Based on your other remarks, Sarah, you’ve pushed back with only negative results. But maybe there’s a small percentage of male VC’s who aren’t aware of their biases and will be affected by your reaction. Their attitude may ruin the deal for you, but you may be planting the seed for another female entrepreneur to get a deal.

The next wave focused on men — gender diversity workshops, sensitivity training, sexual harassment workshops for CEOs, VCs and Angels — will not happen by itself, unless these men are made aware of their unacceptable attitudes.

The man from your sample conversation is clueless, so how is he going to come to the conclusion that he needs to go to a workshop if all you female entrepreneurs play nice and make excuses for leaving, while attacking him behind his back? Male VCs who read your post will never think you are talking about them, because their prejudices are so unconscious.

Most women have the ability to read subtle signs from others, while most men do not. There is some really good linguistic research by Dr. Deborah Tannen who explains this phenomenon and describes the differing communication styles of men and women.

As David Dunning pointed out with his Nobel-prize winning research on the Dunning-Kruger effect, “for a given skill, incompetent people will:

  • fail to recognize their own lack of skill
  • fail to recognize genuine skill in others
  • fail to recognize the extent of their inadequacy
  • recognize and acknowledge their own lack of skill, after they are exposed to training for that skill”

He also wrote “subjects with true ability tended to underestimate their relative competence. Roughly, participants who found tasks to be easy, erroneously presumed to some extent, that the tasks also must be easy for others.

In other words, since you can read subtle signals from others, you expect a man to read your subtle signals of discomfort, hurt or anger. And this makes you even more upset because you think he is doing it on purpose.

The reality is, men need very direct feedback, and very specific motivation.

And the one thing Male VCs care about more than anything else is figuring out who is going to make them a lot of money.

Nothing will hurt your clueless VC more than showing him your great business opportunity, and then turning him down because of his misogynistic attitudes. The loss of a good deal is what may send him running to sensitivity workshops.

Good luck. I hope your success causes those jerks to rethink their position.

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Ad agency creative director, writer & designer at Former pro tennis player and peak performance coach for professional athletes.

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