By: Michael Kaiser
If you watch nature programs on TV, you have come across at least one dedicated to those Big Cats, the lions and you quickly realize that it is the lioness that looks after and commands the pride. At best, the male serves as a mix of bodyguard, concierge and gigolo. It is the lioness who does all the hunting and caring of her cubs. It is a constant challenge that forces the lioness to erect a fortress of rigorous discipline, alertness and battle preparation. This zoological example serves as an analogy for the vicissitudes and triumphs experienced by women in the business world.
In this second decade of the 21st century no longer can the male gender come up with comments bordering on blatant business misogyny such as “They are emotional”, temperamental”, “They are watching over their family, how can they run the business”, “They will get pregnant”, “They have their period and are impossible to deal with”, “They are capricious”, etc. As if those descriptions were not enough, along came the 2006 movie “The Devil Wears Prada” starring Meryl Streep as the epitome of a ruthless and cynical fashion entrepreneur.
That is definitely not the scenario that we should equate with female entrepreneurs and corporate executives in Western, and more recently, Eastern societies. Time to wake up and get the record straight: women are as strong as men; they are standards of initiative and dedication, intuitive, tactical and strategic leaders, progressive, highly motivated, creative, the list of positive characteristics goes on. And with a good sense of humor, they even bestow positive remarks about their opponents:
“We have ‘arrived. it means we’re not expending a huge amount of energy battling each other for power, instead we’re having challenging conversations about what we do well and what we need to work on. It’s a fact (I have the research somewhere) that men outperform women in 4 key areas of business. They are better at asking for what they need, for standing out in a crowd, for singing their own praises and speaking up.” Suzy Jacobs in “Can we please change the conversation”.
In a reference quoted for the description of “Female Entrepreneur” we read that:
Studies on women entrepreneurs show that women have to cope with stereotypic attitudes towards women on a daily basis. Business relations as customers, suppliers, banks, etc. constantly remind the entrepreneur that she is different, sometimes in a positive way such as by praising her for being a successful entrepreneur even though being a woman. Employees tend to mix the perceptions of the manager with their images of female role models leading to mixed expectations on the woman manager to be a manager as well as a “mother”. The workload associated with being a small business manager is also not easily combined with taking care of children and a
family. However, even if the revenues are somewhat smaller, women entrepreneurs feel more in control and happier with their situation than if they worked as an employee.
Although many positive changes took place in the 20 years since its authors published their findings, there is still the classical “room-for-improvement” ahead. As an example: early this year the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, issued a memo banning the practice of telecommuting for the company’s employees which led to a negative uproar, promptly smothered by a positive retort in her defense from, yes, a male reporter of the Washington Post.
Recent statistics show that women’s level of higher education is on its way of surpassing that of men, which explains the large number of female executives in some of the most complex and demanding scientific sectors. Alas, this has not minimized the obstacles they face due to social mores that still operate under antiquated gender roles; even today, the number of male entrepreneurs exceeds that of women, and that is based more on conventional stereotypes than reality, because women are equally as good as men in starting a company with very few financial resources at hand.
In closing I invite the reader to watch the TEDx video by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, listed below. It is an uplifting paean to the resilience of women in the face of business entry barriers, and how they have become an integral and much needed part of entrepreneurship and corporate leadership, without gender barriers.
References and Additional Reading
- Ted Talks |Gayle Tzemach Lemmon: Women entrepreneurs, example not exception
- Go 4 Funding | Some Facts About Women Entrepreneurs
- She Business | Can we please change the conversation
- The Economist | “The Daughter Also Rises”
- Bureau of Labor Statistics | Educational attainment of women in the labor force, 1970–2010
- The Washington Post | The Yahoo memo and Marissa Mayer’s big innovation gamble
- Wikipedia | Female Entrepreneur