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 the 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.
The point of writing this post is to tell the reader that during our course of life, we will encounter lots of eccentric individuals, who might knowingly or un-knowlingly demoralise us, but we should just take these experiences with a pinch of salt, and let every such incident make us more determined to reach our goal.