Laura Roeder on Being a Woman in the Workplace

Sexual Harassment and Being a Woman in the Workplace — with Entrepreneur Laura Roeder

Laura Roeder is the founder and CEO of the successful social media company MeetEdgar — which she grew to $4 million in her 20s and 30s.

Way to go, Laura. 💪 💰

But as a woman in business, her journey to grow her company wasn’t easy.

With all the stories about sexual harassment in tech and business, I wanted to hear Laura’s female point of view.

If you’re a male, my #1 goal is you’ll come away from this post and podcast episode with an appreciation of what women have to go through in business.

Below, you’ll learn 3 key things…

  1. Laura’s experiences being a woman in tech
  2. How Laura recommends men interact with women in the workplace
  3. Why she was able to start a business while other women haven’t

Plus a bunch more.

How to interact with women in the workplace

I've never heard of a woman that's raised money that hasn't had some super sketchy situations. It’s just part of how things work.

Women in tech and business face daily challenges.

We see it in the news all the time…

Laura Roeder and sexual harrassment

As a woman, Laura has to decide every time she receives a message whether the other person really wants to talk business (or whether they just want to try and flirt with her).

The most important thing that men can do is one be very straight-forward with their intentions, Laura told me.

If you want to ask someone out on a date or grab a drink, ask them… and make it clear.

But if you say something like “let’s talk shop” or “discuss business”, then everything has to be 100% business.

And if you’ve there’s a power dynamic (like you’re their boss, or an investor interested in their company) then that’s where the relationship should stay.

Whether you're a boss or colleague, having a women colleague can be a sensitive topic — but that doesn't mean you should avoid talking to your female colleagues out of fear.

I have a friend who organizes these informal weekend retreats for founder friends. He told me that some of the men's wives don't want women there.

If it’s the norm for it to be unusual or uncomfortable for men and women to talk to each other, how can women ever progress at work?

We have to get over uncomfortableness and awkwardness.

Sometimes there will be an awkward conversation about how to treat your female colleague at work, or you might not be sure what kind of complement is okay.

The only way things will improve is if we open ourselves to the vulnerability and difficult conversations.

Female entrepreneurship and starting a business

It’s not uncommon for people to ask Laura questions like:

  • “Who started your company?”
  • “Do you work for your dad?”
  • “Is this your husband’s company?”

It sucks that she faces these questions all the time. No one has ever questioned me founding Sumo.

Laura sees some the silver lining.

I know that people aren't trying to be terrible. And now they know a young woman that started a business, maybe they'll put that in their data set for next time.

There are more female business owners and founders than many realize: More than 9.4 million companies are owned by women.

Laura even grew MeetEdgar to $4 million ARR, which is impressive for anyone regardless of gender.

Laura believes a lot of women are interested in running smaller businesses and not interested in the fundraising game, which is why you don’t hear about them on the news.

Personally, Laura wants flexibility and freedom in her time which is why she hasn’t raised millions of dollars and become a household name.

Those certainly aren’t female-only traits. Many entrepreneurs choose to start their own businesses so they can be free from the corporate world.

Laura also believes there’s some cultural differences in the way men and women are raised to view work and their careers:

  • Often, men are raised to believe your salary and job is very important. As a male, your role at work is very important to how the world sees you
  • Often, women were raised to focus on families, avoid coming off as aggressive, no negotiating, etc.

Laura explained:

The good part about that is maybe women don't have as much ego attached to our job title or salary, so maybe we're not desperately searching those things as much.

This is just the tip of the iceberg with my chat with Laura.

If you want to learn more, we have a 30-minute podcast waiting for you.

Hear more about being a woman in the workplace — and how men can help make it better.

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3 responses to “Sexual Harassment and Being a Woman in the Workplace — with Entrepreneur Laura Roeder”

Meg
November 16, 2017 at 6:56 am

Hi Noah,

First off, thank you for bringing up this topic. I think it's a huge issue in business today for both men and women (in different ways) and it's nice to see it addressed - especially by an industry leader such as yourself. A lot of people listen to your podcast and it's great that you used it as a platform to bring up an uncomfortable subject that needs to be addressed.

But (there's always a but, isn't there?) overall as a female business owner, I was incredibly disappointed by this episode and here's why:

-I listen to your podcast because your an incredible BUSINESS OWNER, not because you're a male. You ask thought provoking questions to your interviewees that I'm interested in hearing the answers to, mainly because I think they can help me grow my own business. Typically after listening to an episode I'm filled with ideas on how I can apply those apply those answers to my daily practices. I didn't do that after this one.

I don't know, maybe it's because I started my career out in the Marine Corps that this topic doesn't resonate with me as much because it was such a male dominated field - I typically think like "a dude" in most situations. You don't like something someone's doing? Tell them. Someone said something that makes you feel uncomfortable, address it. From my experience, you can't correct a problem if you don't actually know it's a problem and you can't get mad at someone for doing something to you if you never expressed how it made you feel.

That's it in a nutshell. As a female, it's not going to make me stop listening to your podcast. Hands down, it's the best podcast I've ever listened to and I start each day listening to it. I just think it would be cool if you brought Laura back on and asked her more questions about her and her company like you do for other interviewees on your show.

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Jonathan
November 4, 2017 at 11:29 pm

Good chat on an important topic. It reminded me of when my wife and I bought our first house together in our mid-20s. First off, nobody believed we were the owners. But then when they finally started to believe, a guy knocked on our door to talk to the "owner". My wife answered. She said she is the owner. He then asked for the "man of the house". Just really lame.

Re: end-of-podcast question. My favorite airline recently has been Frontier. Not because their service is great, but just because it's cheap. I've got roundtrip flights across a few states for $50 before.

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Laura Roeder
October 31, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Here's the story I referenced about adding a fake male partner to an agency https://gizmodo.com/to-offset-sexism-in-tech-these-female-cofounders-inven-1798532364

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