When Amy Nelson read The New York Times’ recent interview with Tesla CEO Elon Musk — in which, The Times said, “he alternated between laughter and tears” in describing “the most difficult and painful year of my career” — her first thought was, “I would never cry in front of a journalist as a female CEO.”
Nelson, the founder of Seattle female-focused co-working space The Riveter, knew that if she cried at work or in public while representing her company, she would face the criticism often lobbed at women when they cry: that they are weak, not a leader, can’t keep it together.
Not how she wants to be perceived as a chief executive.
Nelson wrote about her thoughts on the Musk profile in a contributor piece for Forbes, noting that she understood and applauded Musk for his authenticity. She also discussed why she couldn’t cry in an interview.
“And Musk, I hear you,” she concluded. “This is really wonderful and really hard. You’ve got a few more years of running a company under your belt, but trust me: I feel your pain. (I just can’t show it.)”
Elon Musk read her piece, which was shared on Twitter, and fired off a tweet.
“For the record,” he wrote, “my voice cracked once during the NY Times article. That’s it. There were no tears.”
Nelson noted that the tweet seemed to be his first public reaction to the response to his interview with The New York Times, which has been cited widely over the past week.
“He read a female founder’s piece and his response to the entire piece was ‘I didn’t cry.’ Why was that his reaction?” she wondered.
Nelson has grown her co-working company from one space in May 2017 to five locations, with The Riveter’s newest office opening this weekend in Bellevue. She’s raised more than $5 million to create the company that strives to accommodate women as well as men. She also takes time to respond to pieces by, or articles quoting, other CEOs.
“We hear and see so many stories from male CEOs,” she said. “Oftentimes it’s important to look back and say ‘How would this story go if he was a woman?’”
She says she wishes Musk had acknowledged the perspective of a female founder on the crying issue, but she doesn’t seem concerned about it.
After all, they’re both busy running companies.
Tribune News Service