Last fall, PriceWaterhouseCoopers released a survey revealing that only 35 percent of men who sit on corporate boards of some of the largest U.S. companies think gender diversity of boards is important.
Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, white male board members just don’t believe diversity — of any kind — makes their companies stronger. This wasn’t news to me.
As an entrepreneur five years into running my own company I’d raised more than $100 million in venture capital funding, spent a lot of time talking to investors and noticing what they looked for when they interacted with businesses and their leadership.
Unfortunately, I’ve found it to be true that men are generally taken more seriously than women in the corporate world. I think this is the case because historically speaking, men have been part of the recognized workforce a lot longer than women.
In the grand scheme of things women have just entered the workforce. Just a generation ago, women working outside the home were mainly teachers or personal assistants. And a generation before that, most women worked only as homemakers.
I also think it’s true that the companies of today that have primarily male or all-male boards are perceived as more credible than ones that include women. Pattern recognition is key for investors, and with most boards dominated by men the pattern reinforces itself. Investors see that men are successful, so they fund men to replicate that success.
This kind of bias is a very similar phenomenon to hiring bias. It’s fairly common knowledge that hiring managers tend to hire people like themselves unless they take well-informed behavioral measures to overcome their unconscious bias.
Statistically speaking, this is especially true of white men hiring other white men. Unless corrective measures are taken, the status quo prevails. And in many places in the corporate world — including the boardroom — the status quo is white and male.
Ignore sexism, dream big
I didn’t anticipate confronting sexism when I started Revel, and I think there were many instances where I was somewhat oblivious and didn’t even notice it. I actually think this has benefited me as a CEO.
This is why my advice to other young female entrepreneurs working with VCs is to ignore sexism as much as you can. Just go out there, work hard and don’t think of yourself as any different from men in terms of your abilities or appetite for success. Be extremely ambitious and don’t settle for results that are less than what you know you can achieve. ●
Lisa Falzone is co-founder and CEO at Revel Systems.