What has your experience been like as a woman entrepreneur in a male-dominated sector? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Mary Lou Jepsen, Founder of Openwater; Tech innovator, on Quora:

I've founded or co-founded four startups, with collectively billions of dollars of revenue.

The key thing to remember is that as a woman (or underrepresented minority) you are typically underestimated but remembered because you look different.

My advice: leverage this and don't stay stealth. You have a better chance to get credit for your contribution by going out early with it. Do make sure to file for patents first!

The advantage of saying what you are doing is two-fold - you can get like minded people to join you - they beat a path to your door. Also, you can leverage people that like to tell you it will never work (some might have a good point, and the others can be used to tune your messaging). This is also called "mansplaining". I used to hate it, but since it never seems to go away, I try to use it if those I'm in discussion with have some bright spots in their makeup.

Many people have spent countless hours telling me what I'm trying to do is impossible. Usually within a year or two of this naysaying I ship the supposedly impossible product. I've done that over and over again so I have great confidence in myself despite all those attempts. You can too!

My technique around the "that's impossible" people is simple: listen. Even though, yes, of course you know far more about what you are doing than they. I look at it as free debugging on multiple levels.

If you really have done the work most of what they say will enable you to tune your message so they can hear it which will ultimately help in communicating with your customers and partners and employees, but in the best of these interactions they can catch things that could be better optimized and enable you to leapfrog a generation of technology or more. I love hearing out smart, technically competent or business competent naysayers. Truly. I'm grateful for their time and interest, only a small fraction of the naysayers have that makeup, but the other ones can help you tune your messaging, the trick is to view the interaction in that way. Sadly, they seem to me to view it as a takedown. Don't take the bait.

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Published on: May 18, 2017