It shouldn't be an issue, but it is… so see how others have dealt with gender discrimination at work. By Anand Srinivasan (Founder, Entrepreneurship Daily)
As much as we would like this were not the case, gender plays a big role in how your peers perceive you. Unfortunately, a lot of industries are still male dominated and women donning the leadership mantle is still a rare sight. Take the example of Michelle MacDonald who owns a bagel factory called the Sweet Note Bakery that is based out of Philadelphia. As someone who has grown her business into 8 states and over 100 locations, she really is not a pushover. But to her peers and business partners, she was. Condescending remarks and unsolicited advice were the order of the day.
Before writing my book, “How We Did It : 100 entrepreneurs share the story of their struggles and life experiences”, I did not realize experiences such as those shared by Michelle were really that common. But like it or not, it is. So how do you, as a woman entrepreneur tackle this and focus on your business? Here are some ways women I interviewed did it.
Michelle MacDonald, Founder, Sweet Note Bakery
I found a female business coach who taught me how to stand my ground and boldly but politely and in MY own way take back the control in these meetings. I am now able to use my femininity as a strategy. I am now a voice of empowerment and handle the meetings with control and grace at the same time. I started wearing red lipstick, I know it may sound strange at first but hear me out.
I think many women can agree, when you wear red lipstick you stand out, it brings attention to you, it is bold and it is passionate. I never felt confident enough in myself to wear red lipstick; to bring that much attention to myself. I stepped out of my comfort zone and the first time I put it on I could feel the kind of confidence I needed start to grow.
Julie Busha, Founder & CEO, Slawsa
I’ve found women entrepreneurs to have more of an open dialog with each other, as we are more willing to help each other out. Likewise, I highly recommend that women take advantage of programs that will give them an advantage in their industry. For example, many major retailers have supplier diversity programs where women-owned businesses can get doors opened quicker to buyers or avoid entry fees to the marketplace. Why would we not take advantage of those opportunities if they exist?
Adi Bittan, Co-founder & CEO, Owner Listens
I do not take this personally, I just move on. I knew I needed to prove myself more than a male entrepreneur with similar credentials. I came into meetings with lots of answers prepared and I addressed potential objections head on.
For example, being female and not an engineer a VC is automatically thinking "will she be able to hire a great technical team?". That's a fair concern. I'd come in with a slide in my deck ready about my team of engineers that have already committed to working with me. Since I knew leadership is an issue I'd mention in the beginning that I had been a Captain in the Israeli military. Nothing says leadership more than that. After over 100 meetings I had heard all possible objections and had an answer ready for them.
Tracey Noonan, Owner, Wicked Good Cupcakes
Embrace being a woman and use it to your advantage! As women, we can sometimes be our own worst enemies. We need to support one another and not feel threatened by each other. My suggestion for dealing with this is simple - ignore what others do think or say. Believe in yourself 100% and surround yourself with positive people.
Mary Apple, Founder & CEO, Pretty Pushers
Even after being in business for 6 years, my kindness and ‘woman’s touch’ is sometimes mistaken for weakness. I use it to my advantage though. Let the vendor think I don’t know about cotton prices or let the VC think I don’t know what a balance sheet is, and then I just hit them with the surprise left hook and it puts them on their back foot every time.
How have you dealt with this challenge?
About the guest blogger: Anand Srinivasan is a digital media consultant and the guy behind Entrepreneurship Daily, a newsletter for entrepreneurs. Get a free preview of his latest book, How We Did It, by clicking here.