Half of the World is Missing – the Terrible Gender Inequality Issue We Don’t Want to Face

The longer I work in the finance field, the more I understand how wide the gender gap is.

Tonight I went to another fintech event. During today’s event, a venture capital fund introduced 2 emerging market fintech entrepreneurs to the audience. I was quite happy there were some women at the event. Because in most of this type of events, there are very few women investors or entrepreneurs in attendance. Most women in attendance are either secretaries who helped to organize the events. And in most cases, there were a few analysts.

There were about 8-10 questions asked at the event. Besides myself and one of the female event organizer, all questions were asked by men. I was intrigued why there were women in the room, but did not ask any question. During the networking event, I found out that a large number of women who showed up at the event were working for the organizer’s non-profit fund raising business. They were basically there to bump up the numbers, not to really participate in venture capital discussion or fintech discussion.

Maybe in middle class neighborhoods in China, Canada or second tier cities in America, we rarely see the gender gap between women and men. There are almost as many female doctors as male doctors, or maybe there is a gap, but it is not so noticeable. But as I climb the pay ladder and move into more male-dominated industries, I cannot fool myself to say there is no difference.

In my current team, I am the only female analyst/associate. There are 10 others, all men! When my manager organized a pre-wedding gathering for me, they said I could pick a groom from the office bench, where the 10 male associates sit. The male associates play sports fantasy game together, occasionally go play basketball game with others from other asset management firms. They sometimes form packs to go to lunch. To me, it is difficult to get into the pack.

Even when I go attend events after work, I have noticed the conversation crowd tend to center around gender, unless one woman and one man are colleagues to start with. In many occasions men love talking to one another, crack sports jokes or brag fund returns. To someone who is a minority, woman and an immigrant on visa, there is very little in common with these folks. However, I still make the effort. I still force myself to go to events after work. Make connections, introduce myself, shake hands, exchange business cards, get to know people. Sometimes they work. Most of the time I won’t see these people again.

Today on the subway, I was reading the Forbe’s magazine on America’s most valuable cloud tech companies. There were maybe 2 that started by women. Out of 100!!! I hate myself for always pay attention to the gender gap. But I can’t help, because it is too obvious. Women are less likely to take the risk to create companies, less likely to get into the boy’s club to receive funding from venture capitalists, less likely to receive resources to train and scale. We know all of that. We see it every day under our eyes. Why are we still where we are today?

If gender inequality is so widely spread in America and western Europe, the rest of the world is almost in a helpless state. In China, where I grew up, there is societal pressure on girls and women to get married early, give up on career, not pursuing higher education. “Strong women” or “Powerful women” have negative connotations in the culture. In fact, my ex-boyfriend’s mom had told me if one day my ex-boyfriend becomes successful, I should give up work to let him follow his dream. I asked her back, “if I became successful in my career, more successful than him, would you be OK with the other way around.” “Well, men can’t really do that.” I laughed. “why not?!”  I found it so funny that a woman could say that straight to another woman’s face. To many older women who have been poisoned by the built-in gender inequalities in their culture, I really hope they wake up and stand with the younger women who are struggling to fight that, instead of letting the younger women rewalk their past.

I have a dream that one day I will be a successful entrepreneur. I can go tell women and girls that you can take risks, you can have support, and you can be successful. If that means starting a company when I am 40, 50 or 60. So be it. Half of the world is missing and we are pretending everything is fine. The people who have clearly been marginalized have not fully waken up.

If someone could unleash that productivity, how much faster could the world grow?

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