I was reading a Forbes article on turning American women entrepreneurs into power brokers yesterday and the question asked at the end stuck with me. The author asked:
“What’s your solution to creating more American-born women entrepreneur role models?”
She suggested starting with girls via the Girl Scouts, and while I agree we need to reach girls early to empower them, I felt that answer left out those of us that are well past being called a ‘girl’. Does that mean those of us who were taught that our career goals only mattered until we married and had children have no hope of making a difference or becoming role models?
I sure hope not. Yet, judging by the voices I hear within my own professional industry we have some major hurdles to overcome to get there.
For example, I guarantee you that when our male counterparts are setting their rates they don’t flinch at figures like $50, $100 or even $150 an hour for their specialized services. Women offering the same services? They cringe at the thought of charging that much for fear that “no one will be willing to pay that”. Why the huge difference in attitude between the genders? As much as I hate to say it, and as much as most of us would outright deny it, somewhere deep inside we still believe ourselves to be somehow inferior to men when it comes to business.
Deny it all you want, but actions speak louder than words. Men insist on getting paid what they feel they are worth, women tend to settle for what they feel they can get. And that’s a shame. Especially when you consider that we bring strengths to business that men don’t. (Before my male readers start sending angry email, yes, men do bring certain qualities that women don’t as well; keep reading.)
While some may brag that men do business without allowing emotion to color their decisions, women can use their emotions to connect with others and identify needs that might otherwise go unnoticed. Perhaps men are better linear thinkers and their focus is narrower, but women are better multi-taskers. Each strength a man has, a woman has one that is equally as valuable in a business setting. So why are so many of us paid less or seen as less competent than our male counterparts?
I blame it on all of the ‘nice girls don’t’ rules. “Nice girls don’t ask for [second helpings, recognition, etc.]” or “Nice girls don’t brag about their accomplishments”. I believe that these spoken and unspoken rules about asking for what we want and/or showing a confidence in our own abilities are so deeply planted that it makes us question things like what we should be getting paid or our confidence in our abilities.
The good news is that once those messages are identified, once we realize that we are the ones selling ourselves short, we can turn it around. We can stop doubting and start demanding, stop settling and start claiming that power without hesitation. And better still, we can be examples to other women and girls to do the same.