I hadn’t really thought much about challenges, issues or problems that might be specific to women setting up in business. I thought we were light years past all that “We’ll need your husband’s signature to guarantee your loan” malarky… yet a recent post on Birds made me ponder that well, maybe there are the odd things that we gels have to take into account and cope with that our male counterparts don’t…
I’ve already added some of my own points over there on a separate post that you can go and have a read of if you fancy, so I won’t repeat them here. Instead I’m just going to select and put my perspective on three of Ola’s 10 things ‘they’ didn’t tell you about being a woman in business…
No: Women aren’t always your best allies.
Maybe partly because I came from a commercial background as opposed to the public sector, I was perhaps more used to the “dog-eat-dog” attitude of some women in business – it isn’t nice (or necessary, in my opinion) but it certainly wasn’t the shock to me that it seems to have been to Ola… I don’t know about anyone else but I’ve come across enough not just single minded but hard bitten ladies from infant school onwards!
I think too nowadays maybe it’s less about long term formal partnerships and instead being on the lookout for and open to strategic and/ or tactical alliances that may be relatively brief yet nevertheless mutually beneficial and provide benefits for customers that would otherwise have been difficult (if not impossible) to achieve.
I think the issue here is more the importance of hanging out with the kind of people, male and female, who share similar values, ethics, interests and ideals.
Sexism isn’t dead!
Well there’s a surprise, yet I don’t believe I’m conscious of any more or less sexism as a female entrepreneur than as a female employee. Prior to the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act virtually all telesales staff in classified advertising were females and virtually all the reps were males. I suspect that the act probably didn’t so much wipe out the practice of sex discrimination so much as nudge it underground and force it to be less blatant.
Many years later when I was seeking to put together a team to carry out telephone marketing research for a client I was determined to be an equal opportunities employer. I recruited five men and five women to work part time. By the end of 2 weeks I’d sacked the guys and the women worked full time. Because they were better at getting that particular job done.
There are pluses and minuses regarding the looks department (none helped by that rather peculiar lady who made a name for herself recently in the UK press purely from having such a high opinion of her own looks…) and yes, I suppose there always will be the odd Neanderthal bloke who’ll behave like a pillock in the presence of a good looking woman. But if we’re going to bleat every time we come up against something that “isn’t fair” maybe we need to learn that’s just part of life…
Trying to be a man doesn’t work
Yes, it’s time to question the (mainly male-designed) business model that’s been followed by and large in the west for so long. But at the same time I believe we need to take care that the pendulum doesn’t swing too far in the opposite direction.
I am in entire agreement that there’s not only room but a need for both masculine and feminine qualities in business – from both men and women: it’s about balance more than anything else.
In my opinion there are way too many “bleeding hearts” who want to do good yet are hardly making enough money to survive – what good does that do the world? As I understand it, Mother Teresa wasn’t independently wealthy… yet do we really think she hadn’t got herself into a position of power and influence to drum up whatever backing she needed for her projects? And, whether or not you or I am a fan of hers, I wonder how many people were helped by her making the most of herself?
I don’t think there’s a nobility about choosing to be touchy-feely to the detriment of making a profit in business – to me that’s no better than its polar opposite: the old style entrepreneur-turned-corporate who’d use you and fleece you as soon as look at you!
I’ve always found the way around all three of these issues is to provide value that would be hard to match and well nigh impossible to beat!
What are your views?