I am building my business Artemis, and as a result I do a lot of networking.
Every week I meet with women of all backgrounds and professions. Generally it’s in the form of coffees, or even groups of women who invite me into their closed circles as a guest.
This last week I did this at least four times. One of the events I attended was put on by a fabulous female founder’s networking organization I’ve recently joined called NAWBO. It was Women Trailblazers In The Wine Industry. The speaking part of the event featured moderator Sharon Harris, Owner of Rarecate Wine Panelists Ziggy Eschliman, a.k.a. Ziggy the Wine gal Celia Welch, Owner and Winemaker of Corra Wines Katherine Inman. Owner and Winemaker, Inman Family Wines and Lesley Russell, VP Marketing at St. Supery.
They all had incredible stories about how they got to where they were now. All of them mentioned the difficulties of working in a male dominated field. What was interesting to me about the panel was the starkly different personalities who had all created very successful careers for themselves.
What Does A Successful Business Woman Look Like?
If you would have asked me to create what I thought a successful business woman looked like when I was 15 years old I would have drawn something similar to what we see in the stock photo images we see on websites. She would be angular and slim, in a tight fitting black suit, high heels, pearls and stockings. She’d be standing, hunched over the desk with one hand down on the table looking ready to pounce.
If you google “business woman,” you get something somewhat similar to what I describe. Although in reality (according to google image results) she has dark hair, glasses and a black suit with a white collar (something you might find a hostess wearing at a nice restaurant). She generally has her arms folded over her chest or her hand on her chin. She’s always smiling.
What I’ve come to realize is there’s no one size fits all business woman look. The one defining characteristic among all business women is resilience. They keep getting back up no matter how many times they fall down.
Women who work in business tend to have thick skin–or whatever you call having to deal with hardship, setback, skepticism, dismissive assumptions by colleagues, being the nurturer for the family while carrying the burden of work, children, marriage challenges (sometimes divorce)… Women become tough when they realize how incredibly strong they have to be to survive through all of life’s pressures. This doesn’t mean men don’t have pressures, but it means they have more support systems set up for themselves. After all we’ve only been in the workforce for about half a century. We don’t have the centuries of support systems that catch us when we fall.
From what I can tell, when we fall we eat dirt and look for ways to clean ourselves up without making it anyone else’s burden.
There are words that people have created for women when we ask for what we want. Nagging, crazy, screetchy voice, needy….but the truth is, if a man were to say the same things in the same tone, he would just be called “direct” or “a man who demands excellence” or “creative genius.”
Corporate Women Mentoring Programs, All Talk and No Action?
Recently I met with a woman at a large consumer packaged goods company. She told me that while the company acts like it supports internal support systems for women, when it comes to actual mentoring and a culture of support, it’s non-existent.
Once I worked with an executive in the tech industry who told me he did not believe women were an under-served group of the population. He rolled his eyes that I believed women needed special support in the business world.
Instead of waiting around for employers or the other people in our lives to understand what we need, we need to go out and create it for ourselves. We need to create it for the next generation of women, and continue to create cultures of support across America.
Regarding media for men vs. media for women….even the media that is created for men convinces men of their own confidence, power and potential. For women the media saturates us with messages of insecurity, anxiety, subordinance and fear.
Enough is enough. The more women can come together and realize the potential–that there is nothing above our heads but endless sky and nothing around our hearts except unconditional love–we will improve as an under-served group of the population.
There is no real competition. The idea of women having to compete with each other for opportunities, love and success is a fallacy.
The more one of us succeeds the more possibilities for the next one. If we stop competing by trying to meet the standards that our culture has created for us, and come together, the better we will turn out collectively.
I saw a quote this week on twitter from Project Eve. The quote was:
“It’s not about breaking through the glass ceiling, it’s about building your own house.”
We all can build houses where women can be themselves. Where we sit around the room in circles with wine or chocolate or a yoga mat and nothing to ingest and talk, candidly.
I went to an event this week and I did an exercise with a group of women. The exercise was an ice breaker to figure out commonalities among the group. I later found out one of the group members happened to be Katherine Sarafian the Producer of the Pixar movie Brave.
I was delightfully surprised that if you open your eyes and look around, you are much closer to the people who share your values than you assume on first glance. I had no clue this woman was the mind behind Brave, a feminist cartoon movie that changed the game for the entire entertainment industry. It was the first movie I’ve seen to depict an independent female lead who doesn’t believe a fairytale prince charming will solve her life.
Get Out of the House and Meet With Other Women
The more I “get out of the house” and meet with other women in my community the happier I am. The more I realize that there is no cookie cutter “business woman” that exists. I learn that really successful women ask for what they want, and more importantly give themselves what they need.
They put themselves first.
That is how women go on to create hugely successful careers in industries like wine, media and more.
What did you think a “business woman” looked like when you were growing up? Were you right?