Early last month, Chris Sacca, former tech startup investor and advisor, gave an epic two-plus-hour interview at the Collision conference in New Orleans. (If you’ve got time, I highly recommend checking it out.)
He talked current events, he talked the future, and, mostly, he talked women in tech.
After his extended chat with CNNMoney’s Laurie Segall, Sacca invited members of the audience to ask questions. His only demand? Women first. Or, in his words, “I am literally not leaving this stage until some women get to ask some questions.”
“I am literally not leaving this stage until some women get to ask some questions.” - Chris Sacca
As soon as the words escaped his mouth, women entrepreneurs began lining the stage, hoping to get a bit of advice from one of Silicon Valley’s most successful. One of the young women who approached the mic beseeched, “For me, going into a room of investors, all 60-year-old white males, is very difficult,” she said. “So how do we break through these barriers?”
Her question warranted a lengthy response from Sacca. “There is no doubt that the road for a female founder, let alone a female founder of color, is just harder. And that’s a great injustice.”
“But you have a unique lens on the world that will actually lead to a more successful business. You are where the market opportunity is... When you come from a different background you have this gift of identifying the underlying assumptions the rest of us are making.”
But his response was missing something. While I appreciated Sacca’s emphasis on the importance of breaking barriers down, I was left wondering how one might start crumbling the bricks in the first place… which is why I was enthralled by episode eight of the Relate by Zendesk podcast. This week, Tamara Stanners tells the story of two people—both individually trapped by war, culture, and stereotypes—who break down barriers to become a better version of themselves.Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, put it in your pocket with Spotify, or make it your own with Stitcher.
Take the story of Maria Toorpakai Wazir, for example. Maria grew up in Pakistan, where women aren’t allowed in public unless cloaked by a burqa and accompanied by a male escort. But Maria wouldn’t let gender norms get in the way of freedom, so she decided to leave the long hair and dresses behind and start living as a boy. Maria’s strong mind and heart helped her build life-changing relationships along the way and, ultimately, pushed her to dominate a sport she would never have been allowed to play.
Maria reminded me of the woman back at the conference, another strong individual making strides to push through a male-dominated space and achieve the success she deserves. There’s no question that rebelling against societal norms is challenging, but the potential lying on the other side—whether it be seed funding for a startup or personal freedom—make the fight well worth it. That’s the story I was looking for. That’s the story you’ll find on Relate.
The Relate podcast: a show about how we connect, work together, and understand one another. Basically, we'll explore every type of relationship except romance—that’s on you.
Sara Lighthall is a content marketer at Zendesk and a student of life. When she’s not demystifying the Millennial generation on Relate, you can find her with her toes in the sand and a latte in her hand. See what she’s up to on Twitter: @saralighthall.