Whether you’re a man or a woman, it would have been difficult to have switched on the news, opened a paper or checked your social media updates without realising that yesterday was International Women’s Day. In support of that and since today’s the first day of the business week, I thought it might be a good time to debunk some myths about women in business.
In recent years there’s been a deluge of bestselling books from high profile women sharing their insights into what it takes to succeed as a woman in this modern, complex, multi-tasking world — everything from Sandberg’s “Lean In” … (thanks, but I’d rather just stand up) to Huffington’s “Thrive” (had me rewriting my next book after the first 100 pages).
Wherever we look, there are stories of the modern woman juggling careers, families, workouts, break ups and maybe even baking a gluten free cake in between.
But here’s the thing I’ve found out about women in business:
We’re all different. Just like men. We’re human beings. We have good days, we have bad days. I used to think that being a woman in business just wasn’t a big deal.
For years, I looked on as these ‘Women In Business’ groups grew, wondering what on earth all the fuss was about.
Why did we need our own networks?! I used to actively shun women’s networks and initiatives, preferring to cut my teeth in alpha male dominated worlds instead. I thought of myself as a businessperson who happens to be a woman, and wanted everybody else to just get over it.
Maybe I felt like I had something to prove. Whatever the reason, it was misplaced. The irony is for as long as I can remember, the certainty in my life came from my female friends. They were my support network, my safety net, but in the business world, I felt like I had to prove I could go it alone.
Sometimes it takes a long time for the penny to drop for me, but when it does, it usually lands with a bang.
When I’m wrong, I try to not just put my hand up and own it, but to do my damnedest to make it up. In fact, The One Retreat was born out of a talk I gave when I said being a woman in business wasn’t any more difficult than being a man.
A queue of people lined up to speak to me afterwards and one of them was to be the catalyst for a seismic shift, not just in my thinking, but in my business. As she approached I could see she was nervous — and I knew why as soon as she opened her mouth to (politely) lambast my stance as being elitist and arrogant.
I don’t know if it was what she said, how she said it or a combination, but for the first time, I listened. Fully listened instead of politely tuning out. I heard her, I felt her and I knew that she was right and I was wrong.
So now I fully own that fact that being a woman in business is something different — but I’m also aware that there are a lot of myths about women in business.
Let me clear a few things up right now:
1. MYTH: We all want our websites to be pink and sparkly.
We’re grown women and will choose colours that reflect our brands, companies and personalities. If pink and sparkles represents you, rock on! Just don’t make the assumption that because we’re female we have a limited colour choice.
2. MYTH: You have to explain complicated things to us as if you were talking to a child.
If we don’t get something the first time, we’ll ask you. If not, we’ll figure it out ourselves. Or ask our ‘sisters’.
3. MYTH: You have to behave like a guy to succeed.
This might have been the stereotype for the 1980’s agency head, but it’s not today. And what does that even mean anyway? That’s saying that all guys are the same which is equally untrue. The most important thing that we can to is to be ourselves, our real, raw, authentic selves. That is more than enough.
4. MYTH: Women just run ‘lifestyle’ businesses.
We can run any type of business we put our minds too. Whether that’s Fortune 500 companies or cupcakes from the kitchen table. If we choose to make sure we have our business ‘blended’ right then congratulate us, for we have learnt that we can create a lifestyle to support our business and a business that lets us live the life we really want.
5. MYTH: Women aren’t brave enough for the business world.
We give birth. Enough said.
6. MYTH: Women can’t get funded.
It’s statistically true that women don’t apply for funding of any type as much as men do. It’s equally true that when they do, they rarely apply for as much funding as men — and this can be our downfall as we don’t give ourselves enough runway and instead try to do everything as frugally as possible. BUT statistics also show that 69% of fully funded female led projects are successful vs 60% for men.
7. MYTH: We aren’t emotionally strong enough.
See point 5. More to the point, it has been proven time and time again, in every industry that being more emotionally open works in our favour — it makes us more compassionate and better leaders. We just don’t need to go around beating our chests.
We still have a long way to go until there is real equality in the workplace, but one thing I know for sure is the journey is a whole lot easier with my Sisters by my side. I just wish it hadn’t taken me so long to realise that.
What about you? What myth about being a woman in business are you ready to bust?