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Throughout my career in financial services, I was frequently the only woman in the room. I know all too well how it feels to be talked over, ignored, or simply excluded. I also know how different it can be – I feel lucky to have allies and mentors who made it clear that the bad experience is “on them” and definitely not because something is wrong with me.
When my co-founder (another woman!) and I set out to create CNote, I very quickly found out that gender inequality wasn’t limited to Wall Street and the rest of corporate America, but that it was deeply entrenched in the start-up and venture capital space, as well. At my very first start-up/VC gathering in the area, just a few days after I landed in the SFO, I was genuinely shocked by lack of women in the room: except for me and my co-founder, the only other women were at the reception desk. I thought it was an anomaly, only to soon realize that it was a reality. In 2016, women received just 2.19% of venture capital funding. Could that be because the people making funding decisions were only 7% female? Probably.
I’m not here to lecture you about the dismal state of female representation in yet another facet of business without providing any solutions. Nor am I here to convince you that it’s all on us to make positive change. But the non-exhaustive ideas listed below are about how you, as a change agent, can ensure you’re empowering yourself and other women.
Realize You Aren’t an Impostor
We’ve all had that moment when we think to ourselves, “Do I deserve to be here?” YES, YES YOU DO. You deserve to be in that boardroom or on that conference call just as much as anybody else. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be where you are. Be bold, be confident, and be yourself.
Build Other Women Up
Help other women realize they deserve everything they’ve earned, and help them get to where they want to go. One of the most heartening things about running a women-led start-up is how many other incredible women reach out and elevate us, as we do them. Whether it’s grabbing coffee and being a sounding board or leveraging business connections, seek out smart women upon which you can rely and be one yourself.
Find and become a mentor
This one is self-explanatory. Reach out, connect, lift, and grow together. Pay it forward and reap the benefits.
Value and Invest in Diversity
Valuing diversity is more than a bullet in a powerpoint, it’s a living breathing habit. The more inclusive you are, the more it can challenge others around you to value it.
Essentially, all of this can be boiled down to the timeless words of Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
This post was originally shared on Mogul.
Also published on Medium.