There are blogs on blogs on Google searches on how to be a successful woman entrepreneur. There are networks and groups dedicated to females in business and it’s empowering to see so many women taking their dreams into their own hands. There are coaches and websites that guide women on how to succeed and it’s wonderful to see ladies coming together to lift each other up.
We live in a world and during a time that has seen women taking back their power. We are breaking down barriers in our heels, Converse, flats or whatever type of footwear we feel most comfortable in. There are women in tech, women in science, women in engineering and math, in writing and publishing, in marketing and advertising, women in mechanics, in law. You get it, there are a lot of women in a lot of kick-ass jobs.
And it’s not slowing down. Business women know that they can do jobs just as effectively, and sometimes better, than their male colleague and young girls are striving for jobs they never ever once thought were out of reach. But if you’re a woman in business you know that it’s not always easy, it never has been and there will always be a certain strength required, especially on those days when you look around the room and realize you’re the only girl in it.
I say “Girl” deliberately because sometimes that’s what being outnumbered in a room full of men can feel like. It can be daunting but it can also be empowering. It can be demeaning when the same idea you mentioned last meeting got shot down but is now seemingly thought up out of thin air by a male co-worker and everyone is drooling over it. It can be annoying when you look around and you’re the only one taking notes because no one else feels they need to but will come and ask you for yours after the meeting. I’m not your secretary but sure here are my notes so we can all win together.
That’s the thing, no matter how many scenarios we’ve all been in and sat through, the thing that must bind us and the thing that makes a woman a rock star in the business world is simply being herself. If you are always true to you then no matter what the others say or do, you will somehow come out on top. When your YOU is shining through then nobody can stop you.
Too many times, as women, we believe we need to take on some kind of boss bitch, domineering, assertive behaviour in order to be seen and heard. Trust me, I’ve been there and it’s not fun. Multiple time, I’ve tried to change my demeanor hoping it would help to get me taken seriously for once. But the few times I have tried to be assertive in a room full of my male colleagues I have been scoffed at, told I was being an emotional bitch and told to calm down (and it’s not even like I was hysterically crying or screaming, just stating my point in a stronger voice than my usual happy-go-lucky tone). I have seen my male counterparts act the exact same way and been effective in their outcome. It can be disheartening.
But something I have come to learn is that I’m not very good at being assertive. It’s not in my character. I’m not someone who walks into a room and makes demands with only a strong glance like Meryl Streep in the Devil Wears Prada. And so I learned what works best for me and how I can best get things done without compromising who I am and my natural character.
Will it always be annoying that I don’t initially get taken as seriously just because I’m a woman? Yes. Will it make my skin crawl any time I hear a man calling an assertive business woman a bitch? Yes. Do I know that I have to work twice as hard to get taken seriously because people label me a dumb blonde? Yes. But the way I have chosen to fight back is to be myself, 100% of the time, and to make no apologies for it (okay, I admit, I still do sometimes apologize way too much but it’s something I’m working on). The tides are shifting and women have announced that we are to stay but if we plan to push back we can’t just all go around acting like men and working to look strong only to come off cold and thinking that it will change anything.
If co-founding FanSaves, a sports-tech startup (an industry with very, very few women leaders), has taught me anything, it’s that being a leader is about guiding and teaching, about being an example and not letting any kind of stereotype hinder your progress. If I spent all day trying to be someone I’m not, how would I ever get anything done effectively? If I dwelled on the man on the other end of my email who treats me differently than my male co-founder, I would waste a whole lot of energy on someone who doesn’t matter in the long run.
So, be you. If you are funny and a bit sarcastic, use it to your advantage instead of hiding it. If you are timid and soft-spoken use the silences to find your voice in other ways, through writing amazing reports that no one will be able to say no to. If you have always had a strong voice and never feared confrontation then girl, go with it and keep holding your own. Don’t let anyone make you feel like you cannot be a great leader or an amazing boss, no matter what your demeanor or your field. The thing is, the more you find comfort in who you are and the more secure you feel in your skin, the easier it will become to own it and it will always feel better than trying to be someone you’re not.
Being a business woman makes you a winner already and the office politics will hopefully continue to subside but we still have a long way to go, in some industries more than others. When you start realizing that the woman you are right now, this minute, is strong enough and good enough to get things done and make a real change then that’s when you’ll officially hit rock star status.