Since the age of 24, I’ve fast-tracked through male-dominated industries. Promotions, titles, travel, and salaries gave me a false sense of comfort and acceptance.
As a woman, when you travel up through an industry like pharma or tech with relative ease, you feel like you’re one of the guys.
You are NEVER one of the guys.
In this post, I share with you one of the most devastating, and important, moments of my career. The moment I realized that no matter how far forward I traveled in my career, I would always be seen as less than.
Warning: this content may be triggering or uncomfortable.
It was September 2016. A big networking gala was taking place about 30 minutes from my home base and feeling I needed to be there, I paid the $125 fee to attend.
By this point in my career, I was a full-time entrepreneur in the tech startup space. My podcast was a success, I had a growing number of clients, the mastermind events I hosted had become popular among the local entrepreneur community, and I was getting ready to take the stage for my first keynote speech to a 1,000+ person audience. I had arrived.
Another founder who worked from the same coworking space as me offered that we ride together. Without a second thought, I said yes.
There was no second thought, because I felt safe. He was older and married with a family, which made me feel safe – feel free to laugh at this logic, I do. We were peers and I assumed that with that came a certain level of mutual respect, which made me feel safe.
We had a great time at the event. We networked, shared the wins of great conversations, and took in the potential we’d created for ourselves by being there. I felt safe.
As we drove the 30 minutes back to the coworking space, we were getting ready to approach the highway. On a one-way street, he suddenly pulled the car into a parallel parking spot on the side of the road.
I was confused as he shifted to park, within a second he leaned his body towards me. My head cowered and my arms shot up to block him. I loudly repeated, “No, no, no, no, no, no!”
He backed off immediately and apologized. I said, “That’s okay, just take me to my car.”
It was not okay.
We rode the entire way back in silence. I felt in a daze. Numb. In shock at the events and all of my miscalculations.
I got in my car and closed the door. Then, I burst into tears and sobbed uncontrollably. I pulled myself together enough to drive home where I sobbed for several hours more.
I realized I was never safe.
I felt violated. I felt stupid. I felt that all of my work and the respect I thought I had earned was a sham. Meaningless. Like the seat I thought I had earned at the table was nothing more than a condescending pat on the head from the patriarchy.
Women have these moments all the time – moments that steal the truth of who we are and dim the joy we bring to our work and our lives.
Determined to reclaim my power, I had to fall back and reassess.
I dove deep into soul-work, reflection, and inner healing, and within 7 months I launched Women Only Entrepreneurs (WOE), now known as The Women Only Experience.
I’ve been mansplained that the “women only” aspect was too dramatic. After reading the above you now know why I could care less.
The experiences I’ve lived as a woman pushing forward in the male-dominated business world are dramatic. And, whether it’s a sexual advance, having comments dismissed in an important meeting, or investors continuously moving the benchmark for what it takes to invest, it all feels like one big pat on the head from the patriarchy telling me “thanks for playing, you don’t belong here, now run along.”
What’s even more frustrating is that we women are here to do REAL, profitable work – work that has the potential to change the world and personal fortunes. Many of the women I work with are blazing trails in their industries, creating innovative technologies, and defying the status quo to better their community.
And still we experience resistance and microaggressions – all of which undermines our power.
How do I know? I’ve lived it, I’ve seen it, and women have vulnerably shared their similar experiences with me.
If you’re hungry for a sacred space to share your story behind the story, explore joining the She Conquers Capital Community.