XX Chromosomes in Silicon Valley
Every few months, a reporter, blogger, or columnist knocks on meebo's door and invites one or all of us to share our experiences about being an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. We've talked about the early days brainstorming at California Pizza Kitchen, the day our lone meebo server almost melted underneath Sandy's desk, and how we've been fortunate to find fantastic people to join our team.
Last Tuesday, I was chatting with a columnist about my experiences as an entrepreneur. We talked about how meebo started, what I was doing prior to meebo, and then the subject turned to what it is like being a Silicon Valley female. "What's it like to get venture capital as a female? Do you think think the entrepreneurial landscape has changed over the last five years as a female? In your observations, how do you think the role of leading tech companies has changed as a female?"
Throughout my relatively short career, I'm not aware of facing extra obstacles or challenges as a female. Regardless of whether you're male or female, a start-up is an act of passion and requires a lot of elbow grease and adaptability. In my periphery, I've heard the horror stories and seen the support groups. And if I stop to think about it, it's true that most of the people I encounter everyday have XY chromosomes. However, for me, being female has always been something I've taken for granted. In terms of identity, I place more value on being from the Midwest, being a part of my family, or having a technical degree before I'd start thinking about being female.
I tried to answer the questions as best as I could. "There's more money now, and starting a company doesn't require as much capital as it did five years ago. I think there's been more democratization in this space and I feel fortunate to have this opportunity." How do I think the media has changed its perspective on female entrepreneurs over the last five years? "Well, it's certainly not 50/50 and it appears to still be a sensationalistic story, but I'm hoping that as we move forward it will become a non-issue."
The columnist I was talking with stopped me midway through our conversation and explained that she wasn't trying to ask leading questions. However, the other interviews she had with leading females were very different. Why do I think that my experience has been different?
I have tremendous gratitude for the women who have paved the way. And perhaps coming from an engineering major where most study partners and peers were males made it easier for me to prepare and adapt to a typically-male Silicon Valley. However, Sandy and I have never felt out of place. For the columnists out there, my experiences being a female have been thankfully dull. And I'd encourage anyone (male or female) who has an idea itching to give the start-up life a shot. I wouldn't trade my meebo experiences for anything!
Elaine Wherry works and is a regular blogger at meebo.com, a website for instant messaging from anywhere. This blog was originally posted on Sunday, May 6, 2007 at meebo.com.