As I sit and talk with Jenny Q. Ta about her experience as an Asian woman making millions on Wall Street, her phone rings. It is Shinta, her business partner and influential tech icon. I was so engulfed in listening to her stories of how she dealt with male dominated boardrooms, I forgot that we were waiting for Shinta to call in. Now I have two very powerful women in the room. One in person and one calling in from thousands of miles away. Time to get back to the questions I wanted to ask.
Ryan: Jenny, for women that don’t have the experience or the opportunity that you had on Wall Street, what are some of the things that can empower them to exert themselves in male-dominated business settings?
Jenny: Shinta and I have been through a lot. Now we take on the position of mentoring other women. We specifically love to mentor other women and coach them like how I’m sitting here sharing with you. Shinta has been in the tech industry for twenty years and I’ve been Wall Street and, now, tech for about the same time.
Say there are some women who don’t talk about startups (and I’m talking about ones who have been in the business for not as long as Shinta and I, but say, five, seven years or whatever it is) and they still don’t have the thick skin that I’ve just shared with you? They may just sit around quietly at the meetings or in the boardroom. I’ve seen that. Your question is, how can those women get more power?
Ryan: Yeah, or assert their power.
Ryan: …in a tactful way that doesn’t work against them.
Jenny: How I would approach it if I were mentoring them is to use your brain. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman — if you show how intellectual you are by responding to certain questions or topics inside that board room, or whatever it is where the men are literally dominating, you will stand out.
If you continue to sit there quietly, you will eventually be obsolete in that room. If you want to assert your power, speak up even when they ignore you and don’t give you the mic. Whatever the subject they’re talking about, dive right in and say, “Oh, by the way, how I would approach that is blah, blah, blah …” Make sure you say something smart, though.
Jenny: If you jump in and say something dumb, that’s even worse … I would say for women to use their intellect, their mind … They will get the power that they need in a room full of men.
Ryan: I like it.
Shinta: Yeah … Can I jump in?
Ryan: Yes, please do.
Shinta: We [women], especially me, in the tech world are always surrounded by men … It’s something that I can make use of because … there’s probably only one other woman with me. We need to stand out because we’re a minority. I think the men appreciate it if we have something to say and it’s something important to say… like what Jenny said (about diving in and saying something smart). It has to be something smart … I never see that men and women are different.
As long as we can show that we know what we’re doing, I think it’ll be fine with anyone. We’re not a minority at the end of the day because we’re blending in. What happens with me in the tech industry … Especially in the conferences or … When I speak on a panel, it’s usually I’m the only woman, but that makes you special as well. You need to use that. You need to leverage that.
Shinta Dhanuwardoyo (Forbes Magazine’s “99 Most Powerful Women” by Globe Asia), is paving the way for more women in Venture Capital. More here….
Jenny: Shinta has met Mark Zuckerberg a number of times when he last visited Jakarta and a few more times when Shinta was invited as a guest to attend different events at Facebook’s headquarters. Shinta has also met with Sheryl Sandberg many times as well. She works closely with her government in Indonesia to connect anything technology with Silicon Valley as the startup scenes in Indonesia has been rapidly growing these past few years.
Jenny: Shinta recently visited the palace of the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, to share with him the latest in technology as he was preparing for his trip to the United States. Shinta has travelled a few times with her government delegation to a number of tech companies here in Silicon Valley – such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple and others.
Ryan: It sounds like knowledge is really power in this situation.
Shinta: Yeah, definitely. Just know what you’re doing and saying, that’s it.