To say that making Fortune magazine’s “Fortune 500” list is an honor would be an understatement. The company’s annual roundup of industry giants spans the 1,000, 500, and 100 benchmarks, each proving more exclusive than the last and showing the world that those businesses are profitable and prominent. While it’s a fantastic way to prove that you’re “somebody”, this year’s list faced a serious shortage of female representation.
In 2018, the number of listed companies led by ladies dipped by 25%, following a historical peak just last year. Why the stark drop? For big names like Staples, Campbell’s, and Avon, retirement and investor persuasion played their part. However, what’s most disconcerting about their findings is the bigger picture—women have yet to break that highly coveted “glass ceiling.”
As a female business owner, you have likely felt a unique pressure that your male counterparts simply don’t experience. Your capabilities are the same, but the perception of you in the professional realm is often very different, leaving you to face challenges unlike those of other entrepreneurs. Truth is, society has made strides toward corporate equity, but there’s still more work to do. What does that mean for you and your organization? Read on to find out more.
Understanding Where We Are
It’d be easy to dismiss the dismal number of female CEOs as a consequence of our culture’s bad past behavior. After all, from the late 1800’s to present day, a woman’s presumed “place” in the workforce has been in a constant state of flux. As a result, little girls haven’t always been raised to dream of running their own company, which may dissuade them from even trying.
That being said, some experts believe that it’s not the number of female workers willing to take the reins that’s the problem, but the obstacles put in front of them on their journey. Last summer, the New York Times illustrated these issues in depth from the perspective of ladies who lived them. Their consensus was less than encouraging, citing outdated views on what women “are” as the real setbacks. For example, driven women are intimidating, but filling a traditionally accepted “ladylike” role can leave them less likely to be assertive and demanding. Overall, they are still not viewed as enterprising.
It’s a cyclic complication. The antiquated ideas prevent women from pushing for power positions, and when they don’t, it seems to reaffirm the belief that they just don’t belong in them. Combining that with the distinct difference in pay scale between men and women (link to “When A Hard Sell is Too Hard” blog?), the dark ages of gender inequality can seem to just be getting darker.
Getting You Where You Want to Be
You deserve to give yourself a major pat on the back. Whether your business is well-established or you’re on the brink of making your entrepreneurial dreams come true, you’ve already taken the first step to beating these odds. Your next steps? Focusing on longevity, smartly building your empire in a way that will stand the test of time.
To best begin sharpening your strategy, it’s important not to believe that being the boss means you’re exempt from these antiquated attitudes. Your clients and competitors could anticipate lower rates for services at a female-run business, and customers may impose unrealistic workload demands on you because they feel like they can.
Naturally, you know that working harder does not equate to working smarter, so a great way to contend with these potential issues is by making yourself clear from start to finish. Control the conversation, make sure your expectations are met, and let the client know what you are able to do for them and when. Be transparent, but don’t be passive.
Another tip? Always be ready to change things up. The business world moves at a rapid pace regardless of your gender, and companies that thrive are ones that transform themselves time and again. Analyze the problems you face, and brainstorm new solutions. If you’re waist-deep in product development stages, try honing in on a difficulty that your goods could possibly solve. Let your business evolve internally, and help the world evolve externally.
Finally, understand that being a one-woman show doesn’t literally mean that you have to do it all. Entrepreneurs often overwhelm themselves with every detail of their business, leaving them spread too thin and utterly exhausted. Utilize the presence of others as a resource, whether it’s finding a business mentor for advice or consulting with a financial professional to ensure your dollar signs are rock solid. Part of organizational growth is learning from and leaning on others, so don’t be afraid to delegate tasks while you keep your eyes on the prize.
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