I attended last week’s New York Tech Meetup and had a really great time! I had been told it was a successful meetup group and that the theater it was being held in would be full, but I had no idea it would be as packed as it was!
I felt the presentations of the various startups were fascinating and inspiring, the after party/social hour was great for networking, and the mix of business ideas made things really interesting. However, I will say that I couldn’t help but notice that men, white men (to be more accurate) were represented in much greater numbers than any other group. While I know I shouldn’t find this surprising, I was a bit disheartened by some things that went on…things that I’m sure many of these budding entrepreneurs weren’t even cognizant of (as is the case when we aren’t aware of our own internalized biases - ie: racism/sexism/prejudice/etc.) - like this guy.
Case in point:
During a break between presentations, the MC instructed everyone in the room to turn to someone they didn’t know and introduce themselves and explain what they’re working on. I happened to be surrounded by white men who all turned in opposite directions from me and didn’t even return my hello or offer a half smile, let alone introduce them self and describe their startup! “O…kay,” I thought to myself, “that’s odd…” So, I decided to check some e-mails on my iPhone and wait until the next presenter came on stage.
While I’m sure (or at least hope!) that this was some kind of fluke…heck, maybe I looked like I was in a bad mood?…I was still left with a mixture of feelings.
1. What’s a woman of color like me doing in entrepreneurship? (Will people really take me seriously?)
2. This is exactly why there needs to be support for minority entrepreneurs (damnit)!
3. The EJ program has done an awesome job of bringing together a very diverse and talented group of innovative entrepreneurs…so we NEED to talk diversity + tech…NOW!
4. How can I leverage my “difference” and use it to stand out?
5. If entrepreneurial journalism startups are all run by white men, who’s going to tell our stories?! Minorities will definitely be left in the dark (as usual)!
It took me a while to process that evening, as it was a mix of both good and heavy (not so good) thoughts/feelings. Whether or not the men near me realized they basically ignored me, feeling rejected in the EJ community stirred up something I didn’t realize was there. Hopefully we can begin talking about how our identities and varied background come into play in entrepreneurship…especially here in the US. :)