Shortly after Kathryn Tucker started ‘RedRover’, and app that showcases local events for kids, she pitched the idea to an angel investor at a New York tech event. But it didn’t go over well. When she finished her pitch, the investor said he didn’t invest in women.
When she asked why, he told her, “I don’t like the way women think. They haven’t mastered linear thinking.” To prove his point, he explained that his wife could never prioritize her to-do lists properly. And then, as if he was trying to complement her, he told Tucker she was different. “You’re more male,” he said.
Tucker didn’t need to hear anymore. “I said, ‘Thanks very much,’ walked out, and never spoke to him again.” She recalled this exchange, early 2014, as part of a panel discussion on “fundraising while female” at the annual Internet Week conference in New York. It was one of many stories shared during a panel that painted the tech world as a place that – is still very much stuck in the past when it comes to attitudes involving gender.
Rachel Sklar, founder of Change the Ratio, an advocacy group for women in tech, shared the story of an investor who said he doesn’t invest in women he doesn’t find attractive. Another woman in the audience gave a tip for pitching to VCs: “Wear a wedding ring.”
Research has shown that gender discrimination of varying degrees – both conscious and subconscious – is alive and well among tech’s overwhelmingly white, male investors. And the stories shared by many women – on that Internet Week panel and beyond – bear this out. According to a recent report from Pitchbook, only 13% of venture-backed companies had at least one female co-founder. In the software sector, women-run businesses accounted for just 10% of all VC deals. (And that’s a drastic improvement.)
Certainly, not all VCs discriminate against female founders. Not all female founders feel they’ve been discriminated against. Not all female founders deserve to be funded. And yes, there are many stories that will restore your faith in the industry. But there’s another truth to remember: For every story you hear about investors behaving badly, there are far worse stories that women wouldn’t dare to tell.
For women who have experienced this bias the simple act of talking about it is taboo. There’s a notion that acknowledging the problem only exacerbates it. No one wants to be known as the woman who cried sexism for fear of being labeled a tattletale, a liability, or, at the very least, not worth the trouble.
And yet, it’s only through these stories that we can begin to understand that the statistics aren’t the result of some fluke or mass oversight, but a very real problem that needs to be solved.
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Read Article (Issie Lapowsky | wired.com | 07/10/2014)
Digital inequalities broadly defined in terms of people’s internet usage, skills & self-perceptions, are as important as traditional measures of inequality in which we are all too familiar: gender, race and class. When these digital inequalities combine with familiar terms –they make them worse by carrying over “pre-existing differences” into the online environment.
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