Heidi Roizen is a successful, former entrepreneur and partner at venture firm, DFJ. This weekend, she wrote a post about her experiences as a 20 and 30-something year old female entrepreneur (she’s now in her 50’s).
Heidi starts by recounting stories that were personally familiar to me. In her 20’s some men treated her like a sex object and didn’t take her (or her pitch, job, position) seriously. These men were investors, partners, customers, and pretty much could fall into any category of dealings she had. In her 30’s (I presume), when she was pregnant, she also was treated differently but this time it was doubt about how pregnancy and motherhood might affect her odds of success or her qualities as a investee, partner, customer, etc.
So what was her advice? Largely, she was pragmatic and human: she advocated that women treat each situation on its own merits, consider context, intent and then to do what made the most sense. In many cases, this meant simply walking away from a person or situation that was personally unacceptable. Heidi explains that she does not recommend making a big, public stink:
“I am not recommending calling out bad behavior and shaming the individual or individuals responsible. In a perfect world people would have to account for their behavior. But as an entrepreneur who spent years in a daily battle for existence, I did not feel like I could afford the hit I’d take in exposing these incidents.”
I completely sympathize with this advice. But its a false notion that you have to choose.
The whole point of Fairygodboss is to minimize the conflict between choosing to do the “right thing” and “choosing what’s best for you”.
One of the beautiful things about the internet is that communities and communication have created a lot of options and paradigms for transparency. Women can share anonymous information about companies and individuals, such as the ones she encountered, without exposing themselves as a martyr for the feminist cause. Women can also communicate with each other in protected forums. This can be both about past events as well as present ones, depending on the individual woman’s level of sensitivity. For example, Heidi obviously feels more comfortable sharing her former experiences now that she has a few decades between her and those events. She also sounds incredibly open to giving other young women advice (which is her own stated motivation behind the blog post). She has done something helpful for women reading her blog, but I hope Fairygodboss will do the same thing, at scale: give women who find themselves in Heidi’s former situations a bit more (safe) empowerment to expose things that shouldn’t happen.
You can read Heidi’s post here.