Blaming Women Entrepreneurs
One of my favorite writers over at Forbes is talking about Why Women Are to Blame For the “Pink Ghetto” of Entrepreneurs. Don’t worry, Meghan Casserly is not really blaming women. She is, as always, defending women (which is why she’s my Intergalactic Space Hero of the week. Okay I just made that up). But she brings up a tweet from Jolie O’Dell that sure seems to be blaming women:
“Women: stop making start-ups about fashion, shopping and babies. At least for the next few years. You’re embarrassing me.”
Casserly is sympathetic, pointing out that she receives many emails on start ups from women that all focus on makeup or kids or clothes. But Casserly points out that we often tell women to do that which they are passionate or knowledgeable about. To go start a business on some challenge they have fixed in their own lives. And this very well might have something to do with fashion or raising kids. Maybe the problem is then that these businesses are not seen as “real” businesses by the rest of the community. They are looked down upon.
Many industries as soon as they gain any good number of women are considered “soft” businesses: like teaching or nursing. A century ago these were a man’s occupations and women not serious enough for them. Now we encourage women to go into these fields because they allow for a woman’s “caring” or “sensible” side, let her “give back” to the community.
Anneke Jong from Daily Muse posts a similar article where she discusses Why I (Used to) Hate Pink-Collar Startups. At first Jong reacts much like O’Dell’s tweet above (with her own tweet as well). Then realizes she is diminishing other women’s accomplishments. She points out that not every start up needs to be tech driven.
As someone in a very non-soft field (engineers have their own hardness criteria) this all continues to be very amusing to me. On the one side, the “tech” most of the folks are talking about is software. As a mechanical engineer, the software side is very soft to me (it’s in the name! I mean come on!) Also, I blogged about the lack of women at tech conferences more than a year ago after the famous TechCrunch shortage. I have yet to be invited to any tech conferences. I have also yet to be given my medal for going into a male dominated field. I’m still waiting.
The point is, I did all the right things. I went into a very “technical” and male dominated field that was supposed to be higher paying than many of the female dominated fields. Every day I had to deal with the dinosaurs and doubting men who I work with, many of whom scarily enough in the 21st century honestly think a man’s brain is better attuned to being an engineer. Maybe where I’ve failed the female community (and why I haven’t gotten my medal yet) is that I haven’t gone out and started my highly technical business yet. You know why?
Starting a business is like getting a job. It’s more about who you know than what you know. Many of my male colleagues have networks and contacts built up within the industry. Their opinions are trusted more on technical matters than mine are. As a weird example, my male boss does not follow football any more or less than I do. But he gets comments about it all the time. People automatically assume he follows The Sports and discuss it with him. When they try to talk sports with me it’s more a test. They try to see if I watched the particular game they are discussing. I actually have to know more than a man about sports to be allowed to discuss sports. Same is true for engineering or any technical proficiency. Men have networks built up and have a serious playing field advantage here.
So if women feel confident in their ability to sell children’s books or whatever than I commend them. I say if there’s something you see a need for that you are passionate and confident about than go do that. Men may question women’s heads for business but they don’t often question their knowledge of makeup. Women are assumed to have an automatic superior knowledge in these areas even if they have never worn makeup in their lives. Women, you know what I am talking about. So I’m still waiting for my gold star for being a female engineer. And tech conferences you can invite me anytime to be a speaker. If I don’t hear anything I’m going to guess you found a guy who can talk about The Sports better than me.