Big News: FounderDating is joining OneVest to build the largest community for entrepreneurs. Details here
Latest Notifications
You have no recent recommendations.
Name
Title
 
MiniBio
FOLLOW
Title
 Followers
FOLLOW TOPIC

Question goes here

1,300 Followers

  • Name
    Entrepreneur
  • Name
    Entrepreneur
  • Name
    Entrepreneur
  • Name
    Entrepreneur
  • Name
    Entrepreneur
  • Name
    Entrepreneur
  • Name
    Entrepreneur
  • Name
    Entrepreneur

How do you respond to covertly sexist comments?

As a female entrepreneurs I find that most of the comments made to me or repeated to me that are problems are not the overt, awful comments that most people know are wrong. It's actually the more covert comments, greetings, events we're excluded from (E.g. dinners) that make the impact. It's really death by 1000 paper cuts. The problem I see is that if you say something in the moment or too often, people tell you you're making a big deal of things or just complain a lot. Sue Decker sums it up well here
I'm curious how other female founders tackle this - do you always say something? How do you say something without making everyone feel like a jerk - because they probably aren't one, they just didn't realize. And yet still not always be "that girl" ?

Not trying to incite a riot, just believe this is important and especially on International Women's Day. Constructive responses only please.

107 Replies

ArLyne Diamond, Ph.D.
15
3
ArLyne Diamond, Ph.D. Entrepreneur
Diamond Associates: Consultants to Management - Transforming Individuals and Organizations by cooperative interaction
I think the best way to ignore the covert comments is to ignore them and assume you have full rights - speak up as though the comment had not existed. Men seem to have no problem inserting themselves in conversation - and expressing their talents (just a generalization - don't shoot me gentlemen) and so should we.

Don't wait for an invitation - assume you belong. On the other hand, be fair. We women frequently create women only events - so the "old boys" should be allowed to do so as well.
Christopher Owens
7
3
Christopher Owens Entrepreneur
Founder/CEO at LincSphere, Inc.
As I am not a woman, I'm probably not who you were looking for feedback from, but I am interested in the post. I did not know anything about the case so I just went ahead and read the article by Sue Decker. Unfortunately, there were no specific examples in that article of what happened, so I couldn't get a good sense of what offenses were committed by her male colleagues.

Personally, having been raised as an only child by a single mother who didn't take crap from anyone in the workplace or otherwise, I've always been pretty attuned to respecting women's rights personally.

I may not have had the experience from a women's perspective of dealing with these situations, but I'm pretty good at addressing interpersonal issues - even of the covert variety. Could you give some specific examples of things you have run into, so that it might be easier to give good feedback?

LanVy Nguyen
10
11
LanVy Nguyen Advisor
Founder & Managing Director at Fashion4Freedom
Use sexism to your advantage and be the reason people want to gather around you. American women are way too shy and puritanical about using all our assets; this is, frankly, how the men in business keep the women and minorities in line.

The reality is that if you want to be included to dinners and conversations, then spend a bit on creating the dinners and events people want to attend.

My approach is to always rock the boat and I do it in the most glamorous and most appealing way possible so that the person who falls off will want me to pull him back in .
LanVy Nguyen
4
14
LanVy Nguyen Advisor
Founder & Managing Director at Fashion4Freedom
@Christopher Owen, I find your post ridiculously funny. It sounds like you want the ladies to explain our real life experience for which you will give us feedback regarding something you admit to having no experience with. #mansplainingalert.
Christopher Owens
12
0
Christopher Owens Entrepreneur
Founder/CEO at LincSphere, Inc.
LanVy,

My post was an honest inquiry from someone SUPPORTIVE of the topic. Not sure why you want to turn that around on me with a condescending remark.

I ask specifics because that's the best way to give advice for any interpersonal issue. Advice given about generalities is rarely useful. And I think the main question, despite being on the topic of sexism, was focused on how to address COVERT communication, which I'm certainly qualified to comment on.

Andrew... really... you're not contributing constructively to this discussion with comments like that.
Julie Gomoll
9
7
Julie Gomoll Advisor
Integrated Marketing Strategist, Chief Schemer, Jules Says
@ArLyne - I used to be a big proponent of "don't feed the trolls," but I'm not any more. Ignoring it is tacit approval. Where has ignoring it gotten us - or any minority - in the past? It's only when we speak up and say "this is unacceptable!" that things can change.

@Christopher - @Chloe is asking about an experience pretty much every entrepreneurial woman has had. It's not about interpersonal skills. For women reading this article, no specifics are necessary, because the specifics aren't the issue. It's a pattern of behavior so ingrained in our society that it's just considered standard behavior. With one specific example, it's easy to think "oh, that's nothing." But when this stuff is happening over and over day after day year after year it's a very different matter. Like Chloe said, it's death by 1,000 paper cuts. I appreciate, and believe, that you are "pretty attuned to respecting women's rights personally." And you're right, you haven't - can't (of course - how could you?) - understand this from a woman's perspective.

@Chloe - Man, do I have stories! No doubt you do too. It gets old, for sure. I've handled it many different ways. So much of it depends on the person and the situation. Here are some things I've tried in the past:
* If they're commenting on how I look, I start making similar comments to them. 50/50 effective.
* I pull rank, and say it's not ok. Obviously not a great choice when you're trying to sell or impress. OTOH, the good guys learn something, and the jerks go away. 100% effective, IMO :)
* I feign ignorance. "Oh - a dinner with our peers? You must have left me off the cc: list. Why wouldn't you invite me to an important gathering?" This would probably be more effective if I were actually good at feigning ignorance.
* Straight talk - "here's what you're doing, and here's the effect it's having. It's not ok, so let's discuss how we can get past it." I've had decent results with this - it depends on the guy.
* Ignoring it - 0% effective.
Julie Gomoll
1
7
Julie Gomoll Advisor
Integrated Marketing Strategist, Chief Schemer, Jules Says
@Andrew - Women and other minorities need support and help figuring out ways to be successful despite the fact that most of our society is focused on supporting and accommodating white men.
Julie Gomoll
2
6
Julie Gomoll Advisor
Integrated Marketing Strategist, Chief Schemer, Jules Says
Also, @Andrew, we need spaces where we can talk about our issues without worry about men making the discussions about them.
Christopher Owens
9
0
Christopher Owens Entrepreneur
Founder/CEO at LincSphere, Inc.
Julie, I have to disagree with you that "the specifics are not the issue". Specifics ARE important to any discussion that means to accomplish anything.

The opposite of "specifics" is "generalities". And generalities are the BASIS for all discrimination. Prejudice consists of assumptions made about character, behavior or value and applied to an entire group as a generality.

The effort to discuss specifics about anything is an effort to understand the general by inductive reasoning. Indeed, if it is truly is as you say "a pattern of behavior so ingrained in our society that it's just considered standard behavior" then the only way to BREAK that behavior and make it more VISIBLE is to point out the instances of it and discuss.

If you just don't WANT to detail some specific instances, that's fine. I certainly can't force anyone to. But my original point of asking was to increase my own understanding and hopefully contribute more meaningfully to the discussion.
Julie Trell
8
2
Julie Trell Entrepreneur
Consultant: Corporate Philanthropy, Enterprising Educator, Creative THNKr, Door Opener, Light Bulb Turner-On
Chloe, I think you have the answer. You are already aware that some people don't realize they say or do anything offensive. You have an opportunity to point it out to them and why it offends you or upsets you. Done well, it's not calling them a jerk, but allowing them to be empathetic. At the very least, standing up for yourself. Here's an experience that affected me, and how I dealt with it.

An executive recruiter had reached out to me for a senior role at a public company to run their philanthropic programs. We had a very good first interview on the phone which led to additional interviews with the C-Level team. All went well and I was given an offer. However, I had made the fatal mistake of sharing my previous (underpaid) salary which made me a bargain for them. The negotiations felt like I was dealing with a used-car salesman (negotiation is something I need to work on).

They offered me a package, slightly higher than my past salary for a role much larger than my previous one. All in, the package was better than my past one, but not significantly. I ended up taking it because I was excited about the work.

Now, where the story gets more smarmy is actually after I had been working at the organization for a month or two. I had remained in contact with the recruiter and had developed a friendly professional correspondence with him. We had been on a call just catching up and I had shared with him the fun projects I was developing as well as an event I was involved with which had me going to London.

My role was leading the corporate foundation of this organization - so it was a "feel good" role in his eyes. Jokingly he says "wow, you've got a great job, we shouldn't be paying you anything for this fun work." His comment did not sit well with me, especially after recovering from my negotiation trauma, yet I didn't respond in the moment. I was completely in shock. I chose not to go down the road of "he said that because I'm a woman". I chose to see it more as "he had no understanding of the work I do or the value of philanthropy in a corporate setting". Philanthropy is not free.

I emailed him a few hours later to request another call with him at his earliest convenience (he was in another city, otherwise I would have done it face to face). I didn't want to express my feelings or educate him over email (tone and message can get so misinterpreted), so a call had to do.

We spoke, as scheduled, the next day on the phone and I said the following. "Hi <;recruiter>! When you said to me 'you should be working for free, we shouldn't pay you anything because your job is so fun' you completely devalued the work I was hired to do. Whether or not it was intentional, it offended me because my work is highly valuable and meaningful." I suggested that he recognize the choice of his words and who he is speaking to and respect the work people have done and are doing. Especially as a recruiter.

On a side note, I had also shared my frustration of the initial conversation with a few female colleagues prior to speaking with him one on one to tell him how I felt. Interestingly, I also became frustrated when all of these women suggested to 'report' him to his manager (who I also had a good relationship with) and make a bigger case of it. None of them felt I should deal with him directly and recommended the easy route would be to escalate and have his manager speak with him. I chose to nip it in the bud, stand up, speak out, and deal with him directly. While I don't know if he changed his behavior, for me it was empowering and I felt I was honoring myself, professionally and personally.
Join FounderDating to participate in the discussion
Nothing gets posted to LinkedIn and your information will not be shared.

Just a few more details please.

DO: Start a discussion, share a resource, or ask a question related to entrepreneurship.
DON'T: Post about prohibited topics such as recruiting, cofounder wanted, check out my product
or feedback on the FD site (you can send this to us directly info@founderdating.com).
See the Community Code of Conduct for more details.

Title

Give your question or discussion topic a great title, make it catchy and succinct.

Details

Make sure what you're about to say is specific and relevant - you'll get better responses.

Topics

Tag your discussion so you get more relevant responses.

Question goes here

1,300 Followers

  • Name
    Details
  • Name
    Details
  • Name
    Details
  • Name
    Details
  • Name
    Details
  • Name
    Details
  • Name
    Details
  • Name
    Details
Know someone who should answer this question? Enter their email below
Stay current and follow these discussion topics?