A Letter to Women in Tech, I Let You Down

April 26, 2011
By Lisa Barone in Online Marketing

Dear Ladies,

I hope that you’re well. I’m sure you’re busy so I’ll get to the point.

It’s been brought to my attention that I’ve been doing it wrong. I’m sorry. I never got the memo. No one told me that I was different. I mean, sure, people joked about it from time to time, but I never truly believed them. I should have. Crap, I’m rambling. See, if I was a man this would be much clearer but, I just have all these emotions to deal with! What I’m trying to say here is that no one told me there were different rules for us than there are for men. And because I didn’t know, I didn’t play by them. I didn’t make excuses. I didn’t grow up thinking I should expect less.

I see now I was wrong.

There was an eye-opening article on Inc. Magazine yesterday from Drew Gannon where she (yes, she) writes about the uphill battle women face in tech. Drew’s piece touches on the Women in Technology Panel (catch it on YouTube) that took place last week where Important Women came together to discuss the power of women and the challenges we still face.

What are some of these challenges?

  • We’re meek.
  • We don’t share ideas in meetings.
  • We routinely discount ourselves.
  • We’re bad at math, science and other things that require high-level brain thinkings.
  • We’re responsible for twice as much of the housework than men and three times the childcare.

Dude! I had no idea! I always thought these were personality traits certain people had – like a bad temper or an affinity for collecting life-sized dolls. How wrong I was! I didn’t understand that these traits reflected my gender and that I was to cling to them like a self-defeating safety net, pulling them out for the cameras.

I am a girl and therefore I am weak. I mean, meek. I am meek.

You know what else I didn’t know? That working alongside other women is detrimental to your success because it creates a girl ghetto that is stifling to growth. It seems that women are more prone to connect with people below them. Put them all in a company together and no one ever grows. Men are smarter than us so they friend up; we friend down. [We also marry down, but the men don’t rail us for that. They just enjoy it.]

Do you know what ELSE I didn’t know? That women work less than men and purposely pick jobs that are financially less rewarding with better social climates. Again, dude! My mind is blown.

All of this brings me back to my apology. I have been living my life backwards and I’m here to say I’m sorry.

You see, instead of being meek, I chose to be outspoken. Instead of worrying about carrying the cross that is being a girl, I chose to focus on being successful. I know that I’m still young, but I think I’ve had a fairly blessed career so far, one that has been filled with great opportunities, great people and great work.

When I partnered with Rhea Drysdale in January of 2009 to form a full-service Internet marketing agency called Outspoken Media, I had no idea I was essentially creating a brothel of mediocrity by pairing with a woman and attracting other competitive, driven women. I thought I had been creating a company that achieved results. Our clients seem happy and we continue to grow, to earn buzz, to move forward. But now I see I’ve been doing it wrong. Instead of speaking out, I should have been shutting up and accepting the stereotype that everyone seems so set on continually shoving down our throats.

So from now on, I will:

  • Practice saying “I can’t”, instead of working to make things happen.
  • Look helpless more and feel guilty for my success.
  • Keep my mouth shut and not speak out or inspire change.
  • Stop looking at women like Gina Trapani, Michelle Robbins or Sonia Simone for leadership.
  • I’ll fight less, move less, want less, be less.

Basically, I will become a better woman by devolving into the type of woman popularized in these “Women In Tech” articles. Because that must be the model for a woman in business and what I’m supposed to look like. If it’s not, then why is it the one constantly propaganda’d and highlighted? Why do women spend their time cutting down other women?

I always believed that RIGHT NOW was the perfect time to be both female and in the tech industry. Because the industry doesn’t just want us, they need us. They need us for their panels, for their articles, for representatives. They’re desperate for us to help change the face of our industry. And all we needed to do, I thought, was to find the chutzpah to stand up, to claim our spot, and to own it. I thought I was doing the right thing by fighting for that.

But if the real women in tech are the ones who Inc. Magazine, Penelope Trunk and BNET keep writing about and introducing us to, then I’ve been doing this whole “woman in business” thing backwards for the past six years. And I guess I need to say I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for wanting better than that – for myself, for Outspoken Media, and for every other woman in this industry. More than that, I’m sorry for the women who don’t want better and for the media channels so focused on telling an outdated story.

I’m sorry I haven’t been following your rules. Because your rules suck.

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