Response Crafting

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Dear “women in tech” event organizers: you’re doing it wrong.

I recently attended a “female founders pitch fest,” where each (female) founder had 3 minutes to describe her startup to a panel of (female) venture capitalists, who then had 4 minutes for feedback and Q&A. I don’t much like “women’s” events, despite occasionally going to them. And this is part of the reason why:

Most of the startups pitching had one founder. A few had 2 or 3. All of them, though, were women – except for one dude, co-founding a startup with a woman.

When it was this team’s turn to pitch, only the woman was allowed to speak. When it came to questions, only she was allowed to answer. The guy was permitted to do nothing but stand there in silence. (The one time he did try to say something, gently offering clarification, the event moderator quickly cut him off.)

Guys, if you refuse to let dudes speak at your “women in tech” and “female founders” events, you’re doing it wrong.

Your progress shouldn’t depend on handicapping those you think have the upper hand.

What value does your progress have if you won it by tying others’ hands? Worse, what’s the logic in silencing your own team mates because you saw them as “the opponent?”

Do you think women can’t make it unless we muzzle the men?

Well, we can. Women can take on unrestrained (read: real) opponents and we can let the men on our team play as well. We can win by playing fair.

I’d sooner play for real in “the boy’s game” and risk going home empty-handed – would even rather not play at all – than win what you’ve made into a Harrison Bergeron trophy.

Some may point out that women have been silenced historically. Fine. But you can honor this and still treat others as you want to be treated, to show all genders respect, to win more honestly than others did. What happened to all that “male allies” talk? Didn’t we want them on our team?

Get it together, “women in tech” events.

Oh, and serve something other than rosé and rice crackers. That is also not really helping.*


actual rose and “rice crackers” from the event

*If you’re going to serve women nothing but pink wine and “health foods” at your own “pro-women” events, you don’t exactly have room to be surprised or offended when companies try to be more “female-friendly” by handing out nail files as “female swag” or sponsoring #hackahairdryer campaigns.