Not All Girlfriends Have Your Back

A lot of people have talked about how women in Silicon Valley are ignored or otherwise disrespected. It’s true that this does happen. When you imagine it happening, you probably call to mind a man dissing a woman. What most people don’t realize, however, is that the perpetrators are sometimes themselves women. In fact, in all but one instance that I can recall being snubbed, it’s been by another woman.

There were different sorts of snubs. I remember once at a fundraising pitch, the woman investor brushed me off when I tried to respond to her question. She wanted to hear from our (male) CEO even though I was best suited to answer that particular question. And I recall my frustration when, after having spent a lot of time talking to a reporter about a topic that, again, I understood better, she quoted my 2 male colleagues instead. I’ve even had women literally walk away from me in mid-conversation to speak with my male cofounder. A very famous woman once treated me like her personal assistant. I think she’d read me as an admin when I greeted her upon arrival.

Each of these examples individually isn’t really a big deal. In fact, I feel sort of petty even recounting them. But over the years they (and others) form a pattern that’s impossible to ignore. Only one instance was by a man, even though women are in the minority in Silicon Valley.

I used to naively assume that if someone was a woman, she’d automatically support and encourage me. There were so few of us. I’d assumed we’d band together to help the tide rise, so to speak.

For sure, some women are supportive. But there are otherssome of them quite visible feministswhose actions belie their ideology.

Why? When I think about the women who treated me disrespectfully, what most all had in common was that they were power-hungry. And because I was a woman, I think they read me as powerless and therefore not useful to them. They didn’t think they had to stay on my good side.

But there are lots of power-hungry men in Silicon Valley, so why weren’t they dissing me too? Possibly because the men at least felt obliged to be polite to me. As men, they had to worry that I might take offense and claim sexism.

I’m bringing this up because as a woman you’re likely to get snubbed at some point. What you can’t predict is who is going to do it to you. Don’t assume that all men will snub you and that no women will. And remember that people’s public statements are no guide to their behavior.

But I’m also sharing this to remind you to make a concerted effort to help other women founders and treat them with respect. And always make sure that you have a girlfriend’s back.