Three Things I’ve Learned Spending a Year Writing about Female Entrepreneurs
By Kylie Kendall
[dropcap background="no" color="#333333"]A[/dropcap] few weeks ago, I was interviewing someone who founded an organization that supports women in leadership. At the end of the interview I asked, as I always do, if she had anything else to add that I hadn’t covered in my questions.
“Can I just say that you’re very well read and you know a lot about this topic?” she offered.
I could have cried. I’ve always felt like a bit of an imposter in interviews, worrying that the person I’m interviewing will figure out I don’t know what I’m talking about. So to hear someone tell me the distinct opposite of that was incredibly affirming.
After I hung up, I thought about it more and finally decided, she’s right. I was well read. I did know a lot about the topic. This was the second-last piece of a 20-part feature article series (launching this summer!) I wrote for Dream, Girl. I’d spent almost a year thinking, reading, talking to experts, and writing about women in entrepreneurship. [divider type="short" spacing="10"] I’ve learned a lot, personally, from female entrepreneurs. As a freelance writer and editor for the past year and a half, I am one – so reading and writing about women who are building businesses and lives similar to my own has been more important at this stage in my career than I can explain.
But on a broader scale, I’ve also had the opportunity to think about the ways we, as a society, talk about female entrepreneurs – the ways that, for all our chatter on the topic, we’ve fallen short. I really wanted this series to feel different, more real. I really think we accomplished that.
That said, here are three things I know for sure about female entrepreneurs after spending a year writing about them. [divider type="dashed" spacing="10"]
1. Female entrepreneurs don’t need our advice.
Well intentioned as they may be, all those articles about what words women should or should use in emails really miss the mark. Women navigating complicated corporate structures that are still heavily permeated by male culture might appreciate those tips for the time being, but those of us who are creating their own corporate cultures definitely don’t.
What’s infinitely more helpful is confirming that women’s unique leadership styles are valid. That the ways women have been socialized to lead others – very often, with kindness and compassion – are not weaknesses. That women who don’t conform to those gender roles are also great leaders. Basically, we need to accept and uplift women as they are. End of story. [divider type="thin" spacing="10"] 2. Female entrepreneurs are not a category.
And they’re not a hive mind. Sometimes, we talk about the power of female entrepreneurs in a way that can lump them together, only because our mission is to lift each and every one of them up. But it’s important to also understand that female entrepreneurs want different things and have different experiences from one another.
A woman of color might have very different experiences starting a business, getting funding, and navigating the startup world than a white woman might, for instance. There are layers of experiences and privilege that mean that some women move through the world – including the world of entrepreneurship – differently than others.
There are experiences that all female entrepreneurs share, but acknowledging our differences only makes our movement stronger.[divider type="thin" spacing="10"]
3. Female entrepreneurs are a force.
It might be because we’re accustomed to having to constantly prove our worth. It might be because we’ve read the stats about funding for women- versus men-led startups. It might be simply because women are smart, capable, powerful people. But women are starting businesses at rates higher than men are, and our businesses are statistically outperforming our male counterparts’.
So it’s time for people to stop rolling their eyes at feminist movements that have only ever said what’s unequivocally true – that women are incredible – and start taking female entrepreneurs seriously.