No really, you need to hear me out.
In our efforts to correct the gender balance, to encourage women toward pursuing their dreams through business ventures, we’re becoming our own worst enemy in perpetually reinforcing the status quo.
We need to change the game. We need to call out the failed practices and implement new ones. Change our mindset so we’re not caught up in the celebratory moments, and can see the long-term realities.
We Shouldn’t Be Pleased, We Should Be Offended
Reward is only meaningful if matched to the performance. An award for participation takes away from the achievement of those who excelled. Showing up is only noteworthy if against overwhelming odds. But being a woman is not a special quality, nor an outstanding performance - it’s simply a state of being.
Singling out specific people based on gender is the same as doing so based on race - it implies that there’s a reality where those differences are meaningful. It becomes an us vs them, a gaping chasm in the middle of the supposedly even playing field.
It’s important to recognize achievement, but the commemoration of women succeeding - or even just entering business - is a cause for silent acknowledgment of our failures, not cheerful celebration.
We Have a Huge Problem in Business
In theory, business is the great equalizer. Its judge, deciding between success and failure, is a color and gender-blind market.
Businesses are defined by products, not their executives. Thus, the focus should be on the solution, not the person behind it. But of course, reality is at arms length of the ideal.
We’re just 3 years shy of the hundredth anniversary of the 19th Amendment or in the 138th year of its original proposal). And yet, the office of the presidency has never been in reach for a woman. Many female politicians are running their campaigns on the message of being women, instead of their agendas or policies.
The same holds true in business. Women are equal to their male counterparts. However, they’re looked upon differently, approached differently, and recognized differently.
The purpose of events centered on the achievements of women, and female founders specifically, is to encourage others to follow their footsteps. And while it is a noble cause, it’s a short-lived one that prevents the realization of the far more powerful long-term ramifications.
Change The Game, Not The Rules
The simple fact is that celebrating female entrepreneurs lowers the entry barrier for women. But it shouldn’t be. We don’t need to be treated differently, and it’s an affront to assume we have to be afforded this gesture from our peers.
What we need is a paradigm change. It won’t come easy and it won’t come fast. But it won’t come at all unless we stand up and push back against actions. We need to recognize the need for expanding our presence in business, and we need to take action that’s aimed at fixing that localized problem. We need to put it in a different context and view it from a different perspective.
Being a woman in business is not a cause for celebration, and its recognition must reflect that. Being a savvy businesswoman, successful and recognized, is an achievement that needs to stand on its own merits, shifting the focus from woman to successful.
Unless we treat ourselves and our peers equally, we’ll never receive the true recognition we all desire and deserve. What are your thoughts?