Top 5 benefits of woman-led business from the 2022 US Chamber Winner of Woman-Owned Business of the Year
I applied for the award because I’d had a lot of messaging around “you don’t get what you don’t apply for” and “awards help with recruitment and retention.” That was it. My husband and I structured our businesses carefully so that I always would be eligible for such things (though in this case, the woman-owned majority counts not just me but our investors and employee-owners, too) should we want to be, and here we are.
When I got the email that we’d been named one of 4 finalists for the category and one of 27 finalists out of 3000 applications, it was quite the ride. That’s not a small sample size. Having been a reader of college writing proficiency essays, I know what it takes to get through all that and how you stand out to be one of those and, truly, it was an honor just to be nominated.
But the thing I’ve always rankled with is being “a woman in business.” I didn’t want to be “a woman” in anything, I wanted to just be a person. I was one of those women raised to think I wasn’t like “those other women” who saw them as not serious or valuable or interesting. I pursued mainly male hobbies and stayed away from deep relationships in female-led ones. I’m in a male dominated career, and five years ago, I was the only woman in leadership meetings.
Things really changed during COVID for me, I spent a lot of time listening to voices on Twitter in between finding ways to survive and also help others survive and come out stronger. I learned that some of my attitude was a result of conditioning, and some of it was a result of self-protection that served no one, not least of all, me.
I also found that the men in that room, for the most part, were either taking advantage of my insecurities or my assumption that they just needed help and when it became plain that they were not pulling their load, holy cow did women step up in our organization and in my personal life to support me.
Becoming a leader of women in business changed everything for our organization, and for me, personally.
I want to do a series that dives more deeply into this, but here are the top 10 takeaways that anyone looking for leadership from women should know.
5. Women show up when it gets hard.
Women are conditioned from an early age that they just have to try harder. Very few of us are raised with entitlement — nearly all of us are taught that we have to earn whatever it is we want. And quite a few of us have earned some incredible pain tolerance emotionally and physically as a result of pushing through situations in childhood and through adult life that men simply haven’t had. The resilience and commitment is next-level because they’ve been through it.
4. Women model work-life balance better.
My operations director (a woman) helped me stop grinding myself into the ground because I thought I had to in order to lead. She’d publicly announce she’d had enough emotionally or was sick that day or had to deal with her kid and be taking the day off. We have a liberal policy on unlimited leave and having her clearly demonstrate it made sure that everyone in our organization knew it was truly safe to do it, and normalize it — a problem with policies like this.
As more and more of us have children, we’re learning that we can work at night or have an off day if a kid is home sick or just need to plan a party and then we’ll come back refreshed and ready to go again — and as a result, our company is healthier than it’s ever been.
3. Women lead with emotional vulnerability and it’s the key to avoiding burnout.
Our workplace is safe to talk about whatever’s happening — I’ve cried more than once in meetings, and when it was all men, it was a weakness that got taken advantage of. In my women-majority leadership meetings, it’s now simply accepted as a sign of something that needs to be worked out or someone needing a break. Even the men find it safe to get emotional now and I’m so happy to give space for that. We tell each other immediately if we’re hurt and Brene Brown’s “Clear is kind” is our mantra. No drama, just addressing things in the moment, supporting one another and moving on. When we’re angry, we state so and people can choose to feel that anger and move through it or take time to process and we know we’ll come back stronger every time.
2. Women innovate.
Women are conditioned to solve problems and carry mental loads like absolute champions. As we start to have conversations around balancing that to the men in our lives, we’re finding ways to automate, innovate, and change how we do things because nothing is life and death in most businesses and it’s not worth the grey hairs and banal, repetitive tasks if they can be solved in other ways.
1. Women are redefining what “professional” looks like.
Our corporate meetings are full of people taking pee breaks, refilling coffee, bouncing babies on their knees, and partners walking past. We dye our hair extravagant colors and share new tattoos — or we look like crap and nobody says anything. We do however celebrate you showing up and kicking ass at your job — what you look like that day or any day, or whatever needs you have along with that? Doesn’t matter. That’s real professionalism.
Can’t wait to get more into this as time goes on. I hope you’ll join me for the journey as we explore why women-led, family-friendly, and inclusive business practices are all you should ever strive for.