~ July 11, 2013 ~
Lots of ladies dive for the escape hatch when women’s gatherings get too plaintive.
One executive I spoke with for Stiletto Network recalled an episode at a National Venture Capital Association event about a decade ago; men and women were mingling amiably when an NVCA rep decided to corral some ladies into a separate room to confer on a report by the Athena Forum about the state of women in venture and private equity.
“The report showed that the number of women had dropped three-tenths of a point, and some woman shook her head and said in hushed tones, ‘This is terrible,’” the VC recounted. “We were just twitching in our seats. I stood up and said I appreciate the earnestness, but if there are a bunch of women with MBA’s making half a million a year while women in the garment industry are slaving away, well… I’m not crying in my chardonnay. Only 2.5% of VCs are women, and some of them made so much money in the bubble that they can retire. So I know the women who changed the number that much statistically.”
Her point? Sure, there are issues, but let’s get a little perspective. And, in the wake of the Ellen Pao scandal at Kleiner Perkins, Anne Marie Slaughter’s Atlantic dirge (“Why Women Still Can’t Have it All”), the debate over leaning in, and the carping over Marissa Mayer’s baby, she had some other thoughts:
“I wouldn’t mind rewinding the clock a few months, when we could just do the work and the topic on everyone’s mind wasn’t gender and work. Is that selfish of me? Anti-feminist? Is the dialogue always supposed to be kept alive, like a balloon ball on a concert floor? As if the collective consciousness says, ‘Watch out! It’s going to fall off the radar! Quick, somebody do something to get everyone talking about the inequities of work/life balance and the perils of being a woman at work again!’ I’m exhausted trying not to think about it and just do it.”
So what’s the answer? How to launch a constructive dialogue without being branded whiners, and without suffering gender fatigue? How much is too much?