How to not appear like I'm hitting on men...?

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Jul 12 86 Comments

I'm a woman founder. Mid twenties, relatively attractive, in NYC, in an exclusive relationship already and not looking. Obviously in tech this means a lot of meetings with single men to pitch my company/find partnerships.

There's this one guy at an innovation center whose environment would be very helpful for my startup. We get along, his sense of humor is great. But I'm worried I'm being TOO friendly and coming across as hitting on him/he's hitting on me. I want the camaraderie but also maintaining professionalism / stopping him from misunderstanding.

Women founders, how have you approached this situation..?

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TOP 86 Comments
  • Nvidia monolith_
    Yes Blind is filled with Women founders.
    Jul 12 1
  • This comment was deleted by original commenter.

    • Amazon ijustcant
      I guess I don’t see that as a big deal - oh, we’ve been together for a year and a half. We had a private commitment ceremony. Nothing about that is awkward or even necessarily lying.
      Jul 12
    • Medallia Maximus8
      Nice 👍🏼 I guess it all comes down to individual choice and preference. I wouldn’t go with this option unless partner is onboard with it. Specially when there other effective ways to deal with the problem. I would be wary Ifof my bf/gf starts wearing ring at work. It’s basically saying we are engaged.
      Jul 12
    • Amazon ijustcant
      Guess I’m clear enough with my partners on why I’m doing it and they trust me not to be pulling a fast one on them or pressuring them. 💁🏽‍♀️
      Jul 12
    • Medallia Maximus8
      That’s better way to go. I was also thinking of partner worrying about loosing you.
      Jul 12
    • Amazon ijustcant
      Oh, no, there’s trust built behind this. Hell, one even bought me the fake wedding ring before traveling in majority Muslim countries alone.
      Jul 12
  • Salesforce 11OOll
    Yeah problem is a lot of guys are dumb and if you even look at them they think you are “totally into them”
    Jul 12 7
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      OP
      Yes, the guy in question started texting me good night and weird stuff. Getting too personal for my taste.

      Lived in both Bay Area and NYC. I'm not overthinking, this was brought up by my male cofounder (tho I appreciate the assumption?). It's a problem here in NYC too - blurring of work vs friend vs dating target. Doesn't help that we have cocktails culture in NYC.

      Where do you think the "professional help" come from? I wish I had access to those professionals.
      Jul 12
    • Have you constantly brought up your SO in front of Mr. Goodnight?
      Jul 12
    • New / Product
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      OP
      I keep bringing up my company...
      Jul 12
    • Right, but he probably assumes that if you were in a happy relationship you’d bring your SO up yourself, just casually.

      Then again I know a startup CEO who kept aggressively hitting on his direct report even though she kept mentioning her boyfriend. This dude was a complete douchebag. This was also before #MeToo which I think (or like to think) made people think twice before being shitty.

      This guy is definitely overstepping his bounds by hitting on you and it’s totally inappropriate. Perhaps he doesn’t realize it and is infatuated by you so is willing to take the risk. Either way I think the most sensible option is to mention your BF in a positive way before things get really awkward.

      Sucks.
      Jul 12
    • Draw the line ! I guess you have been too friendly yourself , so how can you blame him ? Be professional in your dealings
      Jul 13
  • TripAdvisor owlwise
    Make up a bf
    Jul 12 7
    • New / Product
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      OP
      Lol will do. It's so crazy because until I full time focus on tech this hasn't been the case 😱
      Jul 12
    • LinkedIn rappuh
      It doesn’t have to be a staged thing like call. You can casually mention about a travel plan or a social hangout plan with your boyfriend to that guy.

      I don’t think the guy in question knows your are not looking. It’s probably fair for him to try, but he should be professional enough to back off once he knows you are not looking.

      I would disagree this is a gender or tech or Bay Area issue yet.
      Jul 12
    • New / Product
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      OP
      I was thinking more of mentioning my boyfriend and plans for the weekend. I've worked in management other fields before and usually work meetings are very clearly just about work, vs with startups it's about more than work, which blurs the line.
      Jul 12
    • Salesforce 11OOll
      Talking about your bf is your best bet. I find it a little annoying when I’m chatting with a girl and she drops the b-bomb (she assuming I’m hitting on her) but it does covey the message.

      I have a gf. Just like to talk and flirt a tad here and there. It is interesting to see girls reaction when I bring up my gf immediately after she mentions the bf.
      Jul 12
    • Yeah startups tend to have more leeway for being unprofessional. It’s just the way it is. Better start bringing up your BF casually.
      Jul 12
  • New / Other
    pzlG12

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    Venture backed Female founder here. Do NOT talk about your bf. That’s insane. Dear god do not listen to these people. My biggest piece of advice - breakfast and lunch meetings only. Makes it clear it’s business. I can’t even begin to explain the number of times I’ve had VCs ask to get drinks or even early dinner for me to clearly pitch them the company, only to get there and then have them ignore what I’m saying and hit on me. No one tries to f you or f you over at breakfast.
    Jul 18 2
    • Paychex uda21
      Whats wrong with mentioning her bf? She has one she is’t lying!
      Jul 18
    • Intel Act2016
      Breakfast I am at my best
      Jul 19
  • Thermo Fisher xhOa41
    It's a tricky situation. I don't agree with the above post that men are dumb. Most of the men view attractive women as prize and when the prize is itself being nice to you, it will be very hard to not develop any feelings. Why not just use a bit of healthy flirting to develop your network? Attractive men do it too with average looking women. We all have to play some sort of psychological tricks in addition to hard work to move up the ladder.
    Jul 12 8
    • MassMutual / Eng
      NkOS62

      MassMutual Eng

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      NkOS62more
      Invite him to join you and -> your fiancee <- for lunch.

      Talk about how exited you are to take a trip to [place] with fiancee. Etc.

      [Give the BF an upgrade, tell him more about you.]

      Wear a big CZ "engagement ring".
      Jul 12
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      OP
      Will do. 😂
      Jul 12
    • Thermo Fisher xhOa41
      What exactly do you mean by the tipping point? Tipping point of what? I guess the question is do you think you might have said or done a few things that could have put you in this situation? I know sometimes women unintentionally acknowledge flirtatious comments or laugh at flirty jokes.
      Jul 12
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      OP
      Tipping point as in he's being "too friendly" but is still possible to roll back. Aka plausible deniability.
      Jul 12
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      OP
      Vs another situation I've seen where the guy falls head over heels and then gets super angry and vengeful when the other person said no (happened to a girlfriend of mine)
      Jul 12
  • Verizon Media / Eng svsjks
    There are more males than females. So it is possible for any non-ugly woman to get hits. Guys work better with clear upfront communication (**no indirect hints**). Tell any such guy: "You have a bf/ partner and it is easy for single people to assume I am looking for a date. You don't have to be my friend if this bothers you. Thank you." The guy will take his time to make peace with false assumptions.
    Jul 12 3
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      OP
      How do you work that into a business context?
      Jul 12
    • Verizon Media / Eng svsjks
      I literally just said what works.
      Jul 12
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      OP
      That literally only works if I never want to do business with the person again...
      Jul 12
  • Salesforce 11OOll
    Because it works differently in the gay community. This conversation would not come up.
    Jul 12 1
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      OP
      As a bi woman, meetings with other women have never become inappropriate. We can deal somehow 😅
      Jul 12
  • Oracle marriedM
    Here's what I do, even as a guy, when not with personal friends:

    Stick to work talk. Don't laugh at any jokes that cross any blurry line. Try to appear a bit evasive if anyone asks about personal relationships. Don't react to what sounds like someone hitting on you. Don't "get together for drinks" with people who you don't want to hangout with, or if forced by work, don't drink or have a courtesy drink that you don't have to finish. Stay professional and the guys will know to keep their distance.
    Jul 12 0
  • Amazon gERH55
    Mention your girlfriend. Reduces the hope that you’re not happy with your boyfriend and would go for him.
    Jul 12 6
    • Amazon gERH55
      Well, at the end of the day you’re not responsible for his emotional well-being or his misunderstanding. You likely have enough to do managing your business and don’t need to be managing his emotions too. You say you don’t have this kind of interaction with the women you work with. If you did, would you approach the situation differently?
      Jul 12
    • New / Product
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      OP
      Wrt his emotional well being, he's a gate keeper and I have to run my company. I don't really care abt his emotional well being. I just don't want my co to be disadvantaged because some dude has a crush. I'm not interested, and I've been trying to steer the conversation to work, but apparently I just have to wear a ring around.

      Idk, women founders/managers/VCs don't really try to make the work relationship romantic. We just don't. It's refreshing. There are very few women in tech though...
      Jul 12
    • Amazon аlv
      Sad
      Jul 12
    • Oracle pzd
      > Idk, women founders/managers/VCs don't really try to make the work relationship romantic. We just don't. It's refreshing.

      Oh yeah that's why Ajit nazre showed up at Ellen Pao's hotel room wearing nothing but a bathing gown.
      Jul 12
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      OP
      ^to other women. I'm bi.
      Jul 12
  • Citrix Systems / Eng peda
    How did ppl believe that op is woman. What if she is he ?
    Jul 12 2
    • Paychex ljsa
      No need to believe.. just provide an answer to the situation at the end it’s a common things happens every where
      Jul 12
    • New / Product
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      OP
      1. I'm a woman. 2. Why does it even matter, it's not like I'm sharing my phone number and ask you to send me noods.
      Jul 12
  • Google FatEarther
    Casually bring up your boyfriend in conversations.
    I would take the hint.
    Jul 12 3
    • Thermo Fisher xhOa41
      Not always. If they think she's talking to them despite of her bf, theh may think she must really like them and is not happy with her bf. If a man is being inappropriate with a woman at work, most probably he won't care if she has a husband or bf.
      Jul 12
    • New / Product
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      OP
      It's a hard line between "I like you as a person and you're cool" vs "I want to date you." As a woman it's hard to communicate the difference.
      Jul 12
    • New / Product
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      OP
      Sometimes people misinterpret.
      Jul 12
  • Paychex ljsa
    Just mention your bf every now and then so he is aware you are in a relationship.
    Jul 12 0
  • New pFzK45
    Bring up my husband. If I were single I would still wear a ring. I’ve raised $10M without having any guy think I was hitting on him. I also play the game like a man. I change the frame often to not let them pull the female founder BS questions.
    Jul 17 3
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      OP
      How did you change the frame?
      Jul 17
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      OP
      I'm in deep tech, so I invariably get told I don't look like someone who can solve this problem.
      Jul 17
    • New pFzK45
      I started studying a lot of the questions men would get vs women. Much of it put us on defense. Like “what are your sales projections” for men “how do you expect to hit your projections”. Seems silly but I realized a lot of it was redirecting the questions. A great book is “sell anything”. It’s not just about sales but about pitching anything in control of the scenario. I just got a valuation of $90M for my biz and proud of how far I’ve come but now this world has fired me up likely more to help women instead of the biz I created.
      Jul 18
  • Wells Fargo / Product sierra34
    If it helps, going into meetings with a neutral partner/associate might help keep things professional. It’s a hard one to tackle, but throw around aspects of how happy you are with your current guy if you think you get hints of him trying to make a move.
    Jul 12 3
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      OP
      Sounds great. Will set up more groups meeting vs 1-1
      Jul 12
    • Wells Fargo / Product sierra34
      It’s just unfortunate that it has to come to this in this day and age and is something I definitely take granted as a guy when I have to meet with others. Hang in there and lean on your support system. All the best with your startup!
      Jul 12
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      OP
      Thank you!
      It's annoying - because people open up much more when it's one on one. But the risk of appearing improper is worse. So 🙄
      Jul 12
  • This comment was deleted by original commenter.

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      OP
      I'm friendly. I think I'll just invite people to weekend lunches with my boyfriend, etc. Then stick to professional.
      Jul 12
    • Medallia Maximus8
      Good tricky that one. Promote your bf to partner in conversations!
      Jul 12
  • Apple gbio14
    Say it straight, “hey I just wanna be clear that we are colleagues cuz I have a SO, I don’t wanna lead you on”
    Jul 12 0
  • Medallia Maximus8
    Since you already have good friendly relationship from your end it’s good trick to subtly mention your bf/partner in what’s weekend plans conversations, he’s going to pick me up after work etc.

    Ofc don’t respond to messages immediately from it’s after hours or reply late saying oh sorry we were out for 🍿 🎥.
    Jul 12 0
  • Oracle pzd
    Someone's got a crush 😂
    Jul 12 0
  • Cisco @G
    What about wearing a wedding band? If someone asks you can just say it’s a commitment ring. Won’t work every time but might help?
    Jul 12 0