What It's Like To Work On A Team Full of Women (And Why It's Different From What You Think)

The other day, I took several of my employees to a networking event at a trendy co-working office in Santa Monica. When we walked in, the guys in the shared office spun around in their Aeron chairs, looked up from their Macbooks, and stared at us like they had just seen a ghost.

We don’t look like your typical tech company – we are all women. Yes, of our 30 employees, 28 are women. We are all women of different backgrounds, but when we’re at tech events, we always stand out.

Three Day Rule is a matchmaking company that fuses traditional, in-person matchmaking with the technology of modern online dating. Even though matchmakers are often historically female, the modern dating industry is still dominated by men. Most CEOs of dating sites and apps are male, and although a few female-run sites, like Bumble and The League, have emerged, most employees are still men. At our company, women do just about everything.

How did it happen that we built a company of all women? Well, it just sort of happened that way. With the exception of our CTO, we started hiring people who would be the best matchmakers possible. We were looking for employees who were trustworthy, good listeners, good salespeople, and good client managers. We interviewed several men, but the women kept being the best candidates. Our employees have impressive resumes, working at companies like Google and Goldman Sachs, and they were just drawn to working with us, giving us a unique talent pool. Ultimately, these women now work as managers, in business development, and as advisors. We want to hire male matchmakers (we really do!) but women just keep rising to the top. 

Perhaps you would think that working in a company of women might be problematic – that we are plagued by cattiness and conflict – but you would be wrong. Maybe you think that we’re all overly nice, and tiptoe around the issues we face as a growing start-up, but that’s not the case. Maybe you think we’re icy, unemotional workaholics, single and lonely. That the drinks in our office fridge are fruity, and that we eat salads for lunch every day. That we outsource the accounting and finance to men, because we’re not good at math. Or that we’re all “on the same cycle,” or just working in a startup to buy time before finding a husband.

Sure, this might sound over the top. But we have heard all of those sentiments, and more, about working with a team of all women. Stereotypes abound, and we mostly laugh them off. Technology companies, and especially startups, are usually comprised of men. At Google, Twitter, and Apple, who recently released diversity data, 70% of all employees are men. And in studies at MIT Sloan School of Management, when men and women, categorized by relative attractiveness, are asked to present the same pitch deck to investors, the most “funding” was received by attractive men, followed by unattractive men, then unattractive women, with attractive women receiving by far the least theoretical funding. That seems a bit unfair, doesn’t it?

Whatever the reason for the gender disparity in tech companies, one fact is quite apparent in our majority-female business: we are incredibly good at working as a team. Instead of the cattiness that people assume takes place, we are highly collaborative, listen to each others’ ideas, and support each other in a way I have never experienced at another company. It is the most unique and inspiring work environment I have witnessed.

Although there are few female-only companies by which to test this hypothesis, research shows this collaborative dynamic should be the case. Two studies were conducted to measure the average “intelligence” of different groups – the groups were arranged to determine whether it was the intelligence of individual group members, or rather collective intelligence level of the entire group that would make a group “smart.” Are there smart groups, or just groups of smart people? What the studies found, however, was that neither of those intelligence factors mattered – it was solely the proportion of females in the group that determined the group’s success. You read that correctly – the more women, the better the group performed. It was an accidental finding, but an important one. The studies suggested that women are better in general at “average social sensitivity” – reading non-verbal clues, understanding context, listening, and predicting outcomes – all of which are traits that contribute to success within a group, as well as the group’s productivity. And all of which are incredibly important when you’re working at a startup.

This research has been covered in The Atlantic, in the New York Times, and in Science magazine, but it has really yet to sink in. Why aren’t more tech startups embracing the potential power of working with all groups of women? This isn’t simply a matter of helping women thrive in a micro-environment, like at an all-girls school – women working together in tech can actually solve problems better and make better products. It’s a huge untapped resource.

Don’t get me wrong – we love working with men, and we’re looking to hire both men and women right now. Diversity is key! But through our accidental experiment, we’ve seen firsthand how much women can contribute to the startup world. We push each other, we inspire each other, and mentorship evolves organically. It has been an incredible learning experience as a leader.

I’m thrilled to see growth in diversity at big tech companies, and hope the trend will continue with smaller companies as well. If companies that are afraid to hire women don’t catch on soon, they might be left in the dust.

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