The thing that I’ve been reflecting on a lot recently is the pattern of interaction when I am talking to people about my projects after having reached out to them to learn more about their relevant experience or because they’ve reached out to me.
Put simply, men warn me about challenges. Women try to help me solve them.
In the Harvard Business Review researchers noted that funders tend to ask men about potential gains and women about potential losses:
According to the psychological theory of regulatory focus, investors adopted what’s called a promotion orientation when quizzing male entrepreneurs, which means they focused on hopes, achievements, advancement, and ideals. Conversely, when questioning female entrepreneurs they embraced a prevention orientation, which is concerned with safety, responsibility, security, and vigilance. We found that 67% of the questions posed to male entrepreneurs were promotion-oriented, while 66% of those posed to female entrepreneurs were prevention-oriented.
[Women] ask engaging questions and then often almost immediately and collaboratively brainstorm ideas with me. It’s not that we never discuss challenges, it’s that they don’t assume I’ve never thought about them and the conversation isn’t anchored on pitfalls but what can be done to overcome them.
“I know someone you should talk to.”
“This conference would be really useful to you.”
“There’s this thing that might be interesting for you to know about.”
And more than just tell me about it, women frequently start using their own social capital to help by offering to make introductions or they email or call someone on my behalf. They find me at conferences or events and walk me over to someone to make an introduction, they connect me with their networks. They offer advice and a second pair of eyes on things I’m sending out into the world. They offer ideas and follow through. It’s not been uncommon to hear from them weeks later checking in on how things are going or if I was able to successfully connect with someone they recommended.
There is no substitute for a knowledgeable, insightful woman with real authority.