Investors mistook the chief executive of this multimillion-dollar tech company for an assistant

When the founder of this multimillion-dollar tech company was meeting investors for an initial public offering, they mistook her for the assistant.

“During our IPO [initial public offering] road show, we flew into this private airport,” Care.com chief executive Sheila Lirio Marcelo tells Inc.

The US-based platform Marcelo co-founded connects people with care providers and has 22 million members from 19 countries.

“I went straight for the coffeepot. Our CTO [chief technology officer], a male, shook hands. Our CFO [chief financial officer], a male, shook hands. When I got there, I offered people coffee. They thought I was the assistant,” Marcelo says.

“That happens.”

So in addition to building a global care service, Marcelo is now using her entrepreneurial journey to raise awareness about the unconscious biases that can affect many others like her.

“By putting them on the spot in a polite, respectful way, it makes them say, ‘Huh, the next time I look at a woman, I’m not going to assume she’s the assistant’,” she says.

Marcelo says things like paid parental leave and care are not “soft” issues and are in fact crucial to the global economy.

And when swimming in the male-dominated shark pool of investors, she encourages female founders to back themselves.

“Women need to feel very confident in their numbers, and they need to feel solid about their business plans,” she says.

“If you need to practice your pitches with friends, you should.”

This article was first published by StartupSmart.

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