ACCEPTING MYSELF AS A WORTHY CONTRIBUTOR
That feeling I had—of being less valuable and qualified than others at the table—is all too common for women at work. In my case, it turned out not to be true—and I bet that that is the same for most other women too. I will say that the men, for sure, dominated the conversation. But I noticed that men were eager to hear the women’s perspective, including mine, as it led to different lines of thought. Despite my intimidation, I contributed.
At lunch on one of the days, my then boyfriend and I were looking for a place to sit and there were spots beside David Stern. We went and sat down. This man is brash as can be and no bullshit. Over the course of the lunch, he learned about Big Think, I got his information and several weeks later, when I was back in New York, I asked him to be a guest on Big Think. He came and we chatted after the interview, and he asked me about our financing. Long story short, he became an investor and an unlikely friend to me. He liked our frank conversations. He even coined the term “Digital Goddess,” just for me.
Over the years at Big Think, I’ve been to countless events when I’ve questioned why I was invited to attend, much less participate. It did me no good. What’s the point? I was and I did. Might as well get on with it and make it worthwhile. Counting myself out as a meaningful “token” contributor—a “diversity admit,” as they say—was stupid. It belittles me and those who had the wherewithal to invite me to participate. My notion was, Well, I’m with this group because they need a young(ish) female to counter all these dudes. Guess what? That was underestimating the value I could and actually did provide, which led to new insights in an otherwise homogenous context. I was worthy and, in fact, a differentiator.
EMBRACING THE BENEFITS OF BEING “DIFFERENT”
By being yourself, learning how to be confident, making bold decisions when appropriate, and embracing others as allies and mentors, you can actually use the situation as the only woman in the room to your advantage. And it can be really enjoyable to be “different.” Often, it makes people want to talk with you and it provides opportunities that don’t exist for others.
Countless times, I’ve had the chance to speak with people who are usually difficult to approach or engage with because they are interested in stepping out of the predictable conversations or interactions they’re having with businessmen. I provide a glimpse of something different, and I like to think, perhaps even a learning opportunity to expand their horizons and ways of thinking.