I had the honor of sitting on the “Women in Entrepreneurship” panel in late December at an Arizona Technology Council Startup Connect AZ event with some very impressive entrepreneurs and professionals. This panel was very different from one that I moderated a month earlier in November. My panelists were for the most part younger than the women on the recent panel. And although that November group was also all female, we discussed mistakes we had made and startup lessons we’d learned without addressing the differences between men and women.
While it was interesting to discuss some of the themes and questions around the differences between men and women, I found the interaction with other panelists most valuable. At one point, I shared my technology missteps and when I them as more than one error a fellow panelist told me that making the same mistake twice was negligent on my part. Ouch!
But it got me to thinking: it is not the differences between men and women so much as it’s about personality and character. That being said, mentoring and leading by example are not solely female traits. Plus, although I did say during last week’s panel that I thought women might collaborate better than men, I could not help but think of a recent situation where my ideas were taken without any credit by the sole female in the group.
What follows is a list of a few other supposed “female v. male” differences where I find myself wondering if I am from Venus or Mars.
Why the concept of “lean in” is a challenge
I have never thought of putting my career on hold for anyone. Maybe that makes me a terrible mother and wife, I just never wanted to be reliant on anyone. My mother was a stay-at-home mom who never had a driver’s license. She was smart as hell and never went to college because my grandparents were poor. She completed secretarial school and worked until she had me. The most valuable lesson she taught me was to never, ever put boundaries on what I wanted to do.
So it may make me a bit crazy with my goals, both personal and professional, but I never worry about whether I left before I left – I just move forward and upwards.
Excuses are not in my vocabulary
The panelists were asked to list examples of excuses they have heard; not excuses they had made! All were foreign to me. Instead, I loved how my good friend and attorney, Maria Speth, talked about how to be a role model for your kids by just doing it.
Get stuff done but delegate
WebPT Co-Founder and COO, Heidi Jannenga had sage advice about getting stuff done but also knowing you cannot do it all. Instead, hire people that do things better than you. I think by setting the end goals for your team, people will get there using their own way within a well-defined culture, a lesson I learned from great male leaders like Tony Hsieh.
Answering questions about the differences between men and women is tricky
When the moderator asked me what I thought women do better than men, I struggled to answer. Not wanting to be a reverse sexist, I said that I think women collaborate more and may be better multi-taskers (I actually think multi-tasking is a myth and have tried to stop doing it.).
If I were thinking on my feet better, I would have said that there are no real differences based on gender, but rather the individual, and that many men are just as skilled.