My recent WSJ Accelerators essay struck a nerve and after seeing a few comments posted, I want to clarify a few things — especially about Meebo’s culture and any perceived ill-will. I think some nuance may have been lost in the editing process and I want to make it clear that I love my team, Meebo, and what we built together. This is a personal story about a trying time in my professional life and I wanted to share a boots-on-the-ground perspective. So let me set the record straight:
* Meebo’s culture was as good as it gets and was undoubtedly female-friendly — I’ll never work with another group with so much talent, kindness, and commitment to being inclusive and for making the world a better place. You learn a lot about people after co-founding a company and I can’t say enough good things about my two co-founders, Seth and Sandy. Seth has the keenest strategic nose that you’ll ever encounter and Sandy will out-execute and out-charm anyone in the Valley.
Our first ten employees represented eight universities, three countries, and a 70/30 male/female ratio. Among our senior exec team, we had three women reporting to our CEO and co-founder. Our team’s multiple perspectives led to a stronger and more authentic product. This was an isolated incident that occurred outside of Meebo’s usual business. If anything, I think this shows that building an inclusive environment is hard and you always need to be willing to rethink your own personal views and assumptions. If these issues can arise during my time at Meebo, then I am no longer as quick to judge others either.
* There’s more work to do — Even within an amazing culture, I realize that these issues can just arise organically and subconsciously — in this case, during the hiring process. The most vivid part of this story for me is my coach’s feedback. We talked through a lot of possibilities about why someone would not join last-minute including considering gender, feeling out negotiating strategies, and of course, my own behavior. It’s entirely possible this was just a hard negotiation tactic or that any one of my many, many shortcomings played into this, but I’ll always be struck by the matter-of-fact “this is how the real world works” conversation. It’s the first time I had even the slightest idea that gender was top-of-mind for anyone and that I needed to be more aware of this part of my identity. Whether or not this ended up being the true root cause, I’ve learned to tread more carefully and not assume that people who come from other corporate cultures will inherently share my values and working style.