As a woman, I don't go out alone in San Francisco.
You’re almost definitely envisioning any number of personalities when you read this title. I won’t condescend to write them all out, but rest assured, I’d wager a guess that you’d be surprised if you knew me.
So here I am, a moderately put-together co-founder of a tech startup, someone who has given speeches to thousands of people, someone who has gone into board rooms, raised money, threw caution to the wind and all that lovely stuff.
Well. It sucks. All of it. I’m a female founder, under 30, and I’m single. Those three facts will remain the same for the indefinite future.
So realistically, let’s get back to the thesis of this dribble: I don’t go out alone in San Francisco. Why is that?
First, everyone talks about startups. All the time. Everywhere. Anywhere. Whenever. That’s fine, I love startups, but I’ll bring you back to a startup party I was at a few weeks ago. I was a social parasite, stuck to the sides of the two people I knew in the entire room, and I knew it was high time for me to give them a reprieve from my oppressive leech-like dependence. So I popped over to the artisanal food table, and decided to strike up a conversation with a rather unthreatening guy who looked equally lost.
After asking him about his life, he asked what I did. I mentioned I worked for a startup and it was going well. After some digging I had to dutifully admit I was the CEO, and of course, the look of shock and awe is never hidden.
"You? Wait, you’re the CEO? You? You founded the company? You? So, you run the company? You’re in charge? You’re the Chief Executive Officer?"
Do veil your shock next time. Correct, I don’t suck dick, I work with it. After we get past that hilarious revelation, next comes the grilling, which is inevitable. What’s my business model? How’s my [Insert acronym to see if I know what it means here]? Do I actually know what I’m doing?
Blah blah blah blah blah. Standard.
Well, then comes the next phase. The pick up and the puppy. No longer is this a professional conversation, it’s an invitation to get a drink, or to go somewhere more private to talk. I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, so when asked if I wanted to get another drink (which I needed) I agreed, and just like this poor chap, was a victim of the expectation management game.
This particularly fellow decided to follow me around the rest of the evening, until I finally left the party early because I was so uncomfortable. He then followed me into the elevator, and took it down with me, and I finally managed to ditch him when I brushed him off at the lobby and made a b-line for the door.
Let me get this straight - he was nothing but a gentleman. However, he completely ignored every single signal I was giving him that I was completely disinterested, and the fact that I never strayed from my professional persona never seemed to register with him.
To be perfectly honest, I can’t hate on him. The current social norms are so messed up that it’s a wonder if anyone really knows what’s standard or not. We were at a social event with men and women. I was not looking for a man, and I was there as a professional, but he was opportunistic. Do I blame him? Can I?
If I had been a man, we could have talked about my business. We could have talked about how his analytics company had streamlined data that would be useful for our cash conversion cycle. But instead, I had boobs. That’s the problem.
I don’t go out in San Francisco by myself. At all. Ever. Because this is the same story. If I dumb myself down, I’m treated as such. If I come out about my professional, I’m treated like an imposter, ignored, or grilled. If I pass whatever arbitrary mental test these guys come up with, I move into dateable territory, where because they feel they have deemed me worthy, they have a right to my attention.
So what do I do? I wear a fake wedding ring at times but that is an arbitrary symbol. I’m single, and I’m not looking. So for now, I’m staying at home, focusing on work, and letting my BD guys go out and party.