Here’s how the email exchange went:

Her: “Nice to meet you Matt, would be great to catch up. How does 11am on Monday suit?”

Me: “Unfortunately, our company is in the middle of a major sprint and I don’t have time during the week to dedicate to stuff like this this. If u can pick a weekend morning that works for you, that’s best. LMK.”

Her: “No problem at all- how about 11am Sunday morning. I have a meeting at XYZ Restuarant at 2pm, though should give us plenty of time :)”

Me: “Sounds perfect. Just come by my apt. 123 Whatever St #123 SF. Near ABC Avenue.”

Her: “Great, know any good cafes in the area? Probably be better to meet there if it’s okay.”

At this point, I start to get a little annoyed. On the one hand, I can understand her caution. She’s a woman. I’m a man. We’ve never met. Going over to a strange man’s apartment is, for some, always a little worrisome.

Nonetheless, I am really effing busy right now. The correct word, actually, is “completely overwhelmed.” Going to a cafe is going to add an extra ~30min to this meeting. “Ugh. I probably shouldn’t be taking the meeting in the first place,” I tell myself. (Then again, I probably shouldn’t be blogging either…)

Regret is starting to set in.

Maybe I’m taking it too personally and overdramatizing the situation, but what’s worst is that now I also feel a little insulted: “Seriously, you’re asking for my help with your business on the one hand, and then treating me like I’m some Craigslist rando on the other?”

Not that her concern is completely irrational, but it makes me think about all the weirdness and wonder: “Why even bother?”

I feel defeated.

Me: “In that case, then maybe let’s just stick to email.”

I do not like this resolution. I want to help. The quality and quantity of the advice I am going to give her over email is going to pale in comparison to the advice I would give her in person. Assuming my advice is actually value-additive and not just a waste of time, this female entrepreneur is now at a competitive disadvantage for no other reason than because she is a woman.

This is not the result of sexism. (I invite entrepreneurs of all sexes over to my apartment all the time.) I was behaving rationally. I had good intentions. In her own way, she was behaving rationally as well. But she wouldn’t have this issue if she was a he.

And I’m sure this problem plays itself out all the time in matters of business and politics and everything in between. #Fail. Relationships drive business. Relationships drive politics. Relationships are how you get ahead in most things most of the time. And if women can’t have the same kind of relationships with the men above them as their male peers, then they’re just not going to rise to the tops of their industry or field and nothing is going to change.

Honestly, I attribute much of my (tentative) success to the fact that I’ve been able to cultivate relationships with a string of high quality mentors (all men, btw). These people have sped up my learning and personal development in crazy, awesome ways. And I am incredibly grateful to have had those opportunities. It is because I feel such gratitude for the people who’ve helped me that I am so willing to carve time out of my already overwhelmed life to help the strangers that ask for it.

Except, apparently, I can’t help women. At least not in the same way I’d help a man. I really don’t like that fact. But I don’t know what to do about it.

Update: While I’m only referencing one situation here, I’m writing about this topic because I’ve seen this kind of dynamic play out repeatedly with other entrepreneurs in other situations. The pattern is basically: guy entrepreneurs make friends with other guy entrepreneurs. Bromance ensues. As a result, junior dude learn the tips and tricks and inside scoops that are going to give them an edge in the marketplace from senior dude. However, I don’t see the same thing happening with junior female entrepreneurs and senior(ish) male founders. And I don’t think the reason is that people are trying to be sexist. My story is simply illustrative and, perhaps, indicative.

***

Me and Marc Randolph, Founder of Netflix, at his house in the mountains above Santa Cruz.
Me and SpeakerText consigliere Marc Randolph, Founder of Netflix, at his house in Santa Cruz.

84 Comments

  1. Adrian Sanders August 11, 2011 at 12:48 pm #

    A woman doesn’t want to meet at your apartment one time, and, because you’re busy that means you have to talk over email to begin with. 

    I don’t really see how that’s different than any person’s problems with scheduling and life. 

    If someone has to cancel at the last minute because of family issues, kids, development meetings etc., does that mean that you feel like you can’t help all of those people?

    There are many unique problems to being a woman. 
    And there are many unique problems to being a man.
    And, if you keep on drilling down, there are many unique problems to being anyone. 

    The mentors and people I look up to tend to look beyond the commonalities and find a way to make a personal connection in spite of unique problems. 

    Maybe try helping her, not as a man, but as a unique fellow entrepreneur and person with real life complexities. 

    My guess is she doesn’t need your help “as a man for a man.” 

    • Matt Mireles August 11, 2011 at 9:40 pm #

      Your comment would be valid if men didn’t drastically outnumber women in the tech startup world. 

      I wanted to help her not because of her gender, but because she is an entrepreneur. And gender got in the way of that happening. That is my point. 

      • Adrian Sanders August 11, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

        don’t know the details of the situation.

        but the fact that you couldn’t meet up doesn’t suggest to me any broad sweeping conclusions about gender relations.

        just one unique person who didn’t feel comfortable meeting at a residence to talk business.

        Personally I’ve never met with an investor, entrepreneur or business partner for the first time at their home.

  2. Arikia Millikan August 11, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

    Consider though her reaction to your invitation, which prompted you to
    “think about all the weirdness.” Imagine that same response coming from a
    man. There would be no weirdness to think about, which does potentially make this
    the result of sexism.

    Maybe it’s just because I’m a woman, or maybe it’s because I live in NYC where most people are embarrassed about how small their apartments are, but I’ve never heard of anyone inviting someone over to their apartment for an intitial business meeting. IMO with her response, she does put herself at a disadvantage, but it’s in her approach not her decision. If I was in her position, I would have Google mapped your apt and found a coffee place 10 steps away, made some joke about being addicted to caffeine, and offered to pay, presenting the alternative such that you would seem like a lazy jerk if you turned me down. Her response, “Probably be better to meet there if it’s okay” not only made it awkward, but left ample room for you to back out.

    Then again, if it was me, I would have probably been more curious than worried about meeting at your apartment and just gone. But maybe that’s because I am a journalist, not an entrepeneur, and seeing people in their living environments gives you all kinds of valubale information about them that adds color to stories.

    • Matt Mireles August 11, 2011 at 10:19 pm #

      In response to your first point, I have had plenty of guys over to my apartment. It has never been an issue. But you are correct to assume that I am inferring that gender influenced her decision-making process. I do not have hard data. 

      That said, I think it’s a reasonable assumption. Unless you have a better idea?

      The closest coffee shop is ~1 mile away. We’re in SOMA. The building is yuppified and my apt is pretty big and setup for visitors, but the surrounding area is kinda ghetto. 

      My point is that if you play this situation out across a large data set of entrepreneurs, the women end up at a disadvantage. Sure, some––like you––will be bold and adventurous. And it will give them a leg up. But that’s a high-ish bar that the guys don’t have to meet.

      • Male Entrepreneur August 12, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

        The closest coffee shop to your house in SOMA is a mile away? Odd. I live in SOMA and I meet with people at coffee shops near my house all the time. There are so many entrepreneurs and investors holding meetings at coffee shops (and Samovar tea lounge) in SOMA that you almost always run into someone else you know during the meeting.

        • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

          I live in the ghetto ass part of town.

          • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

            Although, I will admit: The exact distance matters less than the fact that I didn’t really want to leave the house. 

          • Alma Pitchford August 12, 2011 at 8:28 pm #

            So, you will admit that you were more absorbed in your own work than in giving the woman the advice she asked for…but you want there to be more women in the field.  It sounds as if you should have turned down the request from the outset, respecting her time and allowing her to concentrate her efforts along other avenues.

            Respect and consideration, my friend, is how you treat another professional, regardless of anatomy.

          • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

            I was definitely more absorbed in my own work than hers! But I did want to help, given the constraints upon my time and comfort. I’m not sure how I was being disrespectful here by offering to help someone who asked for it.

          • Your name August 12, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

            You, or John Fitzgerald Page? You, or John Fitzgerald Page? 
            I am just not sure.

            http://goo.gl/mi1bL

      • Steph Boyle August 12, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

        You live near: Cafe Venue on 5th street and Howard, ‘Witchcraft on Mission and 5th street, there’s a coffee place called Epicenter on Harrison and 4th. Blue Bottle at Mint Plaza. 

        NONE of those is a mile away. Calculate that on google maps, genius.

  3. LizScott August 11, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    I want to be annoyed by this, but honestly don’t know if it’s because I’m annoyed at her for making things so hard for herself or annoyed at you for … being honset about something that sucks.

    So, I DO hear what you’re saying, and I don’t like it but that’s not really on you. “Show Up” is the first rule of getting shit done, and if you don’t play by the rules of the group, then… you’re out.

    The things is: in any business relationship you have to (or maybe “women have to” – I don’t know, I think it’s true for me, anyway), define where your boundaries are. I’ve had mentors where I didn’t hesistate to go over and work at their house over pizza and beer and others I’d never considering seeing outside of the workplace, and I had to decide for myself if those boundaries hurt or helped and where my own personal comfort level ranked in proportion to my success.  But listen to what I’m saying: I am – not usually, but in specific situations - honestly thinking about my personal safety w/r/t to violence and trying to decide how how big a gamble it is relative to being successful in that situation.

    (pause for broad generalizatons)

    How often do you think men have had to assess a situation that way? It IS a different world, sometimes, and to be tone deaf to that difference as a male who wants to help women is hurting your cause.

    I bet most guys don’t safety assessment when going to meet an unknown colleague a private home. I bet a lot of women do. I would also bet “personal comfort level” is not even something that is factor in most male careers… but it IS for a lot of women, so if your end game is “more women in this business”, it’s completely fair to say “Ladies – you gotta lose some baggage and help us help you” but it’s also fair to say “Dudes – understand where we’re coming from and give a little, too.”
     
    Maybe this woman needs to reasses her boundaries (uncomfortable meeting a new dude in a private home) as they relate to her getting what she wants (advice from said dude who ONLY has time to meet in a private home); sure, that’s on her. But the other side of the equation is maybe the boys club (“boys club”) can reassess what they think is reasonable (meeing people where it’s most convenient, which might be a private home) with what they want (more smart people in the business, be it women or men.)
     
    This woman’s attitude towards building relationships might be holding her back, but so is your inflexibility with dealing with it. Not right or wrong, but there were two people who could have made this meet up work if they’d had more concession to other’s viewpoint.

    • Matt Mireles August 11, 2011 at 10:34 pm #

      Oh, I completely agree about the personal safety thing. And that’s what makes the situation tragic and frustrating. 
      Her calculus is reasonable. As is mine. 

      The shitty thing is that when you play it out at scale, you start to see a non-evil, completely unintentional yet structural reason for why there aren’t more women at the top of the tech industry. 

      • LizScott August 11, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

        Man, I hear ya. To an extent, women – well, actually, anyone – needs to adapt to their surroundings and play the game, because it sure as hell isn’t going to adapt to you/us/them.  It’s true for any industry. (I wore suits when I was a consultant and jeans when I was tech start up, right?) But it’d be cool if you as an individual could adapt juuuuuust slightly (and so could she) and then watch changes like that at scale — well, then we might be getting somewhere, right? 

        Anyway. Interesting convo. Worth retyping my comment :)

  4. AlexisFromTexas August 11, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    Matt, I’ve seen your apartment. Not sure I could recommend to any woman to go over there. ;) 

    In all seriousness, mentorship relationships are always tricky and especially so across genders. I have had one backfire severely even after getting to know the individual – more than a year in a (married) mentor started asking me away for a weekend, at the workplace. At the same time, I have many that were perfectly comfortable and meet guys to give them advice just as often as I meet women. 

    I think in this, and in all things, you should approach the situation with a hospitality perspective. You have decided to do this person a favor, so don’t do it half ass. Ask yourself what would make your guest most comfortable, even if it is inconvenient. Yeah, its a pain, but good relationships are worth it – and I think the mentee often gets as much out of the meetings as the mentor. If things go well, the second meeting at your apartment or hers will feel natural and comfortable for everyone. 

  5. Femme Entrepreneur August 12, 2011 at 1:18 am #

     “Seriously, you’re asking for my help with your business on the one hand, and then treating me like I’m some Craigslist rando on the other?”
    Don’t take it personally, Matt. The sad truth is that if I avoided asking for help from any guy who makes sexist jokes, leers at waitresses, or displays other behavior that leads me (from my experience) to believe I shouldn’t be alone in his house with him, I’d never get anywhere in the tech startup world.

    I’m not fortunate enough to live in SF or NYC, so the pool of successful entrepreneurs I can tap to build relationships with is limited. As a result, I (guiltily) hang out with some guys who treat women like shit. They’re great sources of advice and connections, but after the third drink, I bail if I don’t want to get groped under the table. Yes, I’m a sellout, and I know not all men are like that, but my boundaries are there for a reason. Take comfort in the fact that they’re universal.

    Maybe I should start some sort of “XX Seal of Approval” for the tech startup community – you get reputation points for every female who’ll vouch for you. Once you’re the Mayor of Chickville or whatever, women will know going to your house alone is kosher. See? Technology solves everything. :)

    • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 1:45 am #

      I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had a rough time. That really sucks.

      • Femme Entrepreneur August 12, 2011 at 5:10 am #

        Meh. It’s reality. Any woman who not only goes into tech, but tries to start her own tech company, knows it ain’t gonna be easy. 

        It bugs me that relationships are the coin of the realm, frankly. I’d much rather be judged on my ideas and my ability to execute – not who I socialize with.

        That said, I’ll be satisfied with making it to a point where I can start pulling other women up with me. Mentor with an XX Combinator, do a little angel investing in women-led businesses. It would be worth eating shit for a few years if I can see the ratio even out to the point where women can find other women to mentor them. And once we have the numbers, I suspect the casual sexism we tolerate with thin smiles now will get treated like a fart in an elevator.

        Unfortunately, I don’t see a whole lot for men to do to work toward gender parity. I think it’s great that you and Fred Wilson and others are acknowledging that there’s something amiss, even if you don’t have solutions. At this point, I think women are the ones who have to work twice as hard to make our shit happen with half as many contacts.

  6. Sachskaren August 12, 2011 at 1:34 am #

    You’re bringing up an importnat and under-discussed issue, but I think you need to dig in a little more.  You give one very specific example of female-ness being a stumbling block..but surely 99.999% of the reason for the women not getting an in has nothing to do with women who don’t want to go to some guys house, right?  So..what other examples or general principles are at play here?  Women don’t play enough golf perhaps? I think what you’re saying is right, I just think it needs more thorough treatment.
    (Incidentally, I’m personally not afraid to go to some guy’s house, but that’s just because I am foolhardy)

    • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 1:40 am #

      Actually, I wanted to dig more but decided that it would be too much of a time suck. But you’re right.

  7. Ainsley K. Braun August 12, 2011 at 6:35 am #

    So, I think one of the reasons why you might be getting this reaction is because you live in the sketchiest neighborhood in SF (or at least one of them). I felt extremely uncomfortable walking within 2-3 blocks of your place, and I knew you :)

    I do think a lot of women play up the woman role and it does add up to a major disadvantage, but when “the guys” group all women into a group of non-risk-takers (note your title: subtle things that hold women back, not subtle things that can hold women back) we all end up at a disadvantageous point, as assumptions are made on both sides. If I didn’t know you, and I were to know SF well enough to know where you live and I knew your general age, I’d be uncomfortable going to your place, too.

    I think you’ve got strong points, but you’ve also got to see how your role plays out in all of this. There are plenty of strong women who actually come out better for being a woman.

    • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 7:04 am #

      Fair points. But at the end of the day do you think a man in the same position would have the same issue? I don’t. And that’s the problem. 

      • Lucretia M Pruitt August 12, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

        You seem like a reasonable enough guy, so instead of just clicking away on this I’ll point something out. No, the man wouldn’t have the same issue – because there isn’t a long, long history of men isolating other men then raping them. But sadly? The same can’t be said of men isolating women and then raping them. And not just “randos from Craigslist” either. Let’s say you weren’t the upstanding young man you know yourself to be and this woman hadn’t taken the precaution she did… If she had gone to your place and been attacked? She would’ve heard no end of “what were you thinking? Going over to the house of a man you’d never met?” comments that blamed her for the situation.
        The problem is much deeper than you’re really understanding. It’s not a “gender problem” it’s a societal problem.
        You see, both genders have the same risk when it comes to any other bizarre situation happening — their car being broken into in front of your house, you being a clever as-yet-discovered serial killer, etc– but not the same risk when it comes to sexual assault. Yes, there’s always the possibility that you’re the rare homosexual rapist – but the odds are really low on that one. Meanwhile, with the statistics still running at 1-out-of-every-3 women being the victim of sexual assault? Not so for the woman.
        Honestly? If that woman hadn’t suggested a public meeting place with a guy she’d never even met in passing before? I’d question her ability to assess risk. Yes, entrepreneurs live with risk. But there’s smart risk and there’s stupid risk. Meeting a guy you’ve never had the chance to even meet for 30 seconds in person at his apartment? That’s not a smart risk.
        But is that a determining factor for success? That she didn’t meet with you? If it is, she’s got a lot bigger problem.
        So do you, actually. Because there really is no such thing as a one-sided equation. When you mentor someone, you get benefits from it as well. You crystallize some of your own concepts into more understandable principles that are not only more easily communicated, but add insight for you as well. You also learn things from those you mentor – even if it’s just information that doesn’t have readily apparent use.
        The thing I’d posit to you is that the 1/2 hour you were ‘unwilling to waste’ showing up for the first meeting (yes, the odds are good that only the first meeting would have been public) will instead be wasted trying to figure out what to type and trying to get the same understanding reading her emails so you can actually respond usefully.

        What disturbs me though is that in your mind, the issue here isn’t that men are still preying on women to such a degree that it’s risky behavior for a woman to come to the home of a man she hasn’t met. Because that’s the real issue. Not whether or not it puts women entrepreneurs at a disadvantage. Strong women entrepreneurs will tinder a way around that disadvantage. But no matter how “smart” a woman is, there’s still a high risk she’ll be the victim of sexual assault.

        • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 3:42 pm #

          You bring up some great points. All of which reinforce my core thesis, unfortunately, that women are simply at a disadvantage here for reasons that no individual can really change. It’s quite frustrating and tragic.

          RE: the time wasted, I guess I’ll say that I’ve been helping younger entrepreneurs out a lot lately and have started to feel a bit of mentorship fatigue, which is partially why I got frustrated so quickly. I love helping people and am loathe to say “no” to people who ask to meet; but i don’t like when it gets complicated and i need to go out of my way. 

          • Lucretia M Pruitt August 12, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

            Now that’s an issue I think impacts both male & female entrepreneurs – all it takes is one stumbling block that they unknowingly put in the way for you and it becomes the reason they missed out on some invaluable guidance.
            Which might actually be a good thing.
            Because it keeps you from spreading yourself too thin and it keeps them from engaging in the not-quite-the-right-fit mentorship.
            I didn’t mention it before as it wasn’t really part of the conversation – but when I was much younger, I “missed out” on a potentially valuable mentorship because (to paraphrase) he was afraid his wife would get the wrong impression as she did with the last woman he mentored. I have no idea whether his wife’s fears were well-founded in the previous case or not. But in that case? Yes, my gender worked against me. In others? It hasn’t.
            Still, they are just hurdles like any others – if you let them get in your way? Could be you’re in the wrong race. ;)

          • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

            Yeah, except that women are dramatically underrepresented in technology entrepreneurship––and that’s a problem. Unless you think it’s not?

          • vpynchon August 13, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

            Thanks for your great responses Lucretia.

            Your anecdote reminds me of my own when I was a young attorney. I LOVED my mentor. He was just great. Not only as a mentor, but as a sponsor as well, telling one of the firm’s old line clients that if the client didn’t “want a woman on his team” (me, that was ’83) then he didn’t want his firm as its attorney because I was the best associate he had. We spent a lot of time together and I learned more from him about being a great litigator and trial attorney than from anyone before or since. He did indicate a “romantic” interest in me at some point and I politely declined (we were both married and he was 20 years my senior). Shortly after the “romance” conversation he said

            “We have to stop having lunch together.”

            “Why?”

            “Because people will think we’re having an affair.”

            “But we’re NOT.”

            “If we were, it would be worth it but since we’re not, it’s not.”

            It’s one of the most painful things anyone in business ever said to me because I truly liked this man and loved spending time with him and because he was such a great help to me in my legal career. Then suddenly I had to come to terms with the fact that he’d been helping me not as a mentor, but as a predator. Very sad day. I still recall it with great disappointment.

      • vpynchon August 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm #

        The other problem is that you see women’s absence from your industry as THEIR problem when it’s really yours – cf. the Deloitte study. Also know that there are some venture capital firms and investment bankers who are refusing to invest in companies that have fewer than three women on Board – not because they’re super politically correct, but because they see in this global economy that the absence of women on Board is an indicator of a company that will not perform well.

  8. Jennifer Ouellette August 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    What Liz Scott said. You have correctly identified part of the problem, and sure, you “invite men to your apartment for meetings all the time.” But you are completely ignoring that, for women, that sort of thing has a potential implication that simply doesn’t exist for men. It’s what “male privilege” means — you don’t have to worry about stuff like that. Absolutely, in a perfect, equal world, this would not, should not, be an issue. We don’t live in that world. Yet. :)

    I’m glad you wrote this post, though, because it’s a step in the right direction. We need to talk openly about what’s different for women vs. men. Both sides have to give a little on this score. The all-male culture has to change a bit to be more welcoming to women. And women need to learn to slowly let go of some of the baggage our society has imposed on them, if they want to succeed. 

    • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 8:03 pm #

      Thanks for not being a hater.

      I appreciate what you’re saying about both sides needing to give a little (although apparently some of the other commenters disagree), but I just don’t see it changing much. And I think the glacial pace of change in the state of women in tech is evidence of that.

  9. Lisa Green August 12, 2011 at 5:18 pm #

    Wow. Your ego is way out of scale with your accomplishments.  You are one year out of school running a company with a small amount of funding, yet you seem to think you are Peter Thiel.  

    Sorry – one year out of school with a small amount of funding *and* you hang with important people at their houses. Thanks for including that photo to make sure everyone knows how cool you are. Did you ever think that maybe the person with the online publishing business was too busy and wanted to meet at a cafe for convenience and time efficiency? She may have wanted you feedback, but that didn’t mean you were the most important person or event in her calendar. Asking people to meet at your house is for good friends or it is a subtle power play that says “I am more important than you so you must accomodate me”. Maybe you just weren’t that important in her mind. 

    • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 7:56 pm #

      This is not a post about me or how cool I am or what I have or have not accomplished.
      If I was wrong to infer that sex had anything to do with it, then I stand corrected––although I think the general point still applies.
      And yes, when you ask someone for advice, they’re doing you a favor. The onus is on you to accommodate them, not the other way around. If I ask someone for help w/ something, I go to where they are––I don’t expect them to come to me. The world just doesn’t work like that.

      • Mary August 13, 2011 at 9:07 pm #

        Here’s another problem with your premise, Matt: you never once said that you explained that you were too busy to meet in a coffee shop (of course you magically have the time to explain it to your readership; hmm, wonder where your priorities lie?). Did you explain this to her, and did you give her a chance to respond or to try to fit into your schedule beyond this one attempt? You’re making an awfully large leap to assume this person’s motivations without actually trying to make the meeting work out.
        Sometimes business meetings don’t work out on the first try because one or both parties are busy; it really says nothing at all about intrinsic abilities of an entire sex just because this ONE meeting didn’t work out on the first try (especially as one of the parties was trying to play the Self-Important Start-Up Guru role).

      • Lisa Green August 15, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

        I am sure she was willing to come to you in the sense of meeting at any of the half dozen coffee shops within two blocks of your house – it was not like she was asking you to meet in a cafe in Glen Park.

    • Luz E Rivera August 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm #

      I do not agree with this comment, the woman could go with a chaperon to watch for her security. and in his house he has his computers and papers works, videos, etc. for to teach a person like that person is inside a college with a teacher doing tutor in the Library.

  10. Steph Boyle August 12, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    You view is completely myopic. It absolutely IS sexism because you assume the issue is that she was a female that she didn’t want to come to your apartment.  Then, building off of that core, flawed argument  you take it all of the way out to “This is why women can’t be entrepreneurs.” That’s completely illogical and frankly, ridiculous and shameful.
    Professional people meet in professional places to have professional discussions all of the time. You live in SOMA, there are cafes minutes in any direction from your apartment – are the other 28 minutes about a shower? Why would anyone want to meet you in your bachelor pad on a Sunday morning?The fact that you invite other entrepreneurs who you know an invite in a group or professional setting means that you have changed the bar on your relationship with them from professional to more inner sanctum. That shouldn’t be a requirement for all advice. The fact that you meet Marc Randolph at his home hours away from you is not analogous to a suggestion that you meet at a cafe on 5th street. The thing that is holding this woman back is that she’s asking someone with 3 years total work experience for advice on entrepreneurship. 

    • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

      Maybe you’re right that I’m assuming the issue was related to sex and not something extraneous. If so, then I stand corrected.
      That said, I’m unclear how you make the jump from me saying “this situation sucks” to “women can’t be entrepreneurs.”

      • Steph Boyle August 13, 2011 at 8:39 pm #

        I don’t think your post says “This situation sucks” – I think it says “women are at a disadvantage for being women because they don’t know how to play in the microcosm of your sandbox and are therefore not able to succeed” for which you do a poor job of creating a case. You do try to do it loudly, though.
         
        What you don’t acknowledge is that you are not a seasoned entrepreneur but you pound your chest as though you are. Then you have the nerve to call another entrepreneur’s behavior lacking because of her gender. You know what happens in the boy’s club. You obviously don’t know how business is done outside of it.

        Check yourself.
        Try some self awareness.
        Grow up.
        Repeat.

        • Matt Mireles August 13, 2011 at 9:11 pm #

          Are early stage tech startups a microcosm? Yes. Is that the world I live in? Yes. Am I qualified to give advice to people who ask me about navigating that microcosm? Yes.
          I’m not talking about navigating corporate america or anything other than the “sandbox” that is very early stage tech companies––a sandbox, btw, with notably few women. Is it a “boy’s club”? YES. That is precisely my point. I wrote as much in the first paragraph. I did not create this situation. I am only commenting on it and bemoaning the situation.

  11. Anonymous August 12, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    While Marc Randolph may or may not be a mensch, I’m not sure using Yiddish incorrectly is helping your case.

  12. Danilo Campos August 12, 2011 at 6:43 pm #

    You’ve taken a single anecdote and extrapolated it to the entirety of all women and all entrepreneurship.

    I got linked here from a friend who was making this face:

    http://imgur.com/yPE6Q

    Then I realized we’d met. Have you considered, perhaps, that what made your correspondent cautious about meeting you was not that you’re a man but how you projected yourself in your interaction with here? What makes you think every man and every woman would have this same issue?

    And even if they did, I’m not comfortable with a world wherein a toxic boys-club mentality is maintained because you can’t afford a five minute walk to Starbucks out of sensitivity to perfectly reasonable caution from another human being.

    Human communities are at their best when they are diverse. It’s in our interest to encourage that, including going out of our way sometimes to accommodate people who are – gasp – different from ourselves and whose realities include very different concerns. There’s a predatory undercurrent in post-agricultural civilization where women are treated as a commodity. That’s what they get to live with each day. That’s the reality they must consider in every interaction. You can either be inflexible to that and maintain the status quo. Or you can have some empathy and help make the world a better place.

    In the time you’ve spent writing this post kvetching and responding to comments, you could have just walked a couple blocks, encouraged a newcomer and did your part to make something broken a little better.

    I’m not sure I buy the value of what you chose instead.

    • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

      “There’s a predatory undercurrent in post-agricultural civilization where women are treated as a commodity. That’s what they get to live with each day. That’s the reality they must consider in every interaction.” <–that was the whole point of this blog post. Not sure how that got missed. 

      • Danilo Campos August 12, 2011 at 8:33 pm #

        It got missed where you, for no reason at all, danced around how simple it is to make an accommodation for that fact, creating an entirely artificial barrier and then throwing up your hands and saying “Shucks, that’s the way it is.” The problem isn’t the existing reality. The problem is pretending that reality is immutable.

        And as an aside, most of the men I talked to about this today chuckled, gave me a knowing look, and said something like “*Sure* he didn’t have time to walk to a coffee shop.” The perception here is hardly unique to women.

  13. Anonymous August 12, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    The simple fact here that you seem to be ignoring, is that having a business meeting in your apartment is totally unprofessional. Who cares if you have had unprofessional meetings with men in your apartment – that only speaks to your lack of experience and overly casual approach to business, it’s certainly not a thesis that explains how women are inadequately positioned to succeeded as entrepreneurs. This sounds to me like the response of a serious individual who was floored that you thought your apartment was a legitimate place to have a business meeting.

    • Matt Mireles August 12, 2011 at 7:44 pm #

      And yet, this is EXACTLY how business gets down in the tech startup world. It is not “professional” in the way other industries are.

      • Your name August 12, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

        Since you recognize this, since you seem to want to see more women in the tech startup world, what are you going to do to reform and change this?

        From your post, I get the impression “nothing but tell women to up their game.”

      • Mike August 13, 2011 at 2:08 am #

        You seem pretty sure of how things are done in the tech startup world for a newbie, but I have to correct you and say that much more business gets done in coffee shops and over dinner (at restaurants) than in people’s apartments. Trust me, I have been around for a quite a while. 

        This post and most of your replies are comical. 

  14. Meagan August 12, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

    Must I write another post

  15. Margaretfrancis August 13, 2011 at 4:24 am #

    I’d like to add a little ‘female entrepreneur’ perspective here. If you want to initiate and nurture the informal relationships that will help your career you will need to get out of your comfort zone on a lot of different levels. Often. Get used to it. The correct response is ‘great. See you at 11am Sunday. I’m bringing coffee.’ If it freaks you out, take precautions: call your mom on your cell before you walk in and leave the phone on in your pocket. Tell your roomate where you’re going. Say ‘i’m so glad you could make time. I’ve got a brunch right after this.’ Buy pepper spray and learn how to use it.

    But ladies: take the meeting.

  16. vpynchon August 13, 2011 at 4:22 pm #

    Oh how I wish you had not attributed this set of miscommunications and assumptions (“she’s afraid to come to my apartment”) to women in general. I’m an entrepreneur (not in tech, but own my own company). I get requests like this all the time with a similar sense of entitlement from both men and women who want to take me out to lunch or buy me coffee in exchange for my incredibly valuable time. This is not to say that I do not happily mentor (guide) AND sponsor (put my own skin in someone else’s  game).  It’s simply to say that people who want to come into my network  (and obviously yours as well) need to be more accommodating to me than they ask me to be to them; express gratitude; and, either pay it forward or pay it back.

    It’s not a strict quid pro quo world (my step-son calls me “radically generous”) but it is a world in which people signal one another that they “get it” in which event they are likely going places and worth the expenditure of my all too meager time or they are not and frankly not worth it. That may sound harsh but less harsh than tarring all women with “not getting it.” By the way, the smilely face was the first and last sign that this woman didn’t “get it.”

    • Matt Mireles August 13, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

      I wouldn’t slam her for using emoticons. But you’re right, when you’re asking someone for help, you need to accomodate them more than they do you. It’s an exchange, but not an equal one. 

  17. Anne Perschel aka @bizshrink August 13, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Dear Matt – You’re probably going to take some flack from women (maybe men too) for what you wrote, but I want to thank you for your openness and honesty. We need to get this “stuff” on the table where we can talk about it and figure out what to do. 

    I’d like to share an example of a man – very much older than you – being uncomfortable meeting a woman in a public place and her loss of a great networking opportunity. That woman would be me. I was supposed to meet a male client – CEO of a medical institution – in the lobby of a hotel. He was attending a conference with other medical CEOs. What a great opportunity for me to be introduced as his biz shrink, leadership coach and consultant – developing the working relationships among and between his executive team. When I saw this email from his admin designating our meeting place I felt the ether energy of his awkwardness meeting  a woman in a hotel lobby right along with it.  Within hours his admin called to say that he would prefer to meet me at a local coffee shop.

    I decided in the future I would ask male clients whether and if so how they could best help me meet  people in their network as a way to develop my own.

    So, here’s the question for you.  If you really want to help women, as well as men, how can you get the right conversation on the table so that together you can figure out how to make it happen? All the time, respecting that you are overwhelmed and it needs to happen in ways that cause you the little time inconvenience.

    In the story you describe, would the phone have been an option? Could you have told her you sensed her discomfort and it would be okay to bring someone else along?

    • Anne Perschel aka @bizshrink August 13, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

      Back for one more comment Matt – You assumed the learning and benefit would be one way. Think again. 

      • Matt Mireles August 13, 2011 at 6:46 pm #

        Sure, it is a two-way street. But typically, when someone asks you for advice, the exchange is not equal. One person tends to get more out of it than the other. 

    • Matt Mireles August 13, 2011 at 6:07 pm #

      Hi Anne,

      Thanks for the thoughtful response!

      Phone would have been an option, although I find F2F results in more meaningful and enjoyable discussion for me. Also, one thing I didn’t mention is that I live w/ my co-founder/CTO Matt Swanson and his feedback tends to be different than mine and equally if not more valuable (he is very much an entrepreneur, not just a engineer). Having him at the table is net positive. And on a Sunday morning, he ain’t leaving our couch for nothin’.
      I like your latter suggestion, however. Would have been an elegant solution. I’ll try that next time.
      Cheers!
      -Matt

  18. Kristina Witmer August 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm #

    I believe you should have just said ‘I can’t meet at this time, check with me next month’. If you don’t have 45 minutes to network then you just don’t. Networking like this is always an effort that both parties should think might benefit them in the future.
    I try to balance my time with people who can obviously help me and those who can benefit from my experiences – but even with those, I do see them as an investment in my future as well.
    I take the assumption that professionals met via business networking are there for the same purpose as me, get ahead, make money, grow the network. But inevitably a moment comes up where the individual has different intentions and I have your exact reaction of ‘is this worth it’, and why am I talking to this person – it’s very frustrating.
    I hope you don’t give up on networking with women in business, because I truly feel that there’s so much to gain by a balance entrepreneur environment with a diverse set of people.

    • Matt Mireles August 13, 2011 at 6:10 pm #

      Hi Kristina,
      Thanks for the comment. For a minute there it felt like I was the only person who felt the “is it worth it?” bug. I definitely have no intention of giving up on helping out women entrepreneurs. I think it’s important and not something that happens enough. I just wish it was easier!

  19. vpynchon August 13, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    By the way, if you’re young (under 40) please commit yourself to radically changing the absence of women in your industry. Consider it part of your pay back to a world in which I’m certain women loved and nurtured you. The women who have loved you and the daughters or nieces who you will love deserve some of your well-spent time bringing them in.

    As the Deloitte study showed, three women on any Board of Directors immediately positively impacts the bottom line – not because women are “better” but because it destroys group-think. This tech boy’s club needs women’s work and women’s voices. It’s both good for business and a civic duty. This is what I ask of all my young friends (that or resolve the climate crisis) other than please come visit me in the nursing home in 30 years (when I’ll be 89).

  20. banane August 13, 2011 at 4:35 pm #

    I totally agree with you. I go to start up weekends, hackfests, etc. quite a bit, and I’ve made some really great informal friendships with – mostly guys- well, almost 98% guys. I also do crazy things that my mother probably wouldn’t approve of- notoriously, perhaps, would be carpooling with random guys I’ve met on the conference board down to San Jose. Not super safe according to, well, anyone. But that is where I met a friend who is now a funded start-up owner and we’ve had amazing conversations about technology and business. And another guy who was looking at seed funding various start-ups (yes, he carpooled). It’s opened doors to other conferences and other friendships. I’ve had folks over to my house- who I hadn’t met before- as clients for data analysis- though I’m not sure I’d invite over people who I had truly never met before without some common acquaintance or friendship. I would rely on a cafe, as it’s just easier and I can walk away from it. But I’m not looking for advice and funding on a start-up. 

    You’re spot on that it’s an informal, casual way of networking, and honestly, I rely heavily on my intuition and judgment. How did I meet them (online), how do I know them, do they know people I know, etc. In almost all cases there is a connecting thread. I understand the woman in the scenario too, if that was her intention. I agree with other commenters that she may have had a busy schedule, your apt. was remote, etc. besides just the safety issue. Still- what prevented her from bringing an employee or co-founder? My female friends in the space are all strong go-getters who regularly meet with relative strangers. You just jump at opportunities. Still, historically, culturally, and from our training, we are told to- literally- not walk alone at night. Don’t walk the same path home. Don’t do this and that that any independent person trying to make their way, would do. I have a few of these ridiculous letters sent by concerned aunts and grandmothers lying around. It’s about conditioning, and I can understand the protectionism, but as an entrepreneur you really have to shed it. 

    Also- sexual harassment in these situations still abounds. I love that you wrote this, so that it at once tells women it’s OK, there are non-creepy guys out there. And also setting the standard for guys- it is a different situation for women, just be sensitive about it.

    Cross-gender mentorship, now that’s a whole other blog post. I wish there was more of it. I think that is truly the problem with the venture/start-up scene. We’re investing in ourselves- like likes like- instead of looking at the problem someone is trying to solve.

    • Matt Mireles August 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm #

      100% agreed on the carpooling thing. Great way to network and make friends.
      I also throw bi-weekly “Founders’ Poker” nights at my pad and always try to include at least one woman. Everyone typically gets drunk, makes friends, learns about what’s happening out there and has a great time.

  21. Truthteller August 13, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    I can’t believe this was entirely an innocent invitation. Come on… this is a guy who publicly makes a point of taking his interns to strip clubs, promoting a “dude” culture at his company, and generally being an asshole in public to get other people to pay attention to him. And you think that he asked this woman to come over on a Sunday morning ALONE to his bachelor pad (the “MattPad” — I mean, how much cheesier can you get?) to discuss entrepreneurship?

    He wanted to get into her panties, using entrepreneurship as an excuse. When she didn’t play along, he decided not to help her. That’s traditional sexual harassment, straight, no chaser. At least, in most places, a guy will meet you in public first before trying to make a move. He probably wanted to save the $2.50 on coffee and also get to isolate her at the same time. Not only is he a harasser, he’s a lazy harasser who won’t leave his apartment. That’s the kind of guy that you want to do business with. NOT.

    This guy has a lot of issues with his ego, with women, and with trying to be something he’s not. AVOID. 

  22. Luz E Rivera August 13, 2011 at 4:55 pm #

    I had been trying to do business online for so long. and you are right, I lost all the opportunities when the meeting ONE-ON-ONE was available for the training system, personal contact with the CEO, one day I received several calls for to go to the most expensive Hotel Ryatt in Tampa, and I refused to meet that Millionaire man. I was afraid. because I am a woman. NOW I am in LinkedIn, and Facebook trying again.

  23. pemo August 13, 2011 at 6:08 pm #

    Matt I think the title of your post says a lot more about you than about the female entrepreneurs that you have met.  Of course it has encouraged a lot of comments on your post as it stirs up a lot of emotion from both sides.  It’s good to contribute to the entrepreneurial community by supporting women & not sure that this post has supported anyone but you & your ego???  I have been interviewing vcs, angels & women founders on the shortfall of funding for women & have been blessed with connecting with so many amazing women.  You can view the summary of this project http://www.ezebis.com/venture/women-funded-less-men-crowdsourced/ Self awareness is really important for us all as a community & it might help us all to work together?

    • Matt Mireles August 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

      Here’s what I have seen in the startup community: A whole lot of dudes who share valuable intel with each other over beers, trips to Tahoe, at the end of long drunken nights and other informal settings. Intel like:
      -Which investors are good to work with & what kinds of terms they’re offering -What valuations people are getting
      -Which startups are failing & which are pivoting (and what they’re pivoting into) -What startups have raised money, how much, from whom and on what terms -Tips and tricks for raising money, working with lawyers and doing deals
      This info is EXTREMELY VALUABLE. It is not available on TechCrunch. It is part of what distinguishes a savvy founder from a n00b.
      Here’s what I don’t see: Women at the table when these conversations happen (most of the time). Personally, I make an active effort to include women (and frankly all sorts of other people not already in “the club”) when I have poker nights at my place, socialize with other entrepreneurs, etc. But I’m an outlier.
      And if you go to any tech event, you’ll see the shortage of women. I did not create this dynamic. I am merely commenting on it and hypothesizing a cause, so that others can come up with a solution.
      CURRENT “SOLUTIONS” TO THIS PROBLEM ARE NOT WORKING.

    • Matt Mireles August 13, 2011 at 6:32 pm #

      Here’s what I have seen in the startup community: A whole lot of dudes who share valuable intel with each other over beers, trips to Tahoe, at the end of long drunken nights and other informal settings. Intel like:
      -Which investors are good to work with & what kinds of terms they’re offering -What valuations people are getting
      -Which startups are failing & which are pivoting (and what they’re pivoting into) -What startups have raised money, how much, from whom and on what terms -Tips and tricks for raising money, working with lawyers and doing deals
      This info is EXTREMELY VALUABLE. It is not available on TechCrunch. It is part of what distinguishes a savvy founder from a n00b.
      Here’s what I don’t see: Women at the table when these conversations happen (most of the time). Personally, I make an active effort to include women (and frankly all sorts of other people not already in “the club”) when I have poker nights at my place, socialize with other entrepreneurs, etc. But I’m an outlier.
      And if you go to any tech event, you’ll see the shortage of women. I did not create this dynamic. I am merely commenting on it and hypothesizing a cause, so that others can come up with a solution.
      CURRENT “SOLUTIONS” TO THIS PROBLEM ARE NOT WORKING.

      • Mary August 13, 2011 at 8:58 pm #

        Actually, this information is out there. My husband and his female business partner are getting this info from all of the professional (and non-house-related!) events they go to. They’ve gotten a lot of meetings wherein they ask for advice, all of which were held at the interviewee’s office or over the phone, and never at a person’s house.
        You may not have created this dynamic, but you have every ability to help change it, and you’re doing nothing. In my book you are exactly part of the problem.

      • pemo August 14, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

        I don’t think that because women are not appearing at these drunken male get togethers does not equal that we are n00bs. Also it doesn’t equal that current solutions are not working. Possibly there are other things happening in the ecosystem that are different than the contexts that you have experienced as male entrepreneur that are helping to #changetheratio? The culture is changing as more & more women are joining the ranks because as Adeo Ressi said ‘It is pretty obvious that the startup culture was created by men & to get more women onboard that culture has to change.’ While you are obviously blissfully unaware of it, the culture is changing & many women are impacting it, even the woman you failed to meet because of your busy schedule.

  24. Truthfulentrepreneur August 13, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    You deleted this comment the first time. Show some integrity and be willing to allow posts that pierce your precious bubble. Or are you too invested in controlling your public image?

    I can’t believe this was entirely an innocent invitation. Come on… this is a guy who publicly makes a point of taking his interns to strip clubs, promoting a “dude” culture at his company, and generally being an asshole in public to get other people to pay attention to him. And you think that he asked this woman to come over on a Sunday morning ALONE to his bachelor pad (the “MattPad” — I mean, how much cheesier can you get?) to discuss entrepreneurship?

    He wanted to get into her panties, using entrepreneurship as an excuse. When she didn’t play along, he decided not to help her. That’s traditional sexual harassment, straight, no chaser. At least, in most places, a guy will meet you in public first before trying to make a move. He probably wanted to save the $2.50 on coffee and also get to isolate her at the same time. Not only is he a harasser, he’s a lazy harasser who won’t leave his apartment. That’s the kind of guy that you want to do business with. NOT.

    This guy has a lot of issues with his ego, with women, and with trying to be something he’s not. AVOID.

    • Matt Mireles August 13, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

      You are being a troll and making a very serious and completely unfounded accusation. That is why you were deleted, oh brave anonymous commentator.

  25. Persistentlyhonest August 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm #

    I am not being a troll — and yes, it is a very serious accusation… one that you should answer, given your reputation in the industry as a “bad boy” and rebel. Why do you choose not to answer it? You hold others’ feet to the fire and “skewer sacred cows”, but cannot address questions about your own?

    My bravery is not at issue here. Only your honesty and willingness to engage in the conversation. I repeat my comment below in the hopes that you will walk your talk.

    I can’t believe this was entirely an innocent invitation. Come on… this is a guy who publicly makes a point of taking his interns to strip clubs, promoting a “dude” culture at his company, and generally being an asshole in public to get other people to pay attention to him. And you think that he asked this woman to come over on a Sunday morning ALONE to his bachelor pad (the “MattPad” — I mean, how much cheesier can you get?) to discuss entrepreneurship?

    He wanted to get into her panties, using entrepreneurship as an excuse. When she didn’t play along, he decided not to help her. That’s traditional sexual harassment, straight, no chaser. At least, in most places, a guy will meet you in public first before trying to make a move. He probably wanted to save the $2.50 on coffee and also get to isolate her at the same time. Not only is he a harasser, he’s a lazy harasser who won’t leave his apartment. That’s the kind of guy that you want to do business with. NOT.

    This guy has a lot of issues with his ego, with women, and with trying to be something he’s not. AVOID.

    • Matt Mireles August 13, 2011 at 7:42 pm #

      Ok then Anonymous Troll: You are completely wrong and your accusation is baseless. I help people all the time and have people come over to the MattPad (there’s two of us, we live together) all the time. I enjoy having people over. I like doing business casually. It’s how I roll.
      Also, I don’t know where you’re getting your intel, but I have never taken our interns or any employee for that matter to a strip club. Perhaps you’re mistaking the fact that our office is in the shadiest part of SF and located between 2 strip clubs for something else.
      Btw, it is my right to invite people over to my apartment as I see fit. This is America, after all.
      The logical lesson from your position is that I (and by inference, most men) should avoid helping women entrepreneurs at all, lest it come across as a sexual advance. Great thinking there, anon. Really advancing the cause…

  26. Matt Levine August 13, 2011 at 7:37 pm #

    Matt – good job drawing attention to the article and the issue at hand. However, the problem doesn’t rest with women – it rests with the systemic problem of male violence against women. In your post, it comes across that you’re blaming her (and other women) for not being able to take meetings with all-but-strange men in their residences, but high levels of assault on women mean that women need to be particularly cautious. In your house, you have full power. And if a woman were to go over to a male influencer’s residence and the male influencer were to assault her, society would blame her for not taking more caution.

  27. Sue Kim August 15, 2011 at 1:07 pm #

    You’re a champ for hanging in there through all the comments.  I’m glad you posted the update, because the initial story seems like an edge case anecdote that doesn’t really represent the issue, but only distracts.  Thanks for the honesty and resulting discussion.

  28. Lumen Sivitz August 16, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    Matt, after reading your original post and the subsequent comments, I think the real issue of contention is this bit:  

    “Except, apparently, I can’t help women. At least not in the same way I’d help a man. I really don’t like that fact. But I don’t know what to do about it.”

    Women really ARE at a big disadvantage for exactly the reasons you laid out.  Now, solutions: because they’re at an increased disadvantage, increased attention/care/time are the medicine.  

    Yes, it will not be as easy for you (or anyone) to buck the norms and go the extra mile to help a woman like this out, but *That Is Exactly What These Women Need* (!) to gain traction as founders & blaze a more voluminous path for other women.  Treating the situation with status quo solutions (the way one helps males to get ahead) won’t fix the problem.

    Now, this shows the issue for really what it is:  Lack of those with the influence/knowledge needed going the additional extra mile to help women get ahead (above and beyond the extra mile they already go for men).

    Perhaps in the future you will be able to write off that extra 30 minutes of donated time to ‘the cost of furthering female tech entrepreneurship’, and do so gladly.  I don’t fault you for your actions in the least– you are not obligated to this task.  But if you are looking for a solution, this is it.  Never easy :)

  29. Ellie August 17, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    “The pattern is
    basically: guy entrepreneurs make friends with other guy entrepreneurs.
    Bromance ensues. As a result, junior dude learn the tips and tricks and
    inside scoops that are going to give them an edge in the marketplace
    from senior dude.”

    Here’s the issue played out further, I worry about this all the time since I am in fact a young aspiring female entrepreneur. For the record, I’d probably just stop by your house, but then, I don’t think SOMA is that bad in the daytime. Yep, I am that hard.

    Female entrepreneur makes friends with male entrepreneur, this is
    inevitable because there just aren’t that many senior female
    entrepreneurs.

    Then is it bromance or is it romance? The female entrepreneur can
    never be sure that the senior male entrepreneur isn’t abusing the power
    dynamic to score some hot young tail. Or maybe it’s the other way
    around, and the male entrepreneur is always a little guarded because he
    knows how much chicks dig daddy figures but he’s just not interested.

    Then maybe it is romance, on one person’s part, or maybe both, either
    way maybe it ends badly and the younger female entrepreneur now has to
    worry about a senior level guy in her field who’s ready to badmouth her
    at every turn.

    But maybe, these two are really good at setting interpersonal
    boundaries or maybe they’re both just that happily involved in their own
    relationships or maybe the female entrepreneur is a stone dyke or the
    male the faggiest of homos so there’s basically no question there. Or
    maybe they even figured out a nice positive daddy/daughter relationship
    that works and isn’t too creepy.

    But then you’ve got to worry about what everyone else thinks, what do
    your colleagues think, what do your friends think, what do the
    busybodies and rumor-mongers think? If someone could possibly discredit
    you by saying that you slept your way to the top she will.

    And what do
    your respective significant others think? There are lots of spouses who haven’t
    yet accepted that a woman and a man could possibly have any other type of relationship except romantic, and no one is going to hold on to any
    business relationship for too long if it’s going to make his home life
    an immediate living hell of constant interrogation.

    Given all those exhausting possibilities, sometimes it does seem safer
    to hold out for the guy who will talk to you about business in a
    neutral public location. And if the dude knows what’s good for him,
    he’ll respect that safety boundary for what it is.

  30. Tina August 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm #

    Just wondering how people would respond if we change the roles.  A female inviting a male to her apartment to give him advice?  What would you all be saying then?  

    • Crystal August 22, 2011 at 6:23 pm #

      This is an interesting point. I recently met with the 21 yr old son of a friend of mine, who was looking for career advice. I briefly considered meeting in my backyard (I have a new puppy) but decided Starbucks made more sense. Next time we meet, I’d be happy to have him over but it felt weirdly casual for a business-oriented conversation with someone I’d never met.

  31. Klb August 24, 2011 at 4:53 am #

    If she went to your place, it is entirely possible that others who knew about the meeting would assume y’all slept together, and spread the news.  That would ruin *her* reputation, not *yours,* and it happens all too often.

    The following quote perfectly illustrates your difficulty comprehending the depth of your mentee’s dilemma: 
    “This is not the result of sexism. (I invite entrepreneurs of all sexes over to my apartment all the time)
    I was behaving rationally. I had good intentions. In her own way, she
    was behaving rationally as well. But she wouldn’t have this issue if she
    was a he.” 

    “This is not the result of sexism.”  It is most definitely the result of sexism.  The fact that you don’t see that shows how entrenched you are in the sexist system.

    “I was behaving rationally.”   (And, by contrast, she wasn’t?)

    “In her own way, she
    was behaving rationally as well.”  (*For a girl*, she was behaving rationally, right?)

    “But she wouldn’t have this issue if she
    was a he.”  (As though she has any control over being a he or she?  Of course, neither would she have this issue if *you* were a *she.*)

    Essentially, you are blaming her.  You don’t seem to understand that appearances are everything for women, and that’s not their choice.  It’s not that *she* has a problem meeting you at your house, it’s that society has a problem.  You have just played along and blamed her.  As usual.  The men make the rules and then complain when the women play by those rules.

  32. Humorless Feminist August 24, 2011 at 6:36 am #

    To echo earlier commenters, asking a stranger to come to your house for an initial, professional meeting is out of the normal and borderline creepy, even taking gender out of the equation. Mazel tov to you if you’ve done it before (and sorry to people who felt like they had to accommodate your bizarre requests), but it doesn’t make a common or courteous practice. I’m a woman who’s been lucky to have male and female mentors, and who networks frequently in person, but always in public places or offices because THAT’S WHAT PEOPLE DO.

    Second, it sure as hell is sexist of you to extrapolate from this one interaction — which actually has everything to do with your ego, laziness, and insensitivity, not gender inequality — that this is why women don’t get ahead like men do in tech. Surely, without the precious nuggets of wisdom available ONLY FROM YOU and ONLY IN YOUR PLACE OF RESIDENCE could this woman succeed. I realize *you* think the point of your post is that this one incident made you suddenly aware of male privilege, and that’s just super — I’ll mail you a gold star for being an Amazing Hero Guy. But what so many of us are picking up on is that really, this is about your weird demands and sad need for affirmation. Lord knows you’ve spent more than 30 minutes writing this post and responding to comments. Probably the best use of your time would be getting some therapy for narcissism and control issues. Really, I’m glad the situation ended up with this woman not meeting you, because I can’t imagine her gaining anything other than your warped view of reality.

    Lastly, it’s really disappointing to hear other women say “take a meeting in an uncomfortable environment or else you suck and you’ll fail!” No, no, no. This woman clearly had the right instincts and was right to follow them.

  33. Tina August 24, 2011 at 10:47 am #

    so reading all the comments has been very helpful, and as a female entrepreneur who has been told get some of those “mentors” here is what I am planning to do:  if I call for advice I’m gonna insist you come to my house for the meeting.  I’m gonna open the door in my robe holding a beer, cause I’m too busy to get dressed and well, cause  I like beer.  A few of my girlfriends may just drop by, but that shouldn’t make anyone feel uncomfortable cause they’ll just sit on the sofa and watch some porn or maybe just use the bathroom since they are in the neighborhood — just coming from some guy’s apartment where they spent the night.  I’ll definitely not offer you coffee, cause  I don’t have any, I usually get coffee down the street.  AND I won’t let you use my bathroom cause there is hair everywhere and I don’t want anyone looking in my medicine cabinet.  But I’m pretty sure you’d find my place a wonderful location to talk seriously about my company and how you can help me.  Who cares if people see you over? oh, maybe they’ll think? … they think I’m that desperate?  oh wait.  No way, let’s meet in a dark alley, that’s safer.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Startups and Sexism | GladLab - August 31, 2011

    [...] is not new, but has become nauseously oversimplified in the startup community.  Matt Mireles (Subtle Things that Hold Women Back) and Penelope Trunk (Are Startups Better as Single-Gender Affairs?) have both recently blogged [...]

  2. How Men Can Be Better Mentors To Women - Forbes - November 30, 2011

    [...] “Subtle Things That Hold Women Back,” Mireles is approached by a woman who wants his thoughts on her growing online publishing [...]

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