I’ve never considered my gender in anything I have ever done. Growing up my parents always taught me that you can succeed at anything if you work hard and come at challenges creatively. I remember my father telling me stories from his days as a successful, door-to-door vacuum cleaner sales franchisee. At the end of every message, he would always say, “Keep yourself motivated, always go above and beyond, and never give up.” The fact that I was a girl never came into the equation. He never insinuated to me that I would be swimming upstream or held down by a glass ceiling; he never suggested I needed to look outside the mainstream and seek assistance among my “own” people. I believe that is why I never saw or considered the gender gap when I became an entrepreneur. It was never pointed out to me! It wasn’t mentioned in a side comment or as a cautionary tale. It wasn’t something for me to watch out for and to be prepared to explain away. It wasn’t in my thoughts, therefore, it was never a barrier to entry.
It reminds me of a lesson I learned a couple years back reading a book one night to my son. The book began innocently enough with the main character getting ready to fall asleep but then, he began to think of the monsters that could be under his bed and he saw the dark shadow that looked like an angry bear and heard the sounds of what could be the wind or was it a ghost? And of course he began to get very, very scared and hid under the blankets. Then when his mom came in, turned on the lights, and showed him there was nothing to be afraid of, it was only then that he was able to see the silliness of his fears and the story ended happily enough. But a strange thing happened. From that night forward, MY son began to be scared of monsters under HIS bed and the shadows in HIS room. He began to question the creaking sounds and worry about my proximity and being able to save him in case there was a ghost. A concept he never considered until we read the book! It was then that I grasped the negative side to the power of suggestion. What was once not even a thought in his brain, became a two-month, nightly affair of explaining away his rampant imagination and obsession with the “boogy-man” in his room. His bedtime ritual changed from a story and kiss goodnight to a checklist of nooks and cranny’s to be searched and irrational fears to be quelled. I began to consider the correlation between suggestion and the actions we choose to take or not and tied it to a question that was nagging me… could by harping on the unbalanced ratio of men to women in business be its own self-fulfilling prophecy?
Right now, top story, is the trend towards highlighting the lack of “Female Entrepreneurs” and “Women in Tech.” While this is not imaginary, the statistics are that 5% of tech startups are founded by women, it makes me wonder, could putting too much emphasis on these stats be sowing unnecessary seeds of doubt in the minds of would-be female entrepreneurs? Do we need to paint a picture of such doom and fear that up-and-coming female innovators think twice, not about their idea, but whether the price is worth admission? And could the growing trend of herding women to “ladies only” events be propagating the idea that on the merits of their ideas and efforts alone they cannot be successful without the help and support of those focused primarily on the plight of women?
I do not believe that the lack of success in an endeavor will be because the person at the helm is a woman. I believe it would be because of the same reasons that befall any entrepreneur on their journey in business ownership. A poorly thought out business idea or plan of execution, an inability to access funding or a lack of uptake from potential customers could ultimately be anyone’s downfall. Sadly, there are a myriad of reasons any person could fail at business the least of which is being a female. Yet this isn’t the message being touted! Women are being told that tech is a “Boys Club”, a fortress barely penetrable by those of the opposite sex. But I don’t buy it. The idea that all else being the same, if Mark Zuckerberg was actually Maria Zuckerberg, Facebook would have failed to launch is ludicrous. That VC’s who come across amazing business plans, look at the woman proposing it and say, “Yes it shows every possibility of being a disruption, but sadly you are a woman.” I don’t believe that is the case, so why are we putting so much emphasis on gender? If a woman thinks she has what it takes to start and run a business, the tools and opportunities are there for her to give it a go, just as much as for any man.
If we need to focus on anything, it’s teaching young boys and girls that entrepreneurship is a viable option for everyone. We need to relay the message that, no matter who you are, if you have thought up the Next Big Thing, the tools are there to make it a reality. Then we need to back that up and make entrepreneurship a real possibility no matter your circumstances, male or female. I believe it’s life stage not gender that limits people from jumping into business, so whether it’s financial aid, childcare assistance, business education, whatever an entrepreneur faces as a stumbling block, it needs to be addressed, so that anyone can come to the table no matter the life stage they find themselves. We need to stop putting emphasis on the “boogy-man” and start putting emphasis on possibility.
I am not a Female Entrepreneur; I am an Entrepreneur. I am not a Woman in Tech; I am in Tech. I have fought the same fight as many of my male counterparts to have my ideas brought to fruition and played out to their successful end. I have never considered my sex a stumbling block or reason for a hand out or special consideration. I spent my time focused on creating products and services that filled a need in the marketplace, fostering strong relationships with my employees and customers and strategizing a path to success for my business to run on. I am already part of an elite group of people… Business Starters, Dreamers, Fighters, both men and women, and I feel no need to distinguish myself any further. Anyone with me?