It’s not can I do this… not how will I do this… but do I even want to?
By Michele Spiezia (Founder & CEO, Bespoke Atelier)
This piece originally appeared on Medium.
I am a woman in tech. I am a founder, CEO and head of any and all important happenings at Bespoke. I didn’t get here on purpose. I didn’t make a conscious choice to ‘be in tech’ like some engineers, MBA’s or designers might have. I came sidelong into this position by chance — I’m married to and business partners with an amazing visionary, who just happens to combine forces with me quite delightfully to make awesome shit happen. So when he said we should build something, I was in for the ride. But I could never have anticipated what I’d find when I got here.
Now, my background is twofold — I started in hospitality in NYC. Waitress. Hostess. Bartender. Up to manager, sommelier and corporate trainer. Back in the 90’s, hospitality was another despairing industry in which frat house mentality ruled. All stereotypes aside, I made my mark and moved on in 2004 to the event industry, specifically weddings and social events. Second only maybe to education, the event industry is incomparably dominated by women — the planners, the photographers, the floral designers and dressmakers. Oh, and overwhelmingly, every dude that is in the room is gay. Okay — broad generalization of course, but in a nutshell, surprisingly accurate.
So when, in 2012 I blindly entered the tech space, I hadn’t a clue. All this talk of entrepreneurs, female founders, and the rise of the NYC tech scene was news to me. I took it in stride, and absorbed everything I could like a sponge. I went to every networking event I could squeeze into my schedule. Laughable experiences abounded, but nothing like the horror stories I’ve heard other female cohorts recount. I have been lucky, I suppose, or having lived through the 1990’s in NYC’s restaurant scene, I just knew how to deflect, deflate and detract an oncoming offense.
The point is, with all the talk about women in tech, our disparaging numbers and off-putting experiences, has anyone ever stopped to consider that the reason there aren’t more women in tech is because we don’t want to be?!?
After recently reading one female founder’s crazy plan to get through Y Combinator, I wasn’t left in awe of her. I wasn’t left thinking, “Wow, what an amazing woman.” I was left thinking — ”Why do we continue to enter the pissing match? Why are we subjecting ourselves to their shitty rules and bro culture? Why can’t we change the game?”
And that’s the ledge I stand on most days when it comes to Bespoke. Whether or not I WANT to be a part of this environment, this culture, this way of being. I have a husband, a child, and a life to live. Do I really want to spend 60+ hours a week for the next decade here? There’s gotta be a better way.
But I believe in my product. I believe in my team. I believe in our users. I believe we’ve created something meaningful and useful and transformative, and the road is long before us to inspire, engage and empower creative thinking and innovation around the globe. But if that road is a thicket through the brogrammer, white, privileged culture of the few, do I stand a snowball’s chance in hell given my start in the heap of the many?
So what’s a female founder to do? What are our choices? What do you think?