A recent Facebook note surfaced on the web about what its like dating a start-up CEO. The note bluntly outlined what “he” would be like and how “he” would act – and since virality knows no gender, the note got a group of female start-up CEOs talking.
Is it really different dating a female start-up CEO than male? Are we wired all that differently or does society just look at us differently? Are we in fact different?
Before looking at how us FSCs (female start-up CEO) are wired, let’s take a quick look at society.
The title CEO is synonymous with man.
From my own experience, we were finalists with The Funded earlier this year. Fifteen start-ups on the phone, practicing our pitches, and I was the only female founder. We didn’t make stage (top 10) so that meant 100% of the showcase was lead by male presenters.
When I talk to people about the cool startup I run or work at (depending on my mood) very often the response is “Yeah, but what do you do there?” I founded it, I run it, I sign corporate documents with logos on it.
Even in New York City, which has so far been the least gender adverse city I have lived in, my CCO and I did a test. My temporary lease is up and I need a new corporate apartment and wasn’t getting any responses back from people. Stephanie (@stephaniehaller) started emailing brokers and agents using our company email and stating, “Our CEO is very particular about where she lives.” Not only did she receive almost instantaneous responses, many responded with: “Great, what does he like, where does he want to be?”
Trying to Be a Man
So of course a woman performing in a man’s role is immediately out of place! But the pressure for children and marriage and the multitude of family obligations still exists; a FSC is not only performing the wrong societal role but is expected to still perform her traditional one. This is why many moms end up becoming superheroes who keep the house and business together – but what does these super power days do to their significant others?
The biggest difference is in lifestyle.
As told by someone who dated a FSC, “The fact that a female founder needs to party (work) until 2am, be on the phone at 3am, sleep for 2 hours, and email and text at 5am is a nuance that is unique only to the startup world.”
He continued. “We [men] typically need a manual for women, but we need a flak jacket, a cyanide capsule, and a set of roller blades for female founders. Think, ‘crash test dummy.'”
Another FSC dater put it this way: “Know that at any given moment she will be communicating with 5 other people at the same time as you. Deal with it – she’s with you.”
Most female founders I talked with said dating a female start-up CEO vs a male is pretty similar, but because of societal gender roles a woman gets more backlash for doing the necessary things to keep a successful business running – things like dates being canceled at the last minute and checking a Blackberry every two minutes. When a man checks his phone during dinner, he’s busy – when a woman does it, she’s rude.
It’s no surprise why CEOs tend to date each other. Would you rather spend twenty minutes at dinner explaining why you had to check your phone or send the email and enjoy your partner? But then again, a FSC dating another CEO can come across as trying to “sleep her way to the top.”
For female start-up CEOs, there is no winning. No matter what we do, we’re either too manly or two girly. We’re not focused enough or scattered for trying to balance family life. Significant others: understand we will not apologize for being ourselves – but we will adore you for leaving us alone. A big waiver saying, “be prepared to always fly coach” should follow us at all times. But don’t worry, it doesn’t go unnoticed.
So what should you know about dating a Female Start-up CEO?
- No, we are not mad at you. If we seem upset, it’s about work; don’t worry about it.
- No, really, we are not mad at you. We are still processing the work day; again it’s nothing about you. Carry on, nothing to see here.
- Be flexible. Either I’m always on time or I have to reschedule. It’s not a dig at your life or new haircut.
- Make my life easier. If you want to take me to dinner, don’t make me pick the place and even the dish. I have to make tough decisions every other minute of the day – If I have to put just as much work into dinner as when I’m alone, then I’d rather be alone.
- My emotions are related to work- not you. Just as athletes cry after missing the winning goal, I take my work personally and my emotions stem from my feelings about work.
- Time is precious. As my most valued asset, taking your call, responding to an email and having dinner with you are all signs of love. Cherish it, please.
- Say something different. Yes, men tell me I’m hot all the time; it’s partially a way to figure out where I draw my professional lines. Be different – tell me something unique. If you notice the smallest things, you can make me melt.
- Know I’m passionate. If you see me slaving away for an idea, imagine how much I’d slave away for you if I’m sold?
The Ugly Truth
You will get invites to amazing tech parties, happy hours, VIP events and will see things and visit places you have never dreamed of. But the reason why these events exist for you are from the nights of working until 2am, checking Blackberries while you are talking to us, and yes, canceling on your birthday.
If you can stay nimble and appreciate the excruciating work you will see me hammer though, then stick around. Because when the dust settles, we want to be with someone who supported us along the way and let us do our thing.
I don’t require much: just a few emails a day and to know you believe in me. We can always order take out.
(This article is part of a series by our resident SocialTimes entrepreneur, Ellie Cachette. Cachette is the founder of ConsumerBell and also writes on topics covering Consumer Web. For more articles by Ellie, click here )