LESSON 4Let Others Underestimate You

I don’t know a single entrepreneur who hasn’t heard a version of the following message: You can’t do it. It’ll never happen.

To overcome the skeptics and the naysayers, nearly all entrepreneurs need grit and a level of optimism that can seem delusional, as Will Ade’s story (Lesson 3) so powerfully illustrates.

Female entrepreneurs especially require superhuman levels of these traits. It’s tough for anyone to build a company out of nothing more than an idea, but I have found that all too frequently the female entrepreneurs I know have been underestimated in such a pathological way that the only word that can accurately describe it is sexism.

One of the opportunities that writing a book like this provides is the experience of hearing other people’s stories. I thought I knew many of the ins and outs of what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur, but listening to the stories of female entrepreneurs allowed me to more fully appreciate the fact that sexism is an additional challenge so many successful women have had to overcome.

The most consistent and disturbing pattern I witnessed was that many women wanted to revise the stories they had told me after they saw their words in a printed draft. In the quiet of an initial interview, many women shared stories of bosses or clients pressuring them for sex, male colleagues forcing them to attend work events held at strip clubs, or simply the consistent onslaught of sexual innuendo they endured over ...

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