I wanna be where the boys are
I wanna fight how the boys fight
I wanna love how the boys love
I wanna be where the boys are
– The Runaways, “I Wanna Be Where The Boys Are”
Fiona Murray is the Alvin J. Siteman Professor of Entrepreneurship at the MIT Sloan School of Management and associate dean for innovation and co-director of the MIT Innovation Initiative. On November 3, 2013, in the Boston Globe online, she offered up four pieces of advice for female startup founders who are trying to secure venture funding. This advice is based upon her long experience engaging with venture capitalists and running studies on the subject at MIT.
I don’t know Fiona, but I’m going to go with the assumption that she’s fairly brilliant and totally worthy of my respect. In fact, I’ll say that following her advice will probably work for the most part. But, I’m going to nitpick, nonetheless. Because I believe fiercely that women need to go beyond trying to be like men in order to secure and own our success and our futures. I think changing our thinking is this regard is crucial.
I’ve specifically got a bone to pick with the first and last items in her list of four pieces of advice. Those two items are titled, “Wear a Uniform,” and “Watch Sports,” respectively.
Regarding wearing a uniform, Fiona states, “I’ve watched hundreds of MBA students and engineering PhDs pitch investors. Men are rarely self-conscious about their clothes, while women (including me) agonize over what to wear or fiddle with dresses that don’t accommodate microphones.” She advocates that we, as women, agree upon a uniform (not necessarily a masculine one) that we all can adopt in order to put the focus on our ideas instead of our clothes.
Let’s just call this situation like it is. Why are women wearing uncomfortable dresses to pitch? Why would a woman choose to be uncomfortable on such an important occasion? To LOOK PRETTY. There, I said it.
Deep down inside we ladies think that our prettiness will influence these men to give us money. We do. Admit it.
Well, FUCK pretty.
Ladies, I believe the moment you buy into the pretty trap, you have disempowered yourself. You send the signal that you think your appearance is more important than your work, your ideas, and your charisma.
But, I can’t agree with Fiona that adopting a uniform is the answer. That’s still doing something other than being true to yourself, being authentic. Real charisma and self-confidence come from being comfortable with who you are. Who are you? Own it, baby. OWN IT.
I’m not saying be a slob or disregard your appearance. I’m saying own your appearance. Let it reflect who you really are. Whether you’re a Kate Middleton, a Katy Perry or a Kat Von D, don’t try to hide it when doing business. It’ll show. The person on the other side of the table will sense the dissonance in you. A person who is harmonious in persona and appearance, and who relishes both, can have a magical effect on others. If your style happens to be a “uniform-like” pair of khakis and a polo shirt, fine. Just make sure it’s really you.
Now, let’s tackle (!) the idea of being able to talk sports. Oh, Sweet Jesus, why did Fiona say this? I know, she’s backing it up with data from studies about “the role of sports in social bonding in the male-dominated private equity world.” But: no.
If you are not interested in and do not follow sports, I don’t believe you’ll convince anyone that you give a shit about it by trying to fake it. It hurts me to see that advice in writing. And I happen to love hockey. I predicted the Bronco’s first loss this season. I also predict many awkward moments to come for women who aren’t interested in sports trying to utilize this advice.
Ladies, I say you will not find success in a man’s world by trying to remind men of themselves. This kind of thing wouldn’t even work with other women. It won’t work to dye your hair red if you want to work for Arianna Huffington. In fact, yikes.
It’s a tricky maneuver, to be sure. Be you. Be a woman. But don’t be bound by the rules for women that have been subtly taught to you by society. Make your own rules. Above all, believe in yourself. Believe in yourself. Believe in yourself.
Move beyond the idea of being a woman (or a man) and evolve to the idea of being a force. To be a force you must believe in yourself and your mission.
There’s so much more to say on this subject. But I want to keep my posts short. What do you think?
I don’t give a damn ’bout my reputation
You’re living in the past, it’s a new generation
A girl can do what she wants to do and that’s what I’m gonna do
– Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, “Bad Reputation”