Legitimacy

First penned December 2016

Inspired by Madonna’s Billboard 2016 Woman of the Year Speech:

When I first started working on ArcBotics, I didn’t set out to be a “female founder.” I just wanted to see if we could make something of ArcBotics, of ourselves. In the beginning though, people paid no attention to me because I was seemingly doing outlandish things. “You’re going to leave a respectable path before you get your HBS degree? Where is your multi-million dollar VC funding?”

I was seen as an outlier, not deemed worthy enough to critique. And that was all the same to me, because I could experiment with our company and my life in peace.

But as the years went by and we achieved more traditional markers of success, things changed. With every new milestone we achieved, the chorus of voices of those who had an opinion on how I was “doing it all wrong” – mostly from people who had zero experience in running any successful startup, but felt they had a sense of privilege over my gender, my race, my age, my education (one Ivy League degree wasn’t enough) – grew rampant.

I kept thinking the best, that maybe if I achieved one more thing, did this one project, or said this other thing, that it would stop. That my work would speak for itself, that my work would give me my legitimacy as it rightfully should.

But the voices started doubting the very nature of my work – whether it was even my company, whether I actually did the work myself, whether I had some other secret advantage I wasn’t sharing with the world.

“Trust fund?”
“You inherited this company?”
“Your co-founder – a white male engineer – does all the important things?”

“No, I immigrated from rural China and grew up in a broken household that I now support.”
“No, Joe and I did all of this by ourselves, fresh out of school with a little bit of savings from our first jobs and a whole lot of grit.”
“No, strategy/marketing/financial planning/sales/operations/general bad-assness is just as important as R&D/manufacturing/supply chain/software development.”

Now I know that if I wait around for others to give me the legitimacy I know I deserve, I will die waiting.

Advertisements