Women are much tougher than you think

A young woman is sitting outside, she is looking directly into the camera lens.

writer icon Kay Lagercrantz     ISB   |   Business     🕐 14. Feb. 2019

They say that resistance makes you stronger, and that certainly seems to be the case for many of the tough outstanding businesswomen we see in the world today.

From entrepreneurs fighting their way to success, to career-climbers who gain respect in a male-dominated world, the lineup is nothing short of inspiring.

A battle to the top

The founder of billion-dollar company Spanx, Sarah Blakely, fought her way to success as a single founder. With her one idea of underwear for wearing under white trousers, she built a business empire. Today, she is a billionaire and her products are sold worldwide.

Famous Danish businesswoman, Stine Bosse, had a difficult start in life, growing up with a psychotic mother. Bosse has, for more than two decades, been working in a world dominated by men. Today, she is one of the world's most well-respected businesswomen and can add President of The Royal Danish Theatre to her long list of roles and accolades. 

Women are vocal about their desire to be represented in the boardroom and on leadership teams in the business world. Despite this, a prevalent belief seems to be that women are not interested in the business world. At the recent Copenhagen Tech Festival, a male CEO claimed - “We would love to hire women in our leadership team, but there just aren’t any”

Face the facts
Women in business are under pressure. There is a constant expectation to be at the top, to be strong, to not take any nonsense.

There seems to be an expectancy for business women to be kind and not to be too straight-forward, decisive or firm. Otherwise, they risk being perceived as too much. Too mean, too loud, too bossy.

Melanie Aronson, Founder and CEO of Panion, said “I feel this coming from both men and women. It is a subconscious bias that has been engrained in us culturally. And we need to work on undoing it”. 

A one-woman fight
One effect of being a woman in business is the loneliness that many female entrepreneurs face.

“Women end up fighting their fight alone”, CEO of Inside Scandinavian Business, Brooke Illummont said. She adds, “and it can be somewhat unnecessary”.

Women do not have a network to match the men, many of whom have a contact net that has been passed down through years of business deals and boys-only clubs.

“I don't think most people giving off these subtle hints of distrust in female capabilities are conscious of their own behaviours”,
 Aronson said.

The Scandinavian market is small. “We need to be able to relate to one another. Because the men can’t seem to relate to us”, Illummont said. Aronson added, “Despite no one saying flat out that they are not giving you an opportunity or making it harder for you to get an opportunity because you're a woman, you can feel it.”

For some women, it can be hard to get noticed for the right reasons. This can be made more difficult by the absence of women higher up the ladder.

A man's world

The typical businesswoman is outnumbered. This is particularly noticeable in the tech industry, where women are hugely underrepresented. Additionally, the majority of those women who are working in the tech industry have jobs related to administration and secretarial work, or human resources. Not, as one might have hoped, in tech-related jobs.

Businesswomen tend to be seen as independent. By working alone, they reach success despite having very little help along the way. One must wonder whether it would be more beneficial for everyone if this stigma of independence was removed.

In order for that to happen, everyone needs to be at peace with the idea of women receiving help in their field. This stands for women, as well as men.

Putting something out of reach, or implying something is off-limits can have a tendency to push individuals to persevere, achieve greater and fight harder. While this should not be the script for women in business, it is as Aronson pointed out - "sometimes being the underdog has a silver lining.”

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