Much has been written on the issue of sexism in the tech industry, but Wired caught up with some female entrepreneurs to find out exactly what women cofounders face when trying to get their startups funded.
Kathryn Minshew, cofounder of the job search and career advice site The Muse, shared her story of what happened when she tried to meet with a male venture capitalist.
Two months into funding for The Muse, Minshew attended a dinner hosted by tech entrepreneurs, she told Wired.
The guest of honour, whom Minshew described as a “well-known investor and former entrepreneur,” approached her during the dinner and said he wanted to learn more about her business model.
Minshew then touched base with his assistant, sent over her pitch deck, and scheduled a meeting with the investor for 4 p.m. the following Tuesday, she told Wired. At the last minute, however, the investor said his schedule had changed and asked to meet Minshew at a bar in his hotel.
She agreed to meet him, and the encounter went smoothly at first. But things became awkward and uncomfortable for Minshew soon after. When the two moved to a couch in the bar, Minshew told Wired he sat so close to her that his body was leaning on the entire left side of hers.
His questions went from professional to personal, too, she said. Here’s what she told Wired:
I was pretty upset and trying to direct the conversation back to business. I was sitting with my arm in a blocking position because he was so close. I was basically pushing his chest off me. So after not long, I said, ‘I have to leave,’ and left.
This type of scenario is common for female entrepreneurs, Minshew told Wired. When she tells these stories to other women in the industry, she said, many respond by saying, “I’m so relieved; I thought I was the only one.”
Other women in the business have shared similar stories. Pardees Safizadeh, head of marketing at trinket.io, a website for learning how to code in the Python language, said an angel investor continuously approached her to try and score a date. When she declined, he offended her so awfully that she was prompted to slap him across the face.
Women, unlike male startup founders, sometimes need to consider the investor’s intentions before going out for drinks, which can prove to be a challenge since early funding is built on camaraderie, Minshew told Wired. Here’s how Danielle Weinblatt, founder of the video interview platform Take The Interview, described it to Wired:
Guys can say: ‘It was great to meet you at that event. Let’s go grab a beer…’ Women just can’t do that. We’re inevitably always going to be left out of things, because there are certain lines you can’t cross and things that are unspoken parts of the boys club.
That’s not to say that all venture capitalists act this way, and not all female entrepreneurs face these issues. Jessica Mah, founder of accounting and payroll service InDinero, told Wired she’s only had “wonderful” experiences pitching investors. But those that do face some sort of discrimination feel that it’s taboo to talk about it, as Minshew told Wired:
The most common thing I hear from other women is: ‘Oh the stories I’ll tell once I’m far enough along that I don’t have to worry about being shamed.’