Oddly enough in this world of over 7 billion people with roughly half that are female, people can still have a blank look on their face when they see a woman in a place where we are scarce. It happens from time to time, as a woman the best way to get through it is to remember that they may not notice that they are actually speaking to you differently, which is terrible! Or they simply do not regularly see women in other roles outside the assistant or analyst role. Mind you, these roles are very different, but people may have younger women indexed as a certain role in this grand business world.
Sheryl Sandberg’s advice is to remain nice and smile as people expect women to be nice. I can see why she would recommend that and I am sure it can be effective. My approach is to be consistent in how I treat everyone. These people are humans like everyone else. When they mistake what it is I do or what my role is, I drive the conversation in an objective format to keep them from noticing – “Wait a minute! She is a female…. How strange, get a man in here with gray hair… !” It is really absurd.
Luckily, I live and work in New York so these encounters are rare. But the venture community will still act with some reproach and want to know who they can really talk to about companies that are screened. I continue with the objective approach and keep communication simple.
“You can speak with me.”
- Stay Objective
- Stay Respectful
- And it is not push back if you maintain your position in the conversation. People may just be pushy because they cannot understand how some women are in certain roles.