“We pave the sunlit path toward justice together, brick by brick. This is my brick.” I am not a rainbow rager or a banner carrying lesbian woman. As a matter of fact there are a few times I have verbally spoken up on the topic. As a matter fact there have been very few and this is one of them.
Yesterday morning Tim Cook gave the LGBT community a gift but he gave me a brick. As a woman in technology, I feel most days alone. But as a gay woman in technology I know I am alone. Last week at the Venture Summit for Innovation and Technology I was in what they called speed-dating rounds. I was to meet 12 people that are interested in potentially investing in technology companies, specifically in the advertising/tech space. Before the Summit I had already raised over $4.5mm for my company -- half from seed and the other half from me. The product I created is strong, the traction is good and it’s now time to raise some more money to spur growth and cement first mover status. So the road show is beginning.
At this Summit ten people showed up to the meeting. One person refused to sit with me. One person did not want to listen to me. Eight were good meetings.
One of the meetings was a great connection -- a mega-brand and a good fit for us. He asked all the right questions and I was in the zone. He was impressed with the growth and trajectory of my first start-up and even more impressed with the ace of the second. He asked, “What made you get into start-ups”?
I said, “I was fired.”
He replied, “Why were you fired?”
I said, “I came out.”
He looked surprised and even shocked.
I went on to say, “I am sorry. I am not trying to be shocking but I do not want to lie.”
He said, “No, I am shocked (clearly uncomfortable) that employers can do that.”
I said, “Well it was 15 years ago.”
That conversation was over and there was no follow up.
I am not crying in my soup. Look, I am struggling here not with being gay but I did leave that place wondering, “Do I share it?” The point is this; I feel great that Tim Cook came out, because I did not expect it. He did not get caught, he just came out in a well written, real way. Tim Cook’s revelation doesn’t get me funded. As a matter of fact it doesn’t mean much in the world I am in. But it told me I was not alone. That the tech field just got a little more real, at least to me.
Here is my reality: When I told the PR person in my office I wanted to write about this, I was essentially asking permission. I own multiple companies and I am successful but I am asking permission. When that gal said “ok” another guy chimed in and said, “You should, the stock market didn’t even really move on the news.” I was in awe, not about the news of the stock market but that we even thought it would. I get that I might not get funded because I am a woman, or my pedigree or because I am gay. As a matter of fact the obstacles in front of me are tremendous. But that is not going to stop me from trying to get funded and to find those who are passionate about the ad tech space.
Bottom line, those that do fund me will be rewarded, not because I am woman, or that I am gay or for any other reason. It’s because I am tough, I am fearless and I am proven. I have beaten the odds already and I have bet on myself time and time again and won. Being who I am has made me strong, but coming out has given the courage to face any scenario.
I believe in standing up and having the courage to be judged. To be mocked and to be denied in order to be who you are is a gift from God. Today even Tim Cook said in his piece, “to be who you are is a gift.” I feel the same way. Today, I know I am not alone because the CEO of one of the most powerful brands on the globe gave me a proverbial brick to lay down on my path as I join, drive forward and lead other woman technologists into a space that is ripe for disruption and opportunity.
Tim Cook, I hope I will make you proud because you have made me proud. Thank you.
Monica C. Smith is a serial entrepreneur with two industry-acclaimed marketing startups, one 501(c)3 nonprofit and numerous philanthropic endeavors under her belt. Her latest entrepreneurial venture is i.Predictus, a demand-side television platform that is transforming the TV media buying industry, bringing a new perspective to the world of attribution, marketing automation and customer data warehousing.
Check us out on Facebook at MediaBizBloggers.com
Follow our Twitter updates at @MediaBizBlogger
The opinions and points of view expressed in this commentary are exclusively the views of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaBizBloggers.com management or associated bloggers. MediaBizBloggers is an open thought leadership platform and readers may share their comments and opinions in response to all commentaries.