Why I was really excited about the Forbes 30 under 30 this year

No it’s not what you’re thinking…

When the Forbes 30under30 list came out a month ago of course I was thrilled by the news that my friend and teammate at Hello Alfred Marcela Sapone was not only listed, but the featured profile of the Consumer Tech section.

This was a great moment for her as well as the entire Hello Alfred team, having been in operation for barely a year it was a nice way to say goodbye to 2015 and look forward to an exciting 2016. It made hitting the ground running that first week in January easy. We were all so proud and pumped.

No, that’s not why I was really excited. The reason I was REALLY excited didn’t actually occur until a few weeks later. After days of retweets, shares and shout-outs I looked back at all the commentary and all the kudos and was so excited about what I saw.

Or better yet what I didn’t see. I almost don’t want to write it here, but I think it’s too important not to.

In all the aftermath, no one mentioned that Marcela was the first woman to be the featured profile for Technology.

Marcela Sapone, next to other 30under30 callouts (yeah that’s Steph Curry next to her).

There’s always been women on the list, but they’ve never been the face of tech until this year. I assumed that people would make a deal about it, but no one did. I think this is important, because it shows that no one was surprised or taken aback by it. A female in tech in no longer an anomaly or noteworthy, it’s not news, which I love. So often we see women’s achievements made examples of, and when you do this it becomes a reminder that this isn’t “normal”. Which I hate because in my life female achievements are “normal”. Also one of the biggest dangers is that female successes (or any unrepresented group for that matter) become seen as “token”. Nothing infuriates me more than hearing that “she only won because she’s a woman” because in my experience that’s never been the case. I can assure you that the reason my sister always beat me at basketball wasn’t because she was a woman, it was because she was a more skillful athlete.

My sister and mother.

Why it matters, my backstory

My mom as President of the Harvard Alumni Association with Oprah.

My whole life I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by successful women. I grew up in a family led by women. My 5 aunts, my sister and my mother have been inspirations to not only me but so many others that they’ve interacted with (my dad’s great too, but that’s another story). My mother and her 3 sisters left Cuba in the 1960s with nothing to their name. They amassed 8 degrees, made careers for themselves and raised 6 children with a combined 10 degrees between them. Education, hard work and family were all they had when they came to America and everyday they instilled the importance of these in our lives. I’m truly lucky to have received outsized attention from them, and honestly I have been trying to keep up with their accomplishments my whole life.

So for me women running organizations, leading teams, building products and essentially kicking ass has never been anything special. I grew up with that being the norm and I now work at a tech company where it is as well (Alfred is 42% female). So I love that others are starting to see this as the norm too!

Now, I do recognize that tech still has a lot to do on the diversity front and that moments like the Forbes list (or Marcela and Jessica Beck being the first female co-founders to win TechCrunch Disrupt) are important. I just think it’s nice that we’re getting to a point where it’s not as big news as it used to be.

My lovely goddaughter.

Personally I’m excited that my 7-year old goddaughter is going to grow up in a world where when she kicks ass no-one’s going to blink an eye because that’s what we expect of women.

-Christian Bjelland