I don’t belong in the Startup World

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been slowly transitioning into the startup world. I mentioned that I wanted to promote diversity and inclusion in tech and the startup world. Most recently, I’ve began volunteering as a business development manager at a health tech startup. In addition, I’ve been going to different networking events for entrepreneurs, techies, venture capitalists and startup founders in Boston.

Though I have a great time in these spaces and meet some very interesting people. I’m always aware of my otherness. W.E.B. Dubois calls it “double consciousness”. This reminder that though I am American, I am also black. Two souls in one body. For some people there are several more layers of consciousness. Yesterday, as I walked into a networking event. I was not only aware of my blackness but I was also aware of my womanness. I was enveloped in a sea of white males rendering a “triple consciousness”. Top that off with a non-tech background, feelings of not belonging are only natural.

I met very interesting people at the event, mostly white male. However, one person stood out in particular.

I decided to say hi to an older Asian woman looking at her phone, as I began telling her about my passion about diversity and inclusion within the startup/tech world, she admitted that she felt out of place.

“Everyone is younger than me.” At the moment, I felt her. I understood the feeling of marginalization.

“It’s ageism.” I replied. “The tech world is geared towards young white males.”

“Yes!” She ecstatically replied.

I told her that when I first came, I did notice that I was one of the only people of color and that though I’m a very assertive and sociable person for the first hour or so of being there, I was a bit shy.

I began telling her to go to more events and I shared my good experiences at District Hall and other meetups. I also assured her that over time she’ll realize that people are friendly and she’ll get more comfortable.

She then looked at me, grabbed my hand, and said, “I’m so glad you came to talk with me.”

This woman was experiencing “quadruple consciousness.” She was Asian, a woman, “older” and a techie” all in one body. Each identity fighting to belong in this space full of white young male techies. Eventually, her saying that everyone was younger than her was a realization that she doesn’t belong in the startup world.

And it is people like her and the students I’ve taught who’ve been systemically marginalized that drive my passion for diversity and inclusion. My hope is to transform the the startup world in a way where people like her can feel like they belong.

-Esther Yvette






4 thoughts on “I don’t belong in the Startup World

  1. Michel H says:

    That experience translate into other environments – not just the tech world. Imagine that feeling walking into a startup incubator – over 50 with years corporate experience – female – a person of color. The feeling of not belonging – more important not welcome can be felt from the reception desk to everyone you insist on talking to. After more than a year of attempting to bring my training and development skills to the startup space – I stopped going to the mentoring and networking events. It was valuable time better suited to other pursuits. I got little value.

    Liked by 1 person

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