Last year in Oslo I met an awesome young female entrepreneur. She impressed me and we kept in contact with each other over social media. I had dinner with her last week in Copenhagen. She had just left the company she helped found (Investor issues – Stay tuned for a series I am writing with State Street Bank on this topic).
We talked about startups. About FinTech. About children (my child, her godchild). Of course we talked about men. She talked about investors. Male investors who would ask her ‘is this a date or are you looking for funding…or both?‘ Men who would bombard her with messages, when she didn’t respond they way they wanted her to. She looked at me, clicked her glass of wine with mine and said ‘It is so nice to know there are people out there I can feel safe having a glass of wine with.’
We were two women, one in her 40s and one in her 20s, and we both could sit in the dark corner of Thai bar in Copenhagen and talk about work, life and anything. And both of us felt safe. My hands didn’t wander. I didn’t ask her to come back to my hotel room. (I know it sounds funny. I can hear you thinking ‘of course not’). But that is just it.
It seems such a small thing. But the path most women take is littered with ‘small things’. The sexist joke at work, you just smile at. The drunk guy at a conference who pushes his way into an elevator with you. The co-worker who calls you ’emotional’. To have just one small thing that doesn’t eat away at your self confidence and lets you have just a tiny window to relax – is no small thing is most women’s lives.
Men abusing their authority, influence and power crosses all industries and all political divides. Whether you are Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Bill Clinton or Harvey Weinstein. Because this is never about sex. This is never about politics. It is about power. Full stop.
My very presence as an ‘elder stateswoman’ of the FinTech world meant a younger woman could have an evening talking about founding companies, helping startups and dealing with investors, without worry, without fear, without a thought to any issues around ‘power’. (and I will always Tweet anything she does – I have to use my 12.3k Twitter followers for something! 🙂 )
That is what women need more of – other women in power, in positions of influence, in positions of authority.
Fuck leaning in.
Fuck bringing a folding chair to their table.
Fuck opening that door that was closed in your face.
Stand in the centre of the room like you own the place. Sit at your own table. Take a sledgehammer to that door – so that it can not be closed in someone else’s face again.
In the words of Cindy Gallop “It’s good to know the facts, but it’s better to make a shit ton of money…” You build your own table and wait for others to ask to sit at it.
The way to help more women feel comfortable forging their own paths in life is to have more women, more women with power and authority, who are available for that safe glass of wine in a darkened corner of any restaurant, in any part of the world on any night of the week.