I was not a feminist. I believed that education was a level-playing field for men and women, until I forayed into the male-dominated world of startups and I was shaken to the core.
My startup was shortlisted by one of India’s leading funds based out of Hiranandani, Mumbai (the so-called Silicon Valley of India) for their bootcamp session. I was really excited about the bootcamp, and was waiting to interact with the guy who had started this fund and listen to his advice to start-ups. The first slide of his PPT on entrepreneurship said “Beware of loose-women and venture capitalists.”
I was so turned off by his thought process. How could he invite 5 women founders, and in a room full of women and men, and in front of his own employees and woman-partner, play a slide like this?
I decided that it was not worth associating with a man and moved on.
A month later, I was shortlisted by another group of angel investors based out of Delhi, and I was invited to pitch to potential investors at IIT Delhi. The 20-odd male-investors present there turned out to be ex-IITians for whom attending these pitch sessions was more like a chilling session with free chai and samosas at their alma-mater.
When I reached the venue, the founder of the fund greeted me, “You know Taniya, since you are a girl, you don’t have to worry too much. Usually the investors ask a lot of tough questions, but since you are a girl, they will be easy on you.” Consolation much?
My presentation started. It was superb. I had a great time. Investors loved the concept and the traction I had built. I got great feedback. The founder of the fund told me that his team member will share the feedback with me over a call.
Now here’s the feedback given to the male co-founder of my startup – “While the investors loved the business and traction, they are concerned about the fact that a Tanya is running the show. They will get more confidence in the venture if they meet you.”
I am not a feminist, but I do really hope that the male-dominated world is a little more tolerant and a little less judgemental about women entrepreneurs.