Jerry Springer Helped Me Relate to My Daughter


TV Guide magazine declared it "The Worst TV Show Ever." Simultaneously, it was the top-rated daytime talk show in the United States. "Jer-ry! Jer-ry! Jer-ry!" flowed out of the television set and into over 3 million homes every day. Briefly, this included mine.

When my daughter was in second grade, she went through a bit of a phase. Every day, she'd come home after school, chuck her book bag aside, plop down on the sofa, and eagerly turn on the TV to watch Jerry Springer. And there she'd remain, mesmerized, for hours.

As a parent, I was mortified. These were not the values I wanted my eight-year-old to be learning. I was horrified by the idea that she would think that this show was depicting normal, healthy relationships. "Jessi, real people aren't like this! These aren't good role models," I argued with her. "Surely there's something better to watch." Then I tried diversion tactics. "Jessi, let's go to the park! Or the library! Do you want to do some arts and crafts?"

Without fail, my offers were dismissed. "No, Mom. I'm watching Jerry Springer," came her response. We went on like this for a few months. My lectures and appeals to higher reason fell on deaf ears. In her mind, I simply didn't get it. No matter what I said, tried, bribed, I couldn't pull her out.

So finally, in a desperate move to rescue her from the evils of this show, I decided to go in. One day when she came home from school, instead of trying to talk her out of watching Jerry, I sat down next to her on the sofa. I resolved myself to reserve judgement. I would watch without criticism. I wanted to understand. And, if nothing more, at least I'd know exactly what she was watching.

I sat next to her every afternoon for a few weeks until, one day I turned to her with genuine curiosity, and asked "What is it you like about this show?" Without missing a beat, she responded, "I'm just fascinated by what people are willing to do to be on television."

Whew! I was so relieved! My kid wasn't using Jerry Springer as a manual on how to live life or have relationships with others. She knew exactly what was going on. Her critical thinking skills were strong and her moral rudder was still intact. As it turns out, I didn't have so much to worry about after all — something I wouldn't have known, unless I had entered her world.
After that day, whenever I asked Jessi if she wanted to go to the park, or the library, she was ready to go — because she knew that I understood, that I wasn't trying to change her behavior or deliver a lecture on the fundamentals of a wholesome life. I was simply offering an additional form of entertainment. By taking the time to see the world through her eyes, and discover the appeal of a show that caught her interest, I had conveyed that "I got it", and she felt that I both respected and loved her for who she was.

20 years later, while interviewing experts on child development for my book, Time to Parent: Organizing Your Life to Bring Out the Best in Your Child and You, I realized why I was only able to get her out, by going in. Every psychologist, pediatrician, educator and social worker I spoke to emphasized that if you're in any sort of power struggle with your child and having difficulty getting through, stop trying to teach. First, you have to relate.

Relating, as described to me by Dr. Laurence Steinberg, is about entering your child's world and spending time on topics and activities of interest to them. It is the surest way to get to know your child for the unique individual they are, and to communicate that you value and love them. Teaching is a different (and equally important) way of connecting to your kids and demonstrating love. But there is a clear and important distinction between teaching and relating, and the order matters. When we teach, our intention is to be understood, and our kids are the students of us. When we relate, our intention is to understand, and we are the students of the child. Children are far more likely to listen to what we have to say, if they first feel understood.

If you think about it, that is true for humans of all ages. Few people --adult friends, students or colleagues —are ready to listen to advice given by someone who doesn't first demonstrate they understand them. So whenever you find yourself in a situation where you disagree with the behavior of a friend, family member, or even a direct report at work, instead of jumping to advice, consider trying to relate first. Ask questions (without judgement), to understand their thinking before trying to impart wisdom. You just might be surprised and delighted by what you discover, and will build a stronger bridge for true connection.

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Dear VCs: Making Pledges Won't Close The Funding Gap

Amid the mainstream conversation about inclusion and justice in the workplace, otherwise known as #MeToo, a Silicon Valley venture capital fund considered how they can be more inclusive of the women, minority, and LGBTQ entrepreneurial communities.

Their solution? Ask the CEOs they currently fund to promise to hire senior-level employees from diverse backgrounds.

Lightspeed Venture Partners, a venture capital fund that has investments with blockbuster startups such as The Honest Company, Affirm, and HQ Trivia, has asked its portfolio company CEOs to sign a “side letter" affirming their commitment to consider women and other underrepresented groups for senior jobs and new spots on their board of directors.

Can making pledges— or even hiring a C-Suite level employee to manage diversity efforts— really make an impact on the funding gap for multicultural women-led companies?

Many experts say it's going to take systemic change, not letters of intent.

It is well reported that the amount of investment going to multicultural women-led companies is incongruous to the entrepreneurial landscape and the performance of their businesses. Between 2007 and 2016, there was an increase of 2.8 million companies owned by women of color. Nearly eight out of every 10 new women-owned firms launched since 2007 has been started by a woman of color yet, these businesses receive an abysmal 0.2 percent of all funding. Amanda Johnson and KJ Miller, founders of Mented cosmetics, were just the 15th and 16th Black women in history to raise $1M in the fall of 2017.

The multicultural women who do defeat the odds to get funded receive significantly less than male founders. The average startup founded by a Black woman raises only $36,000 in venture funding, while the average failed startup founded by a White man raises $1.3M before going out of business.

The implicit and explicit bias not only impacts individual multicultural female founders, it could be stifling innovation. For example, companies with above-average diversity on their management teams reported innovation revenue as 45 percent of total revenue compared to just 26 percent of total revenue at companies with below-average management diversity. That means nearly half the revenue of companies with more diverse leadership comes from products and services launched in the past three years.

In our economy today, venture capital is responsible for funding the work of our most innovative companies. Venture capital-backed U.S. companies include some of the most innovative companies in the world. In 2013, VC-backed companies account for a 42 percent of the R&D spending by U.S. public companies.

With a wealth of multicultural women entrepreneurs and evidence to support the performance of diverse companies, why does this funding gap persist?

According to Kristin Hull, founder of Oakland-based Nia Impact Capital and Nia Community, many traditional investors consider women or minority-led businesses as a category in their portfolio, like gaming tech or consumer packaged good. Hull, who focuses on building portfolios where financial returns and social impact work hand-in-hand, argues gender and ethnicity are not a business category and investors who dedicate a specific percent of their portfolio to diverse companies are the ones missing out.

“We are doing this backwards," says Hull. “Adding diverse, women-run companies actually de-risks an investment portfolio."

Hull points to research that has found women are more likely to seek outside help when a company is headed for trouble and operate businesses with less debt on average. What's more, a study conducted by First Round Capital concluded that founding teams including a woman outperform their all-male peers by 63 percent.

Ximena Hardstock, a 43-year-old immigrant from Chile experienced this bias first hand before she raised $5.1M for her tech startup. “How do you get an investor to notice you and take you seriously?" says Hardstock. “White men from Harvard have a track record and investors are all looking for entrepreneurs that fit the Zuckerberg mold. But a woman from Chile with an accent who started a technology company? There is no track record for that and this is a problem so many women of color face."

Hardstock came to the U.S. from the suburbs of Santiago when she was just 20-years-old. Alone with no family or connections in the U.S., Hardstock worked as a cleaning lady, a bartender, and a nanny before she began teaching and working in education. “I had a lot of ideas and Chile is still a very conservative country," she says. “Most women become housewives but I wanted to do something different. So, I moved to the U.S."

Hardstock went on to earn a Ph.D. in policy studies, served as vice president of Advocacy for National StudentsFirst and worked as a member of Washington DC mayor Adrian Fenty's cabinet. Her experience working in both education and government exposed her to a need to simplify the process of connecting lawmakers with their constituents. As a result, Hardstock founded Phone2Action, a digital advocacy company that enables organizations and individual citizens to connect with policymakers via email, Twitter, Alexa and Facebook using their mobile phones.

Because venture capital and private equity are not necessarily meritocracies, Hardstock initially struggled to get in an audience with the right investors despite her company's growth potential, her experience, and her education. In fact, it wasn't until she won a competition at SXSW in 2015 that she could get an audience with a serious venture capitalist.

While it may seem like symptoms of a bygone era, both Hardstock and Hull say the path to investor relationships is forged in places where many women of diverse backgrounds are not – ivy league organizations, golf courses and late night post-board meeting cocktails attended mostly by White men of means.

The history of venture capital has never been very balanced, according to Aubrey Blanche, global head of diversity at Atlassian software development company and co-founder of Sycamore, an organization aiming to fix the VC funding gap for underrepresented founders. “White and Asian men have built the venture system and for generations have been seeking out people like themselves to invest in."

Personal and professional networks are critical for founders to connect with investors, but many multicultural women don't have access to the networks their White peers have. According to a study conducted by PRRI, the average White person has one friend who is Black, Latino, Asian, mixed race, and other races. This common situation makes getting that all important warm introduction to established VCs very challenging for multicultural women founders.

“Is the ecosystem of your network equivalent to your net worth? Absolutely," says Hardstock. “For us, we have to build our own ecosystem and recreate what happens on the golf courses and at the Harvard reunions."

To Hardstock's point, most multicultural women with entrepreneurial aspirations lack that Ivy League network. According to reporting published in The New York Times, Black students make up just nine percent of the freshmen at Ivy League schools but 15 percent of college-age Americans. This gap has been largely unchanged since 1980.

While notable female investors such as Arlan Hamilton, Joanne Wilson, and Kathryn Finney are actively working to close the funding gap for women of color, only seven percent of current senior investing partners at the top 100 venture firms are women. Less than three percent of VC funds have Black and Latinx investment partners. Without an influential network, Hardstock and entrepreneurs like her are left screaming for a seat at the table.

When Black, Latina, and Asian women founders do get in the room with the right investors, they have to work harder to get the investors to relate to their products and services. “Entrepreneurs solve problems they understand," says Blanche. “When multicultural women entrepreneurs present their businesses to a homogenous group of male investors who may not be equipped to understand the idea, they may pass on an amazing business."

Take, for example, the founders of Haute Hijab or LOLA. Founders of both successful startups would have to explain the market for their services to a table occupied mostly by men who may never have considered that Muslim women want more convenient access to fashion and have never considered women might prefer to purchase organic tampons.

This lack of familiarity typically means reduced funding for women and a host of other consequences.

As one recent study pointed out, even the way investors frame questions to women can impact funding. According to the Harvard Business Review, female founders are often asked “prevention-oriented" questions focused on safety, responsibility, security, and vigilance. Male founders, on the other hand, are often asked questions focused on hopes, achievement, advancement, and ideals.

When all of these factors are considered, a side letter may not be enough to begin to close the funding gap.

Both Blanche and Hull say real change can be made by democratizing information and education on impact investing. Both women say educating investors and MBA candidates about impact investing is the best way to overcome current bias.

Blanche's organization, Sycamore, produces a newsletter for new angel investors who want to help close the funding gap while making money in the process. Hull's firm has an internship program for multicultural girls from Oakland to expose them to the worlds of investing, entrepreneurship, business leadership, and financial literacy.

“I'm excited about the changes I see," says Blanche. “I see more firm employing the Rooney Law on an institutional level, an increase in smaller firms looking at underserved communities, and the democratization of institutional funding."

Hull adds that as long as multi-cultural women-led firms continue to show returns and outperform or perform on par with companies founded by White men, the investor community will rethink their portfolio strategies.

This piece was originally published in 2018.