3 Things Men Need to Stop Saying To Women Entrepreneurs

It's no secret the female founders face an uphill battle in the boy's club of Silicon Valley and VC funding. Two women entrepreneurs tackled the shit men have said to them with hilariously spot-on results.

Between the obstacles to getting funding and cringe-worthy titles like "mompreneur," is it any wonder that some women founders are fed up with how their male peers treat them?

Founders of the technology and culture website Model View Culture Shanley Kane and Amelia Greenhall recently compiled a list of nine things they are sick of hearing from men in the startup world.

While the list, titled "Shit Men Say To Women Founders" could be dismissed as a rant, many of the points hit on universal issues that women in the startup world encounter. Here are a few of the worst things you could say:

1. "Good luck with your project."

It’s not a project. It's a corporation. It's an official, tax-paying, certified, incorporated business that is employing people, producing new products, contributing to the economy, making money, and getting things done.

We're working on it every day, all day, and every weekend. We quit our jobs to start it, put thousands of dollars into it, spent hundreds of hours filing paperwork to make it official. We code the app, keep the servers up, wear the pager. It is not a project.

2. "Are you going to apply for grants?" / "How can I donate to you?"

Turns out not every business run by a woman is a nonprofit or a charity, yet men in tech start the conversation by demanding to know how they can make a charitable donation to the cause.

Somehow, they never seem to ask about the business model first and sometimes have a hard time believing that women-run companies may be capitalistic, for-profit, or have a business plan that involves selling things to people in exchange for money.

Yes, many women run essential nonprofit and charitable organizations, but not all of us do.

3. "What's your real job?"

Yes, many women start their companies on the side because quitting their other job or leaving other responsibilities to work on something full-time isn't possible due to work, financial, family, and other commitments.

But the assumption is always that women's startups aren't their "real jobs," but rather just side projects or hobbies. Even when a woman is getting her startup off the ground while working at another company, why isn't she commended for "bootstrapping" rather than having her work minimized by constant suggestions that it isn't "real"?

Are you a woman entrepreneur? What are some of the ridiculous things that have been said to you?

HT: Model View Culture

[Image: Flickr user AndYaDontStop]

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23 Comments

  • Amanda Thomas

    The comment I get ALL.THE.TIME. is, "Are you married? Is your husband part of the business?" Whether he is or isn't doesn't matter, it's the fact that I've NEVER heard a man be asked if his wife is involved in his business. Although I've owned my business for 7 years now, I still get asked this by almost every man I meet in a networking situation.

  • As a woman who has been running her own successful businesses for the past seven years, I am happy to say that no one has patted me on the head and patronised me, or made me feel inferior. Here in the UK, it's pretty good these days.

    But you know sexism is dead when people don't feel the need to point out that we're women anymore. And that's certainly not the case. Society still wants to talk about female entrepreneurs as if we're special and deserve special attention. In my opinion, there is no difference between men and women when it comes to how far they can go with their own careers.

  • Robin Monroe

    I have found men to be more supportive than many of my women friends that work for large corporations. I get tired of hearing that I would be better off with a 40 hour a week job and a secure benefits package than struggling to make it on my own. I would rather be happy than rich, I don't mind the lean times. I do mind having to do work I don't enjoy, having someone else tell me when I have to work, and having my "friends" constantly telling me that I am under-achieving and that I could do so much more in a large corporation. The men I know are always willing to make introductions, tell me what a rock star I am for listening to my heart, and ask if there is anything they can do. I will be having lunch in my garden later today.

  • I have a request. Let's talk less about the men that don't get or support women in business and start talking about the ones that DO. I think it's well established that patriarchy exists in American business. Women are really rocking it these days, though, and we didn't get here by letting anyone stand in our way, and we didn't do it without the help of men.

    99% of the men I work with are supportive of my business, whether it's doing work for me or mentoring me when I get stuck in a problem, or if it's a member of SCORE calling to help me with free accounting advice (that happened today, in fact..). The men of my family don't understand what I do, but they help me when it comes to business fundamentals.

    The more we focus on our supporters, the more supporters there will be.

  • Julene Hunter

    To all the men below who think this happens to everyone...Long ago...before the internet was ubiquitous, and I could count the number of women starting companies, I welcomed a group of investors into our conference room and asked if I could get them anything while I went and got "my" partners. When I returned with said partners, we all sat down to "chat" before presentation .They were very circumspect and finally the YOUNGER one looks at me and then back at my partners and said " Well we're ready to get started, do we need her in the room?" Implying my secretarial talents would not be necessary. There was a lot of falling -all-over-apologies when I was "re-introduced". We got our $ from another group.

    And there were DemoGods (DEMO), until I came along. An editor told me "a woman will never win, and we rarely have one. They're just not as good holding the audience attention and can be a bit annoying." I was accepted to present and then won the next year. That's DemoGoddess to you.

  • Tess Gadwa

    "I am sorry, but I'm not interested in working with you unless we're also in a romantic relationship."

  • Michelle Albertyn

    I get asked a lot what my husband think of this little hobby of mine. I usually reply that I'm not married because I will never marry an idiot who calls a profitable company a little hobby.

  • It's extremely important these topics are discussed more in the media. Thank you for bringing this up.

    However, it's us women who also need to change and start putting our foot down when we encounter sexist behaviour. We must stand up to our cause, not just whinge how the wold is unfair.

    Woman can sometimes appear apologetic of what they are doing which gives any egoistic or narcissistic person (man or a woman) a chance to strike. The initiatives mentioned earlier are great to draw attention to the greater issue, but women need to seek their own support groups to work on their belief system and to become more self confident.

  • Jenny Vandyke

    Unfortunately sexist behaviour isn't always obvious or overt. If every sexist said things like 'what would you know, you're a women', or 'I'm not hiring you/funding your venture' because you’re a woman', then it would be much easier to fight against sexism, because those remarks are black and white.

    Sometimes it’s really subtle – like meetings I’ve been in over the years where managers only make eye contact or speak to the men in the room. Or, it’s the things that aren’t said, like when you finish a job and the GM giving the farewell speech only thanks you for your personality and your smile, not for the work you’ve done and results you’ve achieved.

    I've run my own business for 5 years and worked at a senior level in the corporate world for 15 years. I'm often one of the only women at the boardroom table, and I’m often one of the only women speaking at an event. Having said that, personally, I’ve experienced less sexism as an entrepreneur than I did as a corporate employee.

  • Jenny Vandyke

    This is where I think initiatives like Male Champions of Change, the Lean In movement and International Women’s Day are critical to draw attention to the issues that still exist across a multitude of professions, right across the world, and the tangible actions that can be taken by men and women to turn the tide.

  • Sorry, I wanted to like the article, but it's just plain wrong. I have heard many of these things, and I have said many of these things. And am completely justified in doing so.

    1. A business is a project. It is not a put-down. It is just as legitimate as any venture.

    2. Applying for grants as well as tax-credits are very common for many businesses in several sectors. (This one may be the weirdest one on the list).

    3. What's your real job... many people in the startup world soft launch their company while supplementing their income with a day job. Also sometimes referred to as a joe job. It's more likely than not in fact making the question a legitimate one.

    Here's hoping the next list is better.

    P.S. I work as a small business consultant whose helped both male and female principals get off the ground with their small business ventures.

  • Pretty ridiculous article. People should stop saying that to each other. There is absolutely no reason to believe that men are saying this to women, more than women are saying it to men, men to men or women to women.

    I'm usually the first one to yell sexism, but this particular article is too far fetched to carry any credible notion.

    Is misogyny prevalent in the tech- and startup communities? Absolutely! Address that rather than making up symptoms where there are none.

  • Benjamin Earl Evans

    Totally agree.

    I'm a black male who has heard everything (on more) on this list uttered to me in response to my company.

    Let's not make a feminist issue out of fairly standard responses to people learning you've founded a business.

  • The root issue here goes to childhood. All children are dismissed as frivolous and unimportant but women are never freed from it. To wit: Men's NCAA basketball and women's. You will never hear the men's team called "boys" but the women, often by their coaches are "girls."

    There is even a segue term for males that women lack. Boys become "guys" and them "men." Women remain girls, often into and through adulthood.

    And while you are justifiably annoyed at dismissive language, the real tragedy are the women who have taken it to heart, so that you remain the exception while the dismissive are grounded in some cultural logic.

  • Elizabeth Miller

    The most ridiculous thing that so many men have said to me is the unsolicited remark of "You know what you should do is...... " Unaware that the opinion was never asked for and may not be appreciated, especially when they have no idea what your really working on.