Speaking from her office/breast-pumping room, Jennifer Lin -- founder, chief executive and momtrepreneur -- reported today that she was totally fine with having to spend every fucking moment defending her growing list of titles, confirming the suspicions of her work colleagues. Lin proclaimed that the judgment she endures daily as a CEO, who is also a mother of two, is not at all tiresome. "I didn't feel bad when I had to remind a fellow panelist at TechCrunch Disrupt this year that, like him, I was also the CEO of a startup. It was clearly an honest mistake when he replied with, 'Ha! Good one!' before directing me to a group of PR and social media managers huddled in a corner. It's not like I hadn't heard that one before."
Lin further clarified that, having spent her entire career deflecting misogynistic comments, she really didn't mind the fact that she continues to spend most of her days as a CEO, woman and mother, embroiled in a futile battle for respect and equality. As she described, "After so many years of relentless discrimination, I felt completely comfortable when a potential investor proposed that I select someone 'without a vagina' to serve as the face of the company. It was a fair suggestion for someone in his position, but I didn't end up taking his advice; I wasn't at all stunned when we didn't get a term sheet, and I fully understand his perspective." She also notes that she was neither surprised nor insulted when she heard that the same venture capitalist ended up funding a competitive idea in exactly the same space, but helmed by a 22-year-old male CEO with zero business experience. "I mean, why shouldn't he have chosen the tequila-brined douche bag who could barely string together a coherent sentence over me, an MIT computer science major with a business degree from Harvard and over 15 years of experience running successful technology teams, with back-to-back acquisitions totaling over $800 million? I would have waffled over the same decision had I been in his shoes. It's just not obvious."
Lin shared with reporters that after those initial hiccups with the fundraising process, she was finally able to secure the funding she needed to get her business off the ground, and she continued to be totally at ease with the brazen chauvinism she experienced. The utter nuisance of her multi-pronged identity as a mom/tech-CEO/entrepreneur was not lost on anyone she encountered, including her own staff. As Lin recounts, "During a particularly heated exchange with my CTO over company culture, a topic that we could never agree on, he stopped his rant for a brief moment to ask if I 'might want some Advil to tame my PMS.' I considered stonewalling him with silence, but I thought better of it when I realized that he had never worked with a woman before, let alone worked for one. It must have been so hard for him to speak up in such an unfamiliar setting. I immediately calmed my rage, which was utterly uncalled for, and listened more open-mindedly to his recommendation that we turn Happy Hour Friday into Strip Club Saturday."
As Lin recalled, her abundant experience with sexual discrimination began 40 years ago, when she was born a female, and her adeptness at handling these situations grew with each passing year, making her an ideal candidate for Silicon Valley leadership. "My first professional roles were your typical software engineer positions at mid to large-sized technology companies. You know, the companies where 80% of the software engineers are males? I may have stuck out like a sore thumb, but at least these companies had the decency to be completely opaque about the fact that I was making 60% less than my male counterparts in similar roles. I fully understood my manager's perspective when he admitted to hiding the salary discrepancy from me in an attempt to protect my 'soft, feminine feelings.' How thoughtful and kind of him to look out for me in this way!"
Lin's solid understanding of how things work in the Valley had no doubt played a large role in her ability to stay cool when faced with such overt prejudice, no more so than when she added the title of "mother" to her growing list of responsibilities five years ago. Lin narrated her experiences during her first week back after a two-week, unpaid maternity leave, reporting that a male board member asked if pumping three times per day might, in fact, be too much. "I initially thought he was concerned about my physical health so soon after the C-section, and I was genuinely shocked at his compassion. But I quickly realized that this was his way of suggesting that, by pumping breastmilk for my newborn, I'd be spending too much time away from the staff. This was a reaction that I could more easily and more comfortably process."
As Lin prepared to leave her office for the day, satisfied with her careful handling of the unyielding and unapologetic anti-feminist sentiments at every corner, she told reporters that she was thrilled at the prospect of dealing with the equally unending stream of mommy guilt she would no doubt face the moment she walked through her front door.
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