The last two weeks have been full of travel. It started with a Board meeting in Toronto, then a long weekend in Scottsdale with girlfriends, and finally a few days in the Bay area for meetings and the second annual AllRaise VC Summit. As I came out of a powerful, supportive weekend with friends into the energy of the largest gathering of female VCs ever, I started to reflect on the strong, positive shift in the tech community and broader women’s movement.
For a while, I have feared some of the groups intending to help level the playing field for women and girls were actually making things worse. I have been turned off by the “othering” that has been occurring. I have watched as groups seem to be more insular. And, I have seen male allies become increasingly confused as to how to navigate relatively simple, benign conversations. In my mind, I started to develop my own bias putting these groups into two categories: the haters and the changemakers.
The haters have been tapping into years of misogyny and injustice. Many conversations seem to center around being a victim of the patriarchy. They see prejudice and bias around every corner. I began to see evidence that exclusionary behavior would only spread and further divide. Twice I attended women-only dinners, where attendees would complain about being excluded from men-only events. The intentions were right, but the hypocrisy was thick.
Lately, however, there have been more and more groups that fall into the category of changemakers. Women claiming their power along with their seat at the table – or building their own tables. Individuals focusing on specific problems and solutions. Women focused on impacting positive change and measuring that change in both qualitative and quantitative ways. Women helping to teach, coach and guide their male allies. And, more comfort in calling out poor behavior in a way that is like sunlight creating transparency and accountability rather than outrage.
The single biggest difference that I am seeing is the honest conversations starting to occur regarding money and economic independence. The conversations are more direct and pointed. The solutions more realistic and actionable. Here are some examples:
- Female colleagues gaining leverage in compensation negotiations by utilizing information from male allies willing to share their personal details.
- Coveted founders making allocations to VC firms with diverse investors over traditional, name brand firms that have a history of investing in bad actors.
- Investors attending open office hours providing access to entrepreneurs outside of their “warm intro” networks.
- Male and female investors helping to steer their best deals to female investors or male allies, giving them an edge in winning deals.
- Current Board members actively recruiting a diverse, qualified slate of potential candidates to be considered for open Board seats.
I use these examples because they are not solo actions. They require individuals in positions of power and influence to recognize that there is a gap – informational, economic, social, geographic, experiential, etc. between them and others. The gap is not something to be blamed for or ashamed by, it is something to recognize. It requires individuals to be thoughtful. To think outside their immediate networks. To resist default instincts and learned behavior and take intentional action to make change.
Hiking in Scottsdale, my friends and I started to use the phrase ‘up mountain’ to signify the increasing economic power represented by the beautiful and ever expansive homes at higher elevations. I like to think of it both as the struggle of the ascent as well as the destination of getting there. Let’s go ‘up mountain’ together.