We’ve made the call: as of today, we are ending gender segmentation and identification associated with Leadership Camp.
The origins of our gender delineation make sense. Leadership Camp was birthed by MergeLane, a venture fund focused on companies with at least one woman in leadership. Our first experiment was to create a unique Conscious Leadership program that would enable women to explore their leadership approaches together. Female leaders at many levels and male and female CEOs were excited about this program in part because of the gender line.
After running our first Women’s Leadership Camps, however, we began getting requests from men to come to Camp. Men who worked with or partnered with women who came to our camps wanted to learn the Conscious Leadership principles and have the experience. We created “Leadership Camps for Everyone” to meet that need.
After running a number of Everyone Camps, we found these coed camps were every bit as intimate as the women’s camps. Although some women still enjoyed the opportunity to be at a single-gender retreat (a unique experience in business), women attendees at coed camps enjoyed creating deep, vulnerable connections with both men and women over the three days and experiencing camp as a closer parallel to their real leadership lives.
Leah Pearlman and I, the co-creators and co-facilitators of Camps over the last four years, also discovered how much we liked the energy of the coed camps. We have always said that MergeLane is not a “female-focused fund.” It was built to support diverse leadership teams, and we enjoy working with gender-diverse camp cohorts as well.
For a short time, we also tested the idea of a camp for men. That left us with three different scenarios to explain. Camp for women, men, and “everyone” (how awkward). At the same time as we were marketing these camps along gender lines, we wanted to honor people’s diverse gender perspectives. So, on the two gender-related Camp webpages, we had a paragraph explaining that everyone could come to any camp that felt consistent with their gender identification. It all seemed way more complicated than it had to be.
So we have decided to retire Women’s Camp and the idea of Men’s Camp. As of today, Leadership Camp now comes in one flavor, and it’s called “Leadership Camp.” Attendees from companies including Apple, Oculus, Vicarious, OpenTable, Techstars, Oracle, Marco Polo, Facebook, and the Arvada Police Department have raved about the results of Camp.
Regardless of who you are or how you identify, if you’re willing to ask yourself hard questions, to be challenged in your assumptions, to take risks, and to get closer to the highest, most aligned version of yourself as a leader, come to Camp.
We’ve also decided to add two new Camps to the slate. First, Relationship Camp. After running so many camps and hearing about how leaders were learning new perspectives and tools for their personal lives, founder relationships, and family connections, we decided to jump in and follow the current. Relationship Camp is for people in or looking to be in the kind of relationship they most want -- in business, in romance, in family, or more. The first two-day Relationship Camp is Saturday November 3rd - Sunday November 4th in Boulder, Colorado. Sign up with or without a partner here.
If two or three days sounds a little long, put your toe in and join us for Conscious Leadership Mini-camp. A half-day program covering the basic tenets of Conscious Leadership. The first mini-camp is on July 9, 2018, in Boulder. Grab your seat or seats for your entire team here.
At MergeLane, we will keep doing what we’ve been doing for four years: accelerating the visions of phenomenal startup teams that are sharp enough to ensure they have at least one woman in leadership. Most of our portfolio teams are comprised of men and women, and we like the benefits of that diversity. We’re 39 investments in to this strategy, and we are just getting started!
We have talked about declaring investment themes since our launch six years ago. Today we settled on one "anti-theme": Founders who dislike authentic feedback.
Rapid-fire explanations without curiosity or engagement often feel like dressed-up defensiveness. I’m not terribly game to build a relationship with someone who feels defensive from the start.
I’ve made a decision to take a break from speaking engagements that focus topically on women, women in startups, investing in women, women as leaders, and the rest. This includes events that may not be topically focused on women but are part of something called a “women’s track.” Here's why.
It has been a great few weeks for the MergeLane fund. When people ask us what our criteria are for investments, we always talk about team as the distant number one priority. I wanted to share this recent, wonderful interchange with TomboyX after a great week for them:
How the media (and more) judges emotion in leadership differently between men and women, and the costs of those judgments.
Dennis Adsit of Adsum Insights guest blogs about turning your one-on-ones from pedestrian checklist run-throughs to opportunities for connection and growth.