My favorite book when I was a kid was called ‘Girls can be anything’. It told me that girls could be pilots, doctors, and all kinds of other great things. Thirty years later I couldn’t imagine needing to read that book to my own daughter. ‘Duh’, she would think. Yet, as I see her grow up, hesitant to tell other kids that her interests include paleontology, as well as the usual girl stuff, it’s a reminder that there is still a missing piece.
As an entrepreneur and technologist for nearly two decades, I’ve found myself the only woman in a lot of boardrooms. To the credit of the women of my mother’s generation, I can’t remember a time in any one of those boardrooms when I was taken less seriously than anyone else in the room. But I was still the only woman in the room. Again, almost there, but not quite.
Christine and I often get asked what it’s like being female founders, in what’s still a largely male dominated sector. Most of the time I don’t think it’s much different than being male founders. I think the difference is that some people expected it to be different for us. That’s been hard to swallow some days: “You may have a hard time raising money as two middle-aged women”. First, middle-aged?! Second, thank you to all of our investors, both male and female, for allowing us to say ‘DID NOT!’
With a team that is about 50-50 female/male, I often get asked by younger women on the team how I do it – raise two kids, run a company, stay fit (not so much), keep a perfect house (ha, ha, ha). Do I Lean in? Lean out? I suppose Sheryl Sandberg would say I’m ‘Leaning In’, and I largely agree with her. Mostly I just think of it as living my big, full, amazing life. And I do it with a lot of support. I ask for help. I let my husband really do half the work (finally blowing my decade long assumption that only I could do it right). I also am very fortunate to have chosen a career that I’m in control of – which has sometimes meant taking a 5-week-old baby to a meeting (former client, if you are reading this, sorry about that diaper). It also means that I made it to every pre-school play (but no field trips in the last 2-years, sorry kids).
I also believe in sharing both the successes and challenges of my work with my family. On days when I think ‘what the hell am I doing?!’ I play back a conversation I overheard between my children. My son was struggling with something and about to give up, and my daughter said “Don’t give up! If Mom gave up and didn’t keep trying there wouldn’t be any ePACT!”
I hope she holds that with her as she grows and makes her own choices as a woman. I hope her dreams are big, and that as scary as they may be, she never questions her ability, or her right, to achieve them.
Whether she becomes a pilot, or a paleontologist, or something else entirely, I hope she never hears ‘wow, look at that, a girl who flies a plane! Or ‘hey, a girl who likes dinosaurs?’ Because girls can be anything.
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