Sexual Harassment and Being a Woman in the Workplace

Laura Roeder is the founder and CEO of the successful social media company MeetEdgar which she grew to $4 million in her mid-20s.

Way to go, Laura. 💪 💰

But as a woman in business, her journey to grow her company wasn’t easy.

With all the stories about sexual harassment in tech and business, I wanted to hear Laura’s female point of view.

If you’re a male, my #1 goal is you’ll come away from this post and podcast episode with an appreciation of what women have to go through in business.

Below, you’ll learn 3 key things…

  1. Laura’s experiences being a woman in tech
  2. How Laura recommends men interact with women in the workplace
  3. Why she was able to start a business while other women haven’t

Plus a bunch more.

How to interact with women in the workplace

I’ve never heard of a woman that’s raised money that hasn’t had some super sketchy situations. It’s just part of how things work.

Women in tech and business face daily challenges.

We see it in the news all the time…

Laura Roeder and sexual harrassment

As a woman, Laura has to decide every time she receives a message whether the other person really wants to talk business (or whether they just want to try and flirt with her).

The most important thing that men can do is one be very straight-forward with their intentions, Laura told me.

If you want to ask someone out on a date or grab a drink, ask them… and make it clear.

But if you say something like “let’s talk shop” or “discuss business”, then everything has to be 100% business.

And if you’ve there’s a power dynamic (like you’re their boss, or an investor interested in their company) then that’s where the relationship should stay.

Whether you’re a boss or colleague, having a women colleague can be a sensitive topic — but that doesn’t mean you should avoid talking to your female colleagues out of fear.

I have a friend who organizes these informal weekend retreats for founder friends. He told me that some of the men’s wives don’t want women there.

If it’s the norm for it to be unusual or uncomfortable for men and women to talk to each other, how can women ever progress at work?

We have to get over uncomfortableness and awkwardness.

Sometimes there will be an awkward conversation about how to treat your female colleague at work, or you might not be sure what kind of complement is okay.

The only way things will improve is if we open ourselves to the vulnerability and difficult conversations.

Female entrepreneurship and starting a business

It’s not uncommon for people to ask Laura questions like:

  • “Who started your company?”
  • “Do you work for your dad?”
  • “Is this your husband’s company?”

It sucks that she faces these questions all the time. No one has ever questioned me founding Sumo.

Laura sees some the silver lining.

I know that people aren’t trying to be terrible. And now they know a young woman that started a business, maybe they’ll put that in their data set for next time.

There are more female business owners and founders than many realize: More than 9.4 million companies are owned by women.

Laura even grew MeetEdgar to $4 million ARR, which is impressive for anyone regardless of gender.

Laura believes a lot of women are interested in running smaller businesses and not interested in the fundraising game, which is why you don’t hear about them on the news.

Personally, Laura wants flexibility and freedom in her time which is why she hasn’t raised millions of dollars and become a household name.

Those certainly aren’t female-only traits. Many entrepreneurs choose to start their own businesses so they can be free from the corporate world.

Laura also believes there’s some cultural differences in the way men and women are raised to view work and their careers:

  • Often, men are raised to believe your salary and job is very important. As a male, your role at work is very important to how the world sees you
  • Often, women were raised to focus on families, avoid coming off as aggressive, no negotiating, etc.

Laura explained:

The good part about that is maybe women don’t have as much ego attached to our job title or salary, so maybe we’re not desperately searching those things as much.

Resource: https://okdork.com/laura-roeder-sexual-harassment/?utm_content=buffer1f5db&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

Edited by: Sena Sari

Article “How I deal with sexual harassment in tech” by Gillian Morris

A few years ago, I gave a pitch at a startup event and a young man came up to me afterwards.

He was looking to transition from his work in consulting to something in ‘tech’. I’d been a consultant before learning to code and starting Hitlist. He asked if he could buy me a coffee and learn about how I’d made the transition from consultant to founder.

I proposed we grab a beer instead. I don’t drink coffee, and I don’t like taking non-business related meetings during the day. In my previous jobs it had been common to mix business and beer, so I didn’t think much of it.

We ended up having a few beers. We talked about the practical concerns of how to downsize from a consultant paycheck to startup salary, but then the conversation began to branch out.

We talked about our personal goals, our appetite for adventure, our past relationships and how we managed work/life balance.

I realized I was incredibly attracted to him. I felt like I was getting similar vibes from him, though it might have been the beer. And then he asked me if I’d ever consider bringing him onto the Hitlist team.

It wasn’t a total shock. He’d said he was interested in working in startups, I was hiring, and I’d gone into the evening thinking I’d assess him as a potential candidate. I didn’t realize that I was going to end up with a crush on him.

I suggested we meet on a Saturday afternoon to dive into our business model and figure out if there might be a role for him at Hitlist.

That Saturday, we tore apart the pitch deck I’d been using to raise money and came up with something that was, conservatively, ten times better. We got fired up about where Hitlist could go. We laughed, and I wondered whether he was flirting with me, and whether that was clouding my judgment.

I sent one of my advisors the revised pitch deck and he agreed that the young man would make a great addition to the team. I was conflicted because I knew one thing without a doubt: if I offered him a job there was no way I could explore the personal side of our relationship.

And I’m human. We got along well. He had a great butt. Could I have this guy work for me without the attraction side of things driving me nuts?

How is that even a question?

Of course I could. I’m an adult, not an animal. It would have been completely inappropriate for me to hit on someone who had come to me for professional advice and a job.

I knew that it might be distracting to employ someone who I found so appealing but the ethics of making a move on him were so black and white that there wasn’t a choice. And I wasn’t going to let a good candidate walk out the door because he happened to be attractive.

This is what gets me about all these ‘code of conduct’ pieces that have been coming out in recent days: I don’t understand why this is so hard for people to grasp.

If someone comes to you for advice, applies for a job, and/or pitches you for funding, don’t hit on that person.

Am I saying that workplace romances can never happen? No, but if you’re the person in a position of authority, you don’t initiate them, full stop.

If your subordinate makes a move on you, you two can discuss the ramifications like adults and decide whether you want to have a romantic relationship (or be friends with benefits, whatever).

That discussion should happen when you both have clear judgment, i.e. not at 3am at a conference when either or both of you have had alcohol. And that expression of interest from your subordinate should be crystal clear: an invitation to grab a beer is not a date unless he or she explicitly says it is.

In the words Anjali Kumar, founding general counsel at Warby Parker, former senior counsel at Google, and current angel investor:

Resource: https://medium.com/startup-grind/how-i-deal-with-sexual-harassment-in-tech-3bce2ab93a32
Edited by: Sena Sarıhasan