Career Advice For Women: Blaze Your Own Path Instead!

Career advice for women: blaze your own trail!

Here's some career advice for women.

For the past five years in a row I've spent time interviewing with companies during the 4th quarter in preparation for the new year. It's always good to seek new opportunities and have backup plans, even if you never use them.

Sometimes, the interviews turn into fun consulting roles where I spend anywhere from 10 – 25 hours a week helping startups build their online presence. Never have the interviews turned into full-time roles because I just can't convince myself to go back to work full-time.

I start getting depressed thinking about having to commute, taking orders from people, wasting time in meetings, faking enthusiasm, kissing up, etc. Seriously, I don't understand how people can survive the daily rush hour commute! Building someone else's dream while getting 1/30th the amount of equity is tough for me to swallow.

What I do enjoy is meeting new people and hearing their stories about how they plan to change the world. At the very worst, I'll have made some new connections in the SF Bay Area who might utilize my corporate consulting services or be potential new business partners. And almost always, I'll have a new story to share with you.

Here's a recent incident I will never forget. What I experienced revealed an ugly side of startup culture and what some men really think of women behind closed doors. 

A Boulder On Your Shoulder Women

The second round of my interviews with a life insurance startup involved giving a presentation about what I'd do for them during my first 100 days. I whipped up a 10-page presentation from the consulting pitch material I already had while watching the Warriors blow out the Thunder the night before. The presentation was concise and to the point.

When I got to their offices, the Head of Brand was in the conference room waiting for me. He was a new hire whose résumé showed the typical job change every 1-3 years.

While waiting for four other people to show up, I asked him whether or not he also had to give a presentation and share all his secrets before getting hired. He said that he did. Then I asked him how long his presentation was given I had a suspicion mine might be too short. I had been out of the work force for so long that I forgot having a lot of fluff makes a difference.

The Head of Brand told me his presentation was 54 pages! Holy crap! It was a harbinger for a tough session ahead.

The CEO, two co-founders, and the Head of Growth finally showed up at 1:08pm; the meeting was supposed to start at 1pm. The head recruiter also walked in behind them and told me in a nasty voice, “You're late,” when I had actually arrived at 12:55pm.

She had texted me at 10pm the night before requesting me to arrive at 12:45pm instead. We had agreed on a 1pm time slot after a lot of back and forth already. Was she seriously trying to change it on me again at the last minute? I ignored her text. Have some boundaries please.

I was looking forward to having one of the co-founders in the meeting, a man I'll call Amit, because he had a very skeptical line of questioning when I met him 1X1 during my first visit. Think of Amit as a guy with an automatic machine gun gleefully firing endless rounds at a helpless puppy just for the fun of it. Without a machine gun, he would run away like a coward if you decided to confront him with your fist.

Amit had a chip on his shoulder because he was in his early 30s and spent six years trying to get his PhD. He finally gave up for a second time in 2012 and started some random company I'll call Pewko, which he describes on LinkedIn as a company “where you can have meaningful interactions with your friends online.” It's obvious Pewko vomitted all over itself and didn't go anywhere.

Then in January 2013, Amit met up with his other co-founders and started this life insurance startup I was interviewing for. So far, so good. Although, it will be years before there's any meaningful exit for them, if any at all, since most startups don't have lucrative outcomes. If you're in your 30s, went to Cal or Stanford, and haven't hit it big in the Bay Area yet, it's understandable to feel inadequate since there are so many success stories here.

I was one minute into my presentation when Amit started riddling me with questions again. It was hilarious! My second slide was entitled, “The First 30 Days,” and one of the bullet points mentioned me sitting down with everybody to understand what type of messaging they wanted to portray to the world. It's good business practice to understand first, then execute.

Amit started asking questions such as,

“How do you plan to scale the content to grow exponentially?”

“Tell me how you are going to get this done?”

“What are the numbers behind your proposal?”

I gave him some answers and told him more details were to come in the following slides. He didn't seem too pleased. He is the type of person who loves to talk in meetings just to hear himself speak. I suspect he also has ADD.

Then I got to a slide that highlighted an influencer I proposed to hire to help promote their startup. The influencer is a woman in the fitness/yoga/pilates space. My idea was to cross sell using influencers with healthy lifestyles who can promote some of the financial benefits of being healthy. It's a smart way to capture related topics and rank well online.

Amit, of course, chimed in with another five questions. He was not convinced by my online strategy that has worked for the past eight years even though during that time he was still trying to pass his introductory PhD classes.

This is when the CEO, whom I'll call Raj, suddenly spoke up. (Note: Raj had walked in and out of the conference room three times by this point to take calls)

He said, “I HATE women! I don't want female customers. They live too long, which means they pay less premiums for life insurance. They also take forever to sign up. I've only got a finite amount of sales people and can't be bothered trying to hold each and every woman's hand.

I was in shock. This life insurance startup's whole value proposition was all about being able to offer lower life insurance premiums for those who are more health conscious due to a proprietary mortality table they've been building.

Now the CEO is telling me he doesn't want female customers because their returns aren't high enough to bother?! I felt like I was in an episode of Silicon Valley on HBO.

A normal person who respects women would say something like this instead, “Women aren't our target customers at the moment due to X, Y, Z” or just keep silent instead of saying how much he hates women and then go on a long rant.

I looked at Amit, who was smiling gleefully because he could tell I was finally feeling uncomfortable. He was that pimply kid with wide eyes squishing ants!

Then I looked around the room and realized nobody flinched at Raj's outburst because all five of my interviewers were men.

So THIS is why some women complain about a lack of diversity in the work place. The three main co-founders were Indian men. The Head of Growth was a Chinese guy. The Head of Brand was a Middle Eastern guy. Good luck being a woman at this startup!

The saddest thing is that there are female employees at this startup who probably have no idea about what the founders truly think of them.

The overly enthusiastic head of recruiting is a woman who believes her CEO views women equally. As a result, she has no problem trying to recruit other women for the job.

I also spoke to one of their female employees who is two years out of school. She said she works past 8pm all the time and loves the opportunity. Little does she know that there's a thick glass ceiling waiting for her in several years due to the management makeup.

Companies give incredible lip service towards hiring women. The reality is that everybody is biased for people who look and talk like them. It is no coincidence all the founders at this company are Indian. And it is not a coincidence all their senior management are men too.

Here in Silicon Valley, I've noticed that once a computer science guy comes to power, the workplace dynamic gets quirky because either the guy was socially awkward in school who feared talking to women, or has some kind of chip on his shoulder because no women talked to him growing up. It's like that loser in high school who can't wait to show up to his 10 year high school reunion in a Lamborghini and tell everybody what a success he is.

Blaze Your Own Trail Women!

I think about women's issues a lot because I have a sister who is a single mom. I sometimes worry about how she plans to make ends meet living in expensive NYC. She spent eight years out of the workforce to raise her son. And now, she's trying to catch up to make it as an illustrator, author, and freelancer.

I also have a wife who went through a difficult period back in 2013. She worked like a loyal juggernaut for eight years at her firm only to be passed up for a promotion when her firm promoted two men a couple years her junior instead. It was total bullshit, especially since one of the promotees left the very next year.

I also felt like a failure because I didn't properly coach my wife to totally get what she deserves. She's too nice to ask for what she wants, and naively believed that good work was all that's needed to ascend.

The great thing is that we finally negotiated a nice severance package for her in late 2014 to be free with me. Part of the negotiation was receiving her full salary for the last four months while she only had to work two days a week. She also received a nice lump sum severance and got hired back as a part-time consultant 10 months later for 50% higher pay!

I also believe that one day I might have a daughter. Like every father, I want my daughter to have all the opportunities in the world. I fear how other men will treat her personally and professionally. I'm afraid she won't fulfill her dreams due to some sexist management team who secretly looks down on females. But if she falls, I will always be there for her.

Finally, many of you are women who've shared with me your struggles. Please continue to do so. I firmly believe the stress from work is one of the main reasons why people are so unhappy with their lives. There's too much backstabbing, political jockeying, and cronyism to make work a long-term happy place to be. Even harder are those women who are trying to balance their careers and motherhood.

I can tell you how awesome it is to be your own boss. But you won't really know how awesome it truly is until you give it a go yourself. If you don't want to go at it alone, find some co-founders who share your same traits and build something together. The entrepreneur hurdle has never been lower thanks to technology. If you fail, you can always get another job.

If you are a woman, be wary of a company with a homogenous management team. Group think is inevitable when everybody comes from the same background. “Locker room” talk is embedded in many men's DNA. I've played sports all my life and have sat in on all-men meetings plenty of times before in my finance career, things are not always what they seem from the outside.

Career life is much easier if you can find a mentor who shares your same interests. More often than not it's a person who looks like you. If you can't find your champion, move on.

I'll leave you with a great quote I saw online:

“Job you love? GOOD. Supplement it with a side business.

Job you hate? GOOD. Pays bills while you start a business.

No job? GOOD. More time to start a business!”

Recommendation If You Want To Move On

Negotiate A Severance: If you want to leave a job you no longer enjoy, I recommend you negotiate a severance instead of quit. If you negotiate a severance like I did back in 2012, you not only get a severance check, but potentially subsidized healthcare, deferred compensation, and worker training.

When you get laid off, you're also eligible for up to roughly 27 weeks of unemployment benefits. Having a financial runway is huge during your transition period.

Conversely, if you quit your job you get nothing. Check out, How To Engineer Your Layoff: Make A Small Fortune By Saying Goodbye.

It's the only book that teaches you how to negotiate a severance. In addition, it was recently updated and expanded thanks to tremendous reader feedback and successful case studies.

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Career Advice For Women: Blaze Your Own Path Instead! is a FS original post.

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77 thoughts on “Career Advice For Women: Blaze Your Own Path Instead!”

  1. Sam, I know you would never do this, but boy I would love for you to call this company out publicly. I think women really need to know to avoid this place because a work environment like that can ruin lives. I wonder how many female employees have suffered there mentally, emotionally, reputationally, and financially?

    I have a sister who is in insurance. Fortunately, she doesn’t work for a startup. But if I ever found out that her company treated women that way while she was working there, I would be LIVID.

    Hell, I’m not sure what I would have said during the presentation if I were in your shoes.

    ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  2. It’s ironic because women should be saving a lot more than men on average to make up for the gap in pay and promotion, but women on average save a lot less than men, thus further disadvantaging their finances.

    Have you ever read a blog written by Penelope Trunk? She writes about counter-intuitive ways for women to get ahead, like getting plastic surgery and having children young. Would love tog et your thoughts on her words.

  3. This must be the culture of Silicon Valley. I used to work for a boring, financial services company where the IT was ancient but the management was patient and diverse and the work/life balance was amazing. I traded in that security for more money and exciting technology and now moved to Silicon Valley to work for a tech giant. There are absolutely no boundaries here – I get texts at 10PM for no reason (everyone is drinking the koolaid that to be successful you need 24/7 communication with each other) and the culture of firing questions at you and putting you off guard in both meetings and emails is rampant. I do think I am respected (as a woman) but I pretty much hate the aggressive culture. It’s too bad that making someone uncomfortable and putting them on the defense is the culture. But hey, “we use technology to change people’s lives” so the culture must be what is making that happen and we wouldn’t change people’s lives without it – If you can’t toughen up and get with the program then get out! LOL Can’t wait until my relo is up and I have more options.

    1. I would be so annoyed if I got consistently 10 PM text messages and request to do things. I don’t respond to anybody that’s not family after about 7 PM.

      Do you enjoy your role though? I’m five years removed from this hustle and bustle of corporate start up worklife culture so it is becoming more foreign to me every single day.

      1. I go back and forth. Sometimes I get that rush like “wow, I’m a part of something really cool” and then sometimes when I get micro-managed, I hate it and can’t wait until I can quit without having to pay back the relocation. It’s complicated.

        1. Cool. Maybe it’ll feel really, really amazing if your company gets bought out for big bucks or something. I’ve never experienced that type of exit, but that would be sweet. Then it would feel like whatever more you made AFTER the sale is like gravy!

  4. This is really rough in my industry. My company does a decent job of hiring and promoting women, but they rarely stick around. I work in the structural engineering field and do public onsite consulting. It is usually the public perception of the abilities of women engineers that drives them away.

    I can’t tell you the number of times I have pulled up to a jobsite as an assistant to my female engineer manager and the people onsite automatically assume I am the engineer and my manger is my “help.” These are college educated architects, project managers, insurance adjusters, and attorneys. It embarrasses me every time. I can tell it weighs on my manager as she feels like she needs to “prove” herself to everyone.

    One attorney told me that they would rather I represent his client as an expert witness than my manager because the opposing expert is male and has many years of experience and he is concerned what the jury would think of an attractive female as his “expert.”

    I take for granted how easy it is for me to walk up to my client and say “I will be the structural engineer on this project.” I even have my own issues of commanding authority because I look 25 even though I’m 32. But its nothing compared to being a woman in this industry.

  5. I’m in my early thirties and a professional woman and a lesbian. I absolutely had to create my own business so that I can avoid this BS. I’ve lived all over the US and have encountered it everywhere. Nonprofit founders trapping interns in elevators at big events to proposition them. My words being repeated inelegantly by a man who received the credit. Male clients who have hired me for my expertise who are so unused to caring about what a woman says that I have nearly had to tell them to shut up so that I can tell them what they paid me for.

  6. I am Indian and I do agree there are some deep seated bias-es in some Indian men. My husband is also a “revenue making” start up founder, and I kind of know people hate him, because he is a harsh boss, he says things for shock value, but yes he gets things done.

    He could’ve said what this guy said, and he has told me in private that having to deal with his pregnant female employees leaving early or because they are tired, and dealing with maternity leave of his female employees is painful because a startup just does not have that kind of bandwidth, they expect everyone all hands on deck all the time. That’s the reality of it, given the break neck speed of how things work plus juggling finance, legal, there just isn’t enough bandwidth to run a start up like a large fortune 500 company with HR departments and such.

    What I describe above is a different scenario from what you experienced and my husband mentioned this to me in private, but his arguments could be true of any start up.

    1. He does also mention that if they were exceptional employees then he would bend over backwards to do anything to keep them, but he was talking about the average employee here.

      1. quantakiran

        Please tell your husband that unless the employee is exceptionally lazy and downright insubordinate, every employee deserves some respect and to be treated with some dignity at the workplace. Hasn’t he ever heard the old adage “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

        Just because he’s having a bad time at the start-up and can’t keep it together does not entitle him to emotionally abuse pregnant women and others. He doesn’t know the pain and stress they are having to deal with in their private lives and then on top of that to come to work and have the boss dump some on you?

        Remind him, what goes around comes around.

    2. I’m actually surprised any pregnant woman has the capacity to go to work and be fully functional in her third trimester. It is so not easy being pregnant, and I don’t even know for real as a man! But, I’ve read lots of books and observed pregnant friends very closely.

      The uterus pushes on the bladder, which makes women have to go pee much more frequently. If you have longer than a 30 minute commute to work, this can be VERY unbearable. If you have to sit in on a 1 hour meeting, you may have to walk out of the conference room half way.

      Pregnancy can also goes constipation, make the woman gassy, more tired, and uncomfortable in general. The average recommended weight gain is ~30 – 40 lbs, or roughly 25% heavier for the average woman. The extra weight and the desire to protect your baby from harm takes extra energy.

      I’d like to talk about this in a future post because pregnant women deserve more leeway, especially during the third trimester. If more people are aware, more people will realize what an inspiration it is that a pregnant woman is still coming to work.

      I totally get that for a startup, it’s tougher to lose man hours than for a large, established firm. But he can work around the issue by being less harsh, and more flexible by having them work from home or work just set hours, instead of not coming to work at all sometimes.

      1. I agree with everything you said about the third trimester. This is not about individual bashing but what a lot of “employees” from the outside dont realize is some people do infact shed blood, sweat and tears into a company and when you have sacrificed everything you expect a lot from your employees -pregnant or otherwise. I am not talking about disrespect or bad behavior, but rather having high expectations and in return being disappointed, and still having to make payroll. It is a dog eat dog world, a lot of people don’t get that.

  7. I just started to read Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In. It’s fascinating to read through her experiences and how she navigated them. There’s a lot of similarities between your post and her book, although she obviously focuses more on how to succeed in the corporate world than you do.

    I’m not surprised to hear that kind of woman hating talk. I hope that in 20 years or less it’ll be viewed with the same kind of distaste that racist talk brings out today.

  8. As I investigate post-military corporate opportunities, many of which are quite lucrative, I read things like this and once again pause… and think again about my own business.

  9. Hmm..I wonder if these Indian guys immigrated to the US recently. I find those people from South or East Asian countries have a more typical “traditional” mindset when it comes to men and women.

  10. Margarine Ostrolini

    I sincerely appreciate your financial advice and point of view.
    However, as a woman, I would like to adamantly disagree with your view that women somehow don’t have enough privileges and rights, and somehow are suffering by the very fact that they are female in this culture. Western women are the most privileged women in the world, and should be more grateful. Life is not fair to women, but it’s most fair to western women.
    There are some harsh realities that western women have to confront, and that anti-discrimination laws will never solve- it’s called human nature. If women are going to pursue careers that are traditionally male-dominated, they better learn to roll with the punches. And if women want diversity in the workplace, an Indian male misogynist is pretty diverse. The problem with liberalism is that it is trying to force a reality that doesn’t exist.
    This article relays the many privileges and rights western women are so fortunate to have. I hope you will consider these points, for it is a point of view not espoused by the mainstream media and the feminist ideology.

  11. My experience has been smaller companies tilt towards preferential treatment of men and larger companies toward women, all things being equal. I’ve worked for 2 large publically traded companies with nothing but male senior execs and never heard any locker room talk and I was in a position to hear it – usually the complaint was that not enough qualified females were out there for exec positions or even middle management. In aggregate, it’s fairly balanced – otherwise random startup firms would only/nearly only hire women at “discounted” salaries and kill their competition.

    Booth study on men & women with MBA and the pay gap is here:

    “We find that at the outset of their careers male and female MBAs have nearly identical
    labor incomes. Their earnings, however, soon diverge. The male annual earnings advantage
    reaches 30 log points five years after MBA completion and almost 60 log points ten to 16 years
    after MBA completion. The share of female MBAs not employed also rises substantially in the
    decade following MBA completion with 13 percent of the women not working at all at nine
    years after MBA completion as compared with 1 percent of the men.

    Most interesting is why female MBAs have not done as well as their male peers. We identify three proximate reasons for the large and rising gender gap in earnings that emerges
    within a few years of MBA completion: differences in business school courses and grades,
    differences in career interruptions, and differences in weekly hours worked. These three
    determinants combined can explain 84 percent of the 31 log point raw gender gap in earnings
    pooling across all the years following MBA completion. Because the relative importance of
    each factor changes with years since MBA completion, we explore the evolution in the earnings
    gap by sex by time since obtaining the MBA. We also compare women without any career
    interruptions and any children to all men. “

  12. Jack Catchem

    That sounds like an uncomfortable pitch! Still, thanks for sharing. With a wife and daughters myself, I worry about their ability to succeed and don’t want them to be unfairly evaluated merely due to gender.

    Coming from a Marine Corps Infantry & Cop lifestyle a lot of people are shocked to hear how supportive I am of fellow female cops. Let’s be honest, most of what cops do is verbal and women are usually more effective communicators. It’s simple, but considered atypical, like a male nurse.

    On the upside there is a huge call for women in policing. I have it rated as one of my top five ways to get hired as a cop and with good reason. Females go straight to the top of the hiring stack in any significant department in California. Once on the force, there are often spots on specialty units kept open for female officers, allowing them to accrue specialty experience and promote faster because they (righteously) stand out and got the good roles.

    This does cause some resentment among male cops, but like anywhere else, if you want to promote, you have to stand out. My industry is male centered, but it is changing rapidly. In such a dynamic environment, there is a huge opportunity for success and advancement. There is plenty of hope!

  13. Smart Provisions

    Great post, Sam! Thank you for sharing your story.

    I find that it can happen in almost any industry as well. Employers can be selective and choose people who are more attractive, have connections, or have power instead of those who are actually fit for the job.

  14. One thing worth mentioning is that it helps if you pay attention to the wives of your potential boss(es) when considering a position. In my case, although the two people outrank me at my organizational are both men, both of their wives have very good careers (and they both have daughters) and as a result, I don’t perceive much of a glass ceiling. On the other hand, I’ve been in a situation where everyone I reported to was a conservative white man with a stay-at-home spouse, and I felt pretty limited in my future growth.

  15. I guess if Trump had his way, those Indian guys would not have even made it to the US in the first place. So infact, Trump is fighting for women rights after all, most of you guys just dont see it.

    1. Despite the common straw-man argument made during the election, legal Immigration != illegal immigration.

  16. I am of two minds on this subject (broadly sexism and racism and how it relates to employment disparity)
    1. I have heard and seen sexism and racism and in some cases in very overt ways so I know that there is an impact. I have been at a job interview in a situation where all the lead people were white males. On the way out one of the guys offered to take me to the airport personally. In the car ride he said something along the lines of we’re lucky to have someone like you considering the position. There were a lot of good applicants I had come across but a lot of minority candidates. I replied that they certainly had a lot of people wanting the spot. He said “no you missed the point, we’re looking for someone like us. That looks like us”. Holy crap. It doesn’t get much clearer than that. So certainly it’s a factor for both minorities and women.
    2. Here’s the “but”. I look at my wife a smart and capable women and I see her interactions with her employers. If I want a raise I walk into the office say “this is what I did this is what I’m doing I want this much money or I’m going to find another job”, I’ve never asked for a raise and not gotten it. Because it was backed up with reason, logic and force. My wife WILL NOT ask for a raise. She won’t have the conversation, she won’t forcefully demand what she could earn. I think this contributes a lot to the disparity we see.

    So I think both sides have work to do. The second is a situation where people can act directly and immediately. The first is waiting for society and human behavior to change.

    In the long run the company with the better smarter people will triumph. If you’re not hiring and doing what it takes to keep smart capable employees regardless of race/gender you’re shooting yourself in the foot. That’s also true of hiring purely to meet quotas however which I think a lot of companies do. I don’t see a real solution other than basic discrimination laws and the free market.

    1. #2 – I call this the “I want you to want to take out the trash-dilemma”
      I hypothesize that women, for some inexplicable reason, value unspoken appreciation and actions.
      For example, a man who willingly and proactive about taking out the trash is somehow more valuable than a man (who is also willing) who is told to take out the trash. The latter does not complain and achieves the same ends all the same.

      “I want you to want to get me flowers, but I don’t want to tell you to get me flowers”. If a man gives me flowers on the account that I asked for it, it somehow carries less merit.

      This is my theory on why many women don’t ask for what they want. I agree that business and the workplace is not the place to play this way, and that women need to learn to be more assertive and vocal about what she wants.

    2. “Here’s the “but”. I look at my wife a smart and capable women and I see her interactions with her employers. If I want a raise I walk into the office say “this is what I did this is what I’m doing I want this much money or I’m going to find another job”, I’ve never asked for a raise and not gotten it. Because it was backed up with reason, logic and force. My wife WILL NOT ask for a raise. She won’t have the conversation, she won’t have the conversation, she won’t forcefully demand what she could earn. I think this contributes a lot to the disparity we see.”


      Studies have shown that when women do negotiate, they are viewed more negatively than men. Like, they’ve set up studies where men and women negotiate with the same exact script, and observers rate the women as pushier or a variety of other negative traits compared to the men.

      So, not only do women negotiate less often, but when women DO negotiate, they have to work against a pre-existing bias. When women are concerned that negotiating will look bad, there’s unfortunately a lot of truth there according to peer-reviewed research. This can then play into why women negotiate less often, setting off a vicious cycle.

      Here’s an article on Harvard Business Review that gives some tips on how women can negotiate while avoiding some of these biases.

      1. See my number 1 above. I realize discrimination exists. Just looking at multiple aspects.
        In regard to negotiating with both genders with a set script clearly that’s not a situation where you could make a reasoned argument of known value i.e. For a raise at an existing employer. If you used a set script you should be viewed as an idiot not pushy. The ask should be phrased in terms of individual contribution with specifics. Hard to capture that in a controlled study because it depends upon actual known performance at the company.

  17. I realize your principles, upbringing and outlook on life would never allow you to out this start-up by name on your platform, and I’m confident that karma will cause them to fail unless they change their ways. However, I would greatly appreciate knowing the name of this insurance start-up so as to never do anything to support a business that promotes those closed-minded beliefs at the very top of the organization.

    Thank you for sharing and reminding us readers that 2017 is infinitely better than 1957 regarding rights, freedoms and opportunities, but we should each look at what we do and how we think to ensure we can say 2077 is infinitely better than 2017 in the same regard.

    1. Kendall, I believe in karma too. The thing is, do the attitudes of two arrogant and insecure men warrant me hurting the company (at the margin) when they are already loss making, but have ~50 or so employees who depend on them for a paycheck, most of whom have not experienced what I experienced or whom have not been treated poorly?

      Good thing about life insurance is that you only need to get life insurance once every 10-20 years or so. Hence, I will say that you can just check out PolicyGenius to get a competitive quote from an established player, or check out SoFi’s new JV with Protective with no medical checkup required for qualified individuals.

      I’m actually having dinner with the PolicyGenius founders next week in SF. Those two are great. Guy and a gal running the show.

      Thanks for caring!

  18. Sam,

    I have a girlfriend who is going through computer science courses right now and she has issues with people trying to convince her that she needs help because she’s a woman. She’s really smart and since CS is so competitive the men feel threatened by her. There is definitely some stigma around certain types of tech people. That being said, I find this story of yours realistic but very uncommon in my experience. This is my 4th startup and I can tell you that I’ve never seen this happen. It turns out that these assholes you met are probably jerks to everyone and not just women. They don’t represent Silicon Valley and they’re not the face of tech. Women are respected and have equal opportunity to men in tech positions. The real problem comes when women are entering college. They are (were) pushed astray from Computer Science majors and engineering majors because it’s seen as a waste of time to pursue because you can make as much money being a business major without all the math. This also goes for domestic students. If you think this is bad, try going in for a technical interview on the whiteboard. This is where they’re real insecurities come to light. :) Thank you for Shari your story.

    1. I’m not sure how uncommon this is. Perhaps it is more uncommon for folks not to be in a senior management meeting, and more uncommon for folks to actually speak up and write about it publicly.

      Think about the rape situation with Bill Cosby. After one or two women came forward, 57 total women came forward. 57! That is nuts the amount, and the fact that that many didn’t speak out for over a decade.

      1. True. Just one more reason to not join a start up I guess. I feel like this could happen more at startups since the company may not have HR people yet or something. One the one side I feel like people have gotten very sensitive about almost everything but when it comes to respect, it’s important that we respect each other. To hear someone say out aloud: “I hate women”, my god, this guy must have had bad experiences in the dating world or something. Also, he likes men because they die more often. This is kind of morbid. You have something great to offer, why share it with these assholes? :)

  19. Financial Panther

    Thank you for sharing this story FS.

    My fiance and I have noticed a pretty similar thing with women being treated differently in the dental world. First off, almost every older dentist is male. As a result, it makes it very difficult for my fiance to find a female mentor to discuss the issues that women face in her profession.

    The dental world is also way different because it’s primarily a bunch of small business owners. Unlike other medical fields, dentistry still hasn’t fallen into the group practice model just yet. Most dentists are just some person setting up shop somewhere. The problem is that this makes gender discrimination harder to see. It’s not like with a big company where it’s very visual – if you have a company that’s composed entirely of men, people notice that. Not quite so easy to see when it’s just a bunch of random people with their own practice and 1 or 2 associate dentists working with them.

    A lot of dentistry is based off the partner model – you find an older dentist, work for him as an associate for a year or 2, then partner with him, and then one day he retires and you buy the rest of the practice. The problem is, if you’re some older dentist, you naturally have an inclination to want to work with a young guy that reminds you of yourself. I don’t think that most people are purposely discriminating like what you saw with this startup company, but I do think it’s subconscious.

    The good thing about dentistry is that it’s in high demand and almost everyone can start up their own practice if they want to. As a result, you’re not totally relying on someone else to give you a job. My fiance isn’t quite sure yet, but she’ll either be purchasing a practice from an older female dentist that she’s been talking to, or else she’ll strike it out on her own. A lot of people don’t realize that dentistry is one of the few medical fields where you’re basically starting up your own business.

    1. Interesting insights on dentistry. I totally get the business aspect of it because my dentist of 14 years is a black woman who bought her dental practice from a retiring white man. She then very quickly changed the entire employee demographic to ALL women, and all minorities but one white woman. The contrast was quite amazing!

      FYI, I’ve consulted w/ two female dentists who own their practice. They were making good money, but both felt way overwhelmed with the business responsibility + dental responsibility. Have your wife to her time deciding. GL!

  20. What a horrible company! Sadly, I feel it’s all too common behind closed doors.

    I’ve worked in the wildlife biology field for several years, always in the academic and government realm and never with private industry.

    I think the dichotomy between private industry and public jobs is very interesting. My field is relatively new (wildlife biology as a profession wasn’t really a thing before the 1960s) and was dominated with dudes in the beginning.

    But now, things have shifted over so that there are many more female grads in this field than men. Still, the upper management is mostly male and I can’t tell if that’s something that will shift in the future as more female grads move up (or not).

    I myself have not noticed cases of outright sexism in this field composed mostly of old dudes, although I have heard the rare story or two. On the contrary, they’ve been very supportive, and many Old Guard males have been my champion for gaining experience and finding better positions. I think I’m incredibly lucky to be a part of a culture like this, regardless of what other shortcomings my chosen field has (like low pay – at least the dudes are paid less too).

    1. Gonna be up to you to blaze that new trail in wildlife biology Lindsay!

      This kind of stuff absolutely is way, way more common than people really know. But as older generations retire or die off, new generations will change what’s accepted. In the last 20 years, we’ve seem massive progress towards equality. I expect this progress to continue.

  21. Whoa, thanks for sharing your experience. Those 2 face people are the reason why Trump is the president. I think it’s a great idea for women to blaze their own path too. I’ll send this to Mrs. RB40. She’s doing well at work, but I think some people should respect her more.

  22. I am a woman, and a computer science engineer, and Indian.

    I agree with a lot of what you’ve said here but not all of it. I’m going to start with my disagreement first. “I’ve noticed that once a computer science guy comes to power, the workplace dynamic gets quirky because either the guy was socially awkward in school who feared talking to women, or has some kind of chip on his shoulder because no women talked to him growing up.” In my experience misogyny has little to do with your major. Guys with all sorts of backgrounds who have power can be assholes to women. I’ve had computer science VPs be gems, and sales VPs be dicks and vice versa. If anything the sales guys are worse because they are better at hiding it for a long time.

    I have been fortunate enough to work at places where I used to feel that the playing field was level. And I actually think it was – as a junior developer. As I’ve climbed the ladder it has become clear that the old boys club is still going strong. The frustration of being a woman in corporate America doesn’t always have to be about the big things. The small, daily irritations can wear you down too. My personal favourite? Saying or suggesting something, being completely ignored, then having a male colleague say the same thing a few minutes later and watch everyone get right on board. The men I’ve learnt to be the most wary of in upper management are the ones who claim to understand being a woman “because my mother was a strong woman”. Yes, that might be true. But it also means that these men are the most likely to be completely blind to their own prejudice. They have decided in their own heads that they are ‘the good guys’ and that they ‘get it’. So if they don’t actually ‘get it’, you are kind of screwed.

    Other things that I am sure other women can identify with: be strong and outspoken and your performance review will contain words like ‘aggressive’., and not in a good way. Get mad about something? You are too ’emotional’.

    One last piece of anecdotal evidence: when we are interviewing a candidate and doing a series of technical interviews, and my slot is either the first or the last one, and I walk into the room and the candidate assumes I am from HR. Oh boy. They are in for a rough one hour.

    1. I am glad you mentioned this. This is such a great point that a lot of people miss. I was a young naive female engineer who thought all I needed to be recognized was hard work. Oh boy. Learned the hard way.

      “The men I’ve learnt to be the most wary of in upper management are the ones who claim to understand being a woman “because my mother was a strong woman”. Yes, that might be true. But it also means that these men are the most likely to be completely blind to their own prejudice. They have decided in their own heads that they are ‘the good guys’ and that they ‘get it’. So if they don’t actually ‘get it’, you are kind of screwed. “

      1. quantakiran

        Ditto on the naive young female engineer who believed that all you had to do was work hard, avoid politics and be loyal and you would ascend. I’ve been passed over for promotions and raises. And imagine to my shock and horror that my worst boss who treats me like crap is female (although a different race)!!!

        I’m upset a lot these days, thinking about how dumb as a bunch of rocks stupid I’ve been, how my loyalty blinded and hurt me professionally, and most of all, the time I wasted – a decade, a whole decade and how I can never get it back.

    2. “I am a woman, and a computer science engineer, and Indian” – May I ask you what your thoughts are about Indian men’s general views towards women and any anecdotes you might have?

      My experiences with Indian men range the gamut from this particularly unpleasant interview to very aggressive, smart, and slick Indian management when I’d bring them to see US investors, to my b-school classmates, most of whom were technically brilliant coming from IIT. One of my best friends I went to college with was Indian, and is now a cardiologist.

      The one thing that irked me each time I visited India was the still obvious signs of the caste system at play. For example, every morning I ate at breakfast at the Oberoi hotel in Mumbai, there would always be some patron voicing some displeasure towards the staff. Very dismissive and rude towards those making hardly anything to please you.

      It’s as if lower level people are invisible and don’t have feelings or hopes and dreams to.

      So I wonder if the historical caste system plays a part in inherently treating women and people from less wealthy backgrounds more poorly.


      1. You are right that we have not rid ourselves of the vestiges of the caste system. It is still the plague of Indian society. My grandfather (high caste) married my grandmother (low caste), and to add insult to injury, she belonged to a different state, spoke different language and belonged to a different religion. My grandfather’s family cast him out and never spoke to him again. He was not even informed when his parents died and my father never met his paternal grandparents.

        Having said that though, I’m not sure the caste system has much to do with the way women are treated. Women of high castes and rich women both suffer misogyny too. Traditionally most parts of India (but not all) are strongly patriarchal and that is the root cause of women being second class citizens. Things are way better now than the used to be, but nowhere near good enough.

        As to anecdotes, let me see. If you are a woman in India (in urban India) you have to be used to being stared at a lot. Nothing subtle. Unabashed lingering stares. In crowded public areas and buses, you are almost certain to be brushed up against or touched. I’ve never met an Indian woman who has not experienced this. In the face of this overt harassment, subtle discrimination by your bosses at work doesn’t seem all that bad. In the U.S. I have had both good and bad experiences with managers that are Indian and ones that are not so nothing Indian specific stands out to me there. If anything, the Indian men who discriminate aren’t that good at it – they tend to be more obvious and thus easier to avoid/work around than their white counterparts.

  23. I’m all for equality, but it seems lately the trend is to hire someone based solely on their gender, race, etc. The person who should be hired is the person who is most qualified for the job. Anything else is a terrible business decision. There should be no politics or affirmative action involved in the hiring process. So if a white man is the most qualified for the job he should get hired. Or a black woman. Or a Hispanic man.

    I’ve worked in state government where we always hired someone based on their race or gender. Few were the most qualified, and they were excellent assets to our team. But most were not nearly as qualified, and those of us that cared about our jobs were doing the work of 2 or 3 people each. Why any business would discriminate against the most qualified candidate because they aren’t a specific gender or race is beyond me. This was in a university town where we had plenty of incredibly bright and qualified candidates that we had to turn away. It was sad, really.

    1. It does seem this way doesn’t it Ken? It’s one of the reasons why I wrote, How About Affirmative Action Based Off Income, Instead Of Race.

      The smaller your company, the less diverse it will probably be. You have to get along with everybody and hire the best people for the job. The larger and more profitable your company, the more you can pay attention to cultural and gender diversity. You’re not constantly wondering whether you’ll be able to keep the lights on at the government.

      1. Exactly. We didn’t have shareholders to report to. Our revenue came from taxes so nobody cared about job performance. Since there were never raises or promotions nobody was ever motivated to do excellent work, or even any work at all. It was shocking coming from the private sector where everyone was held accountable for their work or lack thereof.

        I’m self employed, so I will hire the best person for the job every time. If I don’t it’s my personal money at stake. Every business should be run like this regardless of how much profit they’re making. Businesses should be in business to increase revenues and profits. If not they will eventually fail.

    2. I think the point here is not that companies intentionally discriminate against the most qualified employees (that doesn’t make any sense). Gender biases at the workplace are usually implicit and subconscious. It comes from human instinct where we trust people who look like us. This instinct served our prehistoric ancestors well, but today we conduct interviews and look up resumes to evaluate candidates.

      I am a female engineer and several instances I’ve uncovered discrepancies in opportunities/promotion/pay between myself and junior male colleagues who is less qualified. Yes I agree that businesses should hire the best person for the job every time, but sometimes businesses find that it is more profitable to hire the best woman and pay her less.

      1. It does make sense, and I have seen it happen as I explained.

        Yeah, I don’t agree with hiring a more female and paying her less. If she’s the most qualified for the job she will be earning the company more money than the less qualified man that they’d otherwise pay more. THAT doesn’t make any sense to me.

  24. Early on in my career in engineering, I felt that I wasn’t being given equal opportunities to advance. I felt that I was being assigned projects of lesser importance because I was a woman was theoretically wasn’t as good as the men, then being held back during performance season for not having a big enough impact on the company. After a couple years of that, I was frustrated and ready to leave. But before I just walked out, I made one last-ditch effort to save my career there. I went straight to the director of my department – skipping a few levels of management. I was careful not to make the conversation about being a woman or sexism or anything along those lines. I just told him that I felt I wasn’t being given the opportunities I needed to succeed and that something needed to change. To his credit, he recognized that I was about to walk out and he immediately reassigned me to another area. In my new position, with a new boss, I was assigned to prime projects and moved up very quickly within the company from there. I’m glad it all worked out and I was able to build a very successful career there – sometimes all you need is a new boss. Anyway, it all ties back to Sam’s story about his wife – women, we have to have the courage to ask for what we deserve!

  25. Hey Sam.

    I’m based in the UK, female and I set up my market research business 23 years ago. I’m now an angel investor in tech start-ups.

    Starting my own business so young was the best thing I ever did. It allowed me so much flexibility and ability to make money. It wasn’t even really a conscious choice – I knew I wanted to have my own business one day, it was always my goal. I think I would have done it a lot later, but I got made redundant, started working freelance, made good money (a bit like your wife going back to the company that once employed her for a 50% raise!) and that morphed over time into a consultancy business when I realised I could train other people to do what I did. My first big shock was when a client wanted me in their board meeting (it was my first freelance role) to go through a presentation I’d done because they needed someone to ‘recommend to them what they needed to do’. They didn’t care what level I was or what sex I was, they just needed someone who could provide them with great information to make decisions. It was a great experience and I can still feel the thrill now that I felt then being asked to do that.

    I’d just like to encourage all the young woman out there to go and do that thing that excites them. It doesn’t have to be all completely sorted out to start off with, just trying working freelance I think is a good place to start. You learn all sorts of things about yourself and what you really want to do and you can shift your focus over time.


    1. Good encouragement Judy, and congrats for taking that leap of faith! It’s always scary because school doesn’t train us hard enough in believing in ourselves, so we don’t try. But I’m pretty sure that the more people who try, the more people will surprise themselves about what they can accomplish with their own two hands.

  26. DIY Money Guy

    My wife and are in our early 30’s . I am a couple of years older than my her and I have been making a pretty good salary in the transportation industry with an engineering background earnings several promotions over the last ten years or so. My wife has been out of law school less than five years and she has already surpassed my annual comp. I am super proud of her as she is blazing her own trail! She is the youngest partner at her law firm and the only female partner. She is already being recognized as a one of the best in the region in her field and has been one of the youngest expert witness on some multi-million dollar lawsuits.

    While her work ethic and work product stand out and speak for themselves she still encounters way too many of these difficult situations similar to those described above. I never really gave this whole gender bias much thought until my wife has shared some of her experiences and struggles in the predominantly male legal industry. Now that we have twin daughters I am even more aware of these biases but hopeful for the future. I’d be curious what tips other have to succeed in spite of these struggles.

  27. You hit it on the head Sam. Finding out that our baby is going to be a girl really made me take a look at the reality of woman in the workplace, and in our society in general. I hope we can make things better for our children.

  28. Tiffany @ Earn Like A Girl

    Thank you so, so much for writing this post. For a lot of men, it is hard to imagine without being in that situation firsthand, so thank you for not only experiencing it but WRITING about it. And your article is definitely timely, on the wake of the dozens of women’s marches that have been occurring across the country.

    As a woman in business, I’ve definitely experienced some of what you’ve mentioned. While nobody has ever blatantly said “I hate women” in front of me, their nonverbal communication says they don’t take me seriously.

    For example, there was an angel group that expanded to my region last year. Their MO was that they were entrepreneur driven, and members were not required to be accredited– everyone was basically pooling their money. They specifically were looking for “young, well-networked entrepreneurs under the age of 46” to participate as venture partners. I went to all of the meetings in the beginning, struck up rapport with the regional director (to the point where he’d say “Hey Tiffany!” at meetings), and expressed interest in joining as an investor.. he said he’d be arranging phone calls the next week. I follow up the next week.. nothing. I continue to follow up.. nothing. At the next meeting I find out he did arrange phone calls with most of those who expressed interest, so I followed up again.. nothing. He kept saying “I know I owe you a phone call”. Thinking he just had a lot on his plate, I was super nice about it, but I started to get frustrated because I saw that the group was moving along. I expressed my frustration to some other members of the group (one a BIG name angel investor, the other a very well regarded startup founder) and both of them walked me up to the regional director, introduced me and said “She needs to be in this group.” I didn’t ask them to do that.. and it really meant a lot (they are both men). So after a lot more follow up after that, I was told that I wasn’t “senior enough”. Which I have NO idea how they came to that conclusion, given that I still hadn’t received a phone call to chat about my potential involvement. Out of 75 investors, 7 on that list are female, and maybe another 6 or 7 were minorities. I am still so frustrated about this. I met ALL of their qualifications. I am EXTREMELY well networked here but that still wasn’t enough. Which is fine, I will just do my own investing, but yes I get overlooked all. the. freaking. time.

    Being Chinese and a girl, sometimes it feels like a double whammy. I’ve gone to real estate investing events and just happen to sit next to another Chinese guy.. and the next guy that walks up assumes he is my husband. Or I’ll be standing next to my client somewhere and someone refers to him as my husband. WHAT??? I just hate being defined in relation to the man who just might happen to be standing next to me. That’s messed up. Yes, women can and do attend investor networking events! Imagine that!

    As you may be able to tell, this is a huge point of contention for me. I am so, so thankful for men like you who support women and their ambitions. I am lucky that my boyfriend is the same way and pushes me to be better, and when I’m feeling frustrated, reminds me of what I can accomplish. It’s a fight against this entrenched system, and attitude, and beliefs.. not a fight against men. Some of my biggest supporters have been men, so I want to make sure that point is clear.

    This is why I started my company that offers coaching to women who want to learn how to blaze their own trail. I don’t think enough women believe in themselves. Even I was at that point once.. when I quit my full time job to go into real estate, I joined a male-led team because I didn’t think I could do it by myself. A few months into it, I realized I brought WAY more to the table than he did, so I left the team and my business took off like a rocket.

    Sorry for the novel, but again, thank you so much Sam for writing about this topic. If you need anyone to guest post about what it’s like to be a woman in business… you know how to find me :)

    1. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences Tiffany!

      The ENTRENCHED way of thinking is exactly what causes misconceptions, stereotypes, and sometimes terrible attitudes towards certain groups of people from those who are in power. A lot of times it’s intentional, and they just aren’t aware of what they are doing e.g. the guy at the conference who assumes you are the tag along.

      With more awareness, things will slowly change.


    It is unfortunate that this mindset still exists in some companies. I consider myself lucky. I work in a very heavily male dominated industry, and did have some concerns when I initially came on board. However, in the 5 years I have been here, I have worked hard, moved up the chain and am well respected. When I sit in management meetings, I am surrounded by 50-60+ year old men who have been in this industry for many years. I feel as though I get the same level of respect as these men. I’m not seeing any glass ceiling as I will be taking over as CFO within the next year or so. So again, I consider myself lucky because I know not all companies are equal.

    If I ever found myself in a position where I felt I was being treated unfairly as a woman, it would just motivate me more to work on my own business so I could get out of the rat race.

    1. I hope you get that CFO position soon. Please do tell us how it goes.

      Regarding your last line, that’s the key. To work on your own business on the side BEFORE the inevitability happens. Yes, this is an optimistic + pessimistic way to look at things. But after a long enough time working, bad things do happen e.g. no promised promotion, layoff, restructuring, new hire leapfrog etc.

  30. I work in a male dominated industry, and have seen the few females in leadership positions struggle to push their way through the ranks. Much like politicians, management panders to the base, and behaves differently behind closed doors. I have a little girl, and I’ve been very deliberate about teaching her that being a girl shouldn’t prevent her from achieving anything she wants. My hope is that the younger generations are growing up in a world where both genders are viewed more equally, so some of these issues begin to balance out over time. In the meantime, I’ve helped my wife negotiate a recent job change, and in he process asked her to meet with the CEO of the new company to get his views on the subject. By meeting with him before starting and discussing those concerns it engenders a certain level of accountability. At the very least we made sure she got offered the same as her male counterparts.

  31. FinancialPhreedom

    In my short career I’ve noticed you can’t trust what a manager says. You need to look at their actions.

    And good advice for woman and men, take charge of your life! Put yourself ahead no one is going to do it for you.

    I’m a man and not an engineer but I can say I have 3 managers right now 2 woman 1 man. And a good mix of colleagues and we work extremely well together. Although the company I work for is much bigger then a start up and preaches inclusion and diversity.

  32. Thanks for sharing these experiences Sam. It’s crazy to me that this is still so prevalent in today’s day and age – especially in so-called professional environments. Thanks for documenting this experience and sharing your perspective here.

  33. Great Post. It’s a shame that women are still treated unequally in certain companies and industries. Hopefully your post help to inspire women to create their own paths to success and fulfillment!

  34. The Green Swan

    It’s really too bad that situations like this exist in the world. To hear a first hand story from you confirms that companies are not always what they seem on the outside. I, too, could have a little girl someday and the thought of this incredibly thick glass ceiling scares me. Thanks for a Monday morning eye opening session, I will be keeping this in mind.

  35. Go Finance Yourself!

    I’m curious how you reacted to these guys. Having FU money did you tell them off or did you take the don’t burn bridges route and politely decline?

    It’s disheartening that these situations still happen. Unfortunately, I’m not sure we’ll ever be rid of them. I’m curious if there are any studies that show if unequal treatment for women in the workforce is more prevalent in some parts of the country than others. I’ve always lived and worked in the midwest. In the places I’ve worked, there have been just as many female partners/executives as male. I’d be curious to hear from women who have worked around the country what their experiences have been.

    1. I was too shocked to say anything immediately. It was basically a gang up, 5 of them to 1. But I did tell them that what they just said was inconsistent with their philosophy and that I did not agree about not having a good plan to cover half the American population.

      When I cleared my head on the drive home I did a survey online, asking whether it was worth telling the younger woman I met at the firm what their founders really think of them. Interestingly, the overwhelming response from femaleswas NO, since I didn’t know the woman well and it would burn bridges as you say.

      What would you have done? If there was someone who I cared about who actually worked there then I would have DEFINITELY told her what happened and be wary. But the only female I had contact with besides the 2 year out of school employee was the recruiter, who was texting me constantly at 10 PM at night and wasn’t very nice the second time I saw her.

      I did e-mail the recruiter who first reached out to me (works for recruiting agency, different woman than the startup’s in house recruiter) to say that she should reconsider putting women into any role at that firm. I told her to get back to me with details as to why I thought that way, and she never responded. I feel she had already moved on to her next “head hunt” after knowing my interview didn’t work out.

      My next action was to write this post to potentially motivate other women to blaze their own trails and be wary of companies with homogenous culture. I’ve privately received a number of stories from women over e-mail already sharing their difficult situations and it’s only 4:55am PST! What I can do is share a story, encourage people to question their position, and make a change in their own lives.

      People who know me well know that I plan very far in advance for any sort of hell-fire. When the hell-fire comes, the person or organization who wronged me won’t know what hit them. I am, after all, one of the fathers of Stealth Wealth!

      Related fun reads:

      How To Get Revenge From An Old Employer Who Fired You

      Absolute Reputational Destruction Is Why A Severance Is Possible

      1. Go Finance Yourself!

        My reaction would have been similar to yours – too shocked to say anything initially. Also, the rational side of me would have won out and decided not to burn the bridge even if I was sure I wouldn’t need to cross it in the future. You just never know.

        Glad you reached out to the recruiter. That’s disappointing they never responded to you. And sadly they probably don’t care. Just looking for the next commission.

  36. Erik @ The Mastermind Within

    When reading your story, I had to wonder if it had to do with the cultures involved. I’ve worked with various people from all around the world and in particular, it seems Indian men can be very blunt and to the point. In America, we will tend to beat around the bush and be nice about it… That being said, what the CEO said was funny/ridiculous.

    I have some friends who are engineers; I have definitely witnessed the chip on their shoulder. They are smart people, make a relatively good wage out of school, and should be able to live a comfortable life, but there is something to prove due to awkwardness in school, or lack of social ability, as you mentioned.

    I’d put myself in the “engineer with chip on shoulder” group. Right now, I’m trying to improve my social game because the soft skills are what really matter in business and the real world.

    What percentage of start-ups in the last 5 years have had female founders or co-founders?

    1. Given I went to Berkeley part-time for my MBA, most of my classmates in b-school were men, and I would say half of them were math/computer engineer type folks. They basically all hit this wall in engineering, and wanted to pivot into management. Getting an MBA was a logical way to go, and still is.

      It’s funny b/c making $125,000 – $180,000 a year as a rank and file engineer in the Bay Area back then (2003 – 2006) was pretty good. But they were seeing management with no engineering skills make double or more that, so my classmates wanted more. These were the students who get the highest grades and test scores. So they felt they deserved more.

      I hope more social / communications skills are taught to round off the edges in STEM schools. Will make for much more pleasant interactions in the workplace.

      1. To your last point, it would be beneficial for all people to learn more about social/communication skills, especially the dynamics of relationships between males and females (masculine and feminine energies).

        I believe men and women are 100% equal, yet they are different. Before you take up pitchforks, I believe men and women should enjoy the same rights, privileges, and opportunities for their career, life, financial situation, etc. With that said, men and women will never be the same because their chemistry and make-up is biologically distinct.

        One thing I’m looking to learn more about is how I can interact more effectively with both males and females given this distinct chemistry.

        1. I think what is inherent in Sam’s point is that STEM professionals never have felt they needed to cultivate such skills, relying on their technical proficiency, whereas in other fields one absolutely has to have soft skills to start.

          PS. You sound like an engineer approaching an artful question with the same technique as you would writing code. That won’t work.

        2. There are more differences within each sex than between them. An aggregate, yet, men and women are different (so of which may be attributed to socialization). But if you just treat everyone as an individual (using their sex as perhaps one clue in how they work / who they are), you’ll do much better than dividing into two somewhat arbitrary groups.

          (Woman in engineering here. I struggle having working relationships with anyone, man or women, who does not have an NT / rational myers brigg type. I know it is pseudoscience, but it is useful pseudoscience. If I can’t make a rational argument and have it fairly considered, it is super hard for me to make progress. Luckily you can get away with this if you work with mostly engineers, but the rest of the world calls for something more.)

      2. The engineer background types in my MBA program were so rigid and just didn’t have the social skills that everyone else in my program had. Very few have gotten their money’s worth in the last 5 years. Agree 100% with your last sentence.

  37. It’s a natural phenomenon for people to prefer others like them. Our brains develop heuristics of how they seethe world based on what they are use to. When they dont fit human nature is to explain away the differences. In extreme cases you get the Neanderthal version you describe. I’ve seen variations of it throughout my career sadly. It’s not limited to race and gender though. It can be something as simple as your accent or even go bird. Just something’s are always obvious and others they don’t find out unless you sure.

  38. Sam, it’s sad that we still live in a world that doesn’t treat women equally in the workplace. Some of my best employees before were women and I did my best to pay them commensurately based upon skill and value to my organization.

    Boy, I was in for a shock once I sold my company and merged. The new company execs were aghast at how much I was paying my operations manager. They did everything they could to sabotage her performance from there on in until she just got fed up and left. I know not all companies are like this, but the ones that are should be ashamed. I don’t know if you can change a company like that, so I think it starts at home and in our schools.

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