Is he your boyfriend?

Before ayah and mama hyperventilate thinking this is my way of announcing my other half, let me clear this out. It’s not an announcement guys, don’t panic. Just wanted to share an interesting story.

Several disclaimers before I tell you the story: 1. I am a fairly objective person, not easily overwhelmed by emotions and 2. I generally look quite harmless so people don’t expect me to be blunt. Okay, now that I’ve outlined the relevant caveats, we can proceed. I can hear some of you yelling “maigod just tell the story already!!”. #sabarsis

Not too long ago, I pitched pod (oh, didn’t I tell you that Save4Dream is now pod? Sorry, will tell you the story another day) to an investor. Realising that we’re a tech startup and I code like a panda trying to write a novel using a typewriter (read: ultra noob), I keep reiterating that we are trying our very best to bring the CTO back to Malaysia to work closely with the team. He is now based out of Johannesburg. The investor’s question was; you keep saying you want to bring your CTO back to KL, is he your boyfriend?”

For a split second, I froze. Both shocked and annoyed, I evaluated my options. Should I say something or dismiss it as a harmless joke? If I did will we then lose the investment that we absolutely need before we start selling our kidneys? I decided to just stand my ground, ready to face the repercussions. So, I sweetly replied, “if I am a male tech startup founder here telling you I’m trying to bring my female CTO back, you would think it made total business sense and would not bring up anything personal at all”.

Then he nervously replied; “no la, I was just joking”. 

We’ve also had another investor asking if my team is an all women’s team because Yingteng and I went to pitch. And when we said the CTO is male only then he was like “oh, okay”, slightly relieved.

Some of you may think this is nothing compared to many others out there facing worst situations and more apparent discriminations but I genuinely think even small comments like “is he your boyfriend” should be addressed. If we keep tolerating “jokes” like these, it will eventually escalate into something bigger.

And unfortunately, comments like this didn’t only happen in a professional setting for me. A while back someone who my family wanted me to get to know, told his mom that I was “too business-like” simply because I told him that I needed to attend to another call in 20 mins. I strongly believe that women need to be with men who support their dreams and ambitions; be it wanting to be a career woman or a full-time homemaker and everything else in between. Being supportive doesn’t mean saying “baby, I believe in you” while holding pom-poms but are willing to help take over some of the household duties when women had to attend to business/professional/personal needs.

I hesitated to write about this initially because some people might take offense in this. But I feel that we need to stand up for what we believe in even if it might cost us because in the long run, we will end up losing a lot more had we chose to stay silent.



Nadia Ismadi

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