Being The Girl Boss: Challenges and Rewards Facing Female Leaders
As a woman, and the co-founder and leader of a femme care company aiming to educate and enrich the lives of women, I spend a lot of time thinking about the topic of women’s empowerment.
Throughout my career, I’ve worked for men and women, and now, helming my own company, I continue to learn from each experience the intricacies of what it means to be a woman in the workplace and how I can help to support and empower other women.
“By Women, for Women”
For years (too many) men have created and marketed products that are specific to women. It is important to have a “by women, for women” model because who better to advocate for what women want and need than women? It seems so simple, but it’s long overdue.
Working for Women
As much as I would love to say my experience with female leaders has been all unicorns and rainbows, I can’t. I’ve been at receiving end of pretty shitty treatment by female leaders in general, whether they were directly my superior or not. More often than not, there seems to be this competitive undertone amongst women, even in the VC world when dealing with female investors. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had some female managers whom I’ve absolutely loved, who have celebrated my achievements and pushed me to succeed, and I am forever grateful for those experiences, as well as the less than favorable ones. They have all taught me the importance of support and compassion.
BYOB (Being Your Own Boss)
Overall, I love having the opportunity to both be my own boss and to lead others. It is truly a privilege and one that I don’t take lightly. Unpopular decisions have to be made and budgets have to be kept. I’ve always felt a sense of responsibility to the owner of any business I’ve worked for, and just because I technically am the boss of this one now, doesn’t mean I feel any less responsible. In fact, I feel more so. As the woman in charge, I do set the tone and I try to be very cognoscente of that. Most days are hard, but we do get to have some good laughs. And, when I can reward in small ways, like telling everyone to go home at 1pm on a long summer day, I do.
To me, women’s empowerment and feminism is about mutual respect. Often we see women as the number one offenders of slights towards other women and that hurts my heart because it’s so unproductive and very harmful. Why are we so judgmental of one another? We must hold each other up, not bring each other down. As women, it’s essential that we support one another and Shine Theory, as Anne Friedman so aptly describes it, is just that. “Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you better.” Do not be intimidated by powerful women; be inspired by them because, when one woman shines, we all shine.
I feel super fortunate to come from a family filled with strong women. The person who inspires me the most is my grandmother. My grandmother comes from a small farm town in Southern Italy and wasn’t able to go to school beyond first grade because she had to work and help care for her younger siblings. As a young mother of three, my grandmother became a widow in her 20s. With no education and no money, she immigrated to the US and worked in a factory as a seamstress. She managed to raise her children, buy a four-family house, and do all of it with a smile on her face. She is the ultimate hustler and no one on this planet could inspire me more than she does.
Challenges for Female Leaders
Being the female leader of our company, the public doesn’t refer to us as simply a business but as a “female-run-business.” In such a situation, there is always this spotlight. If we fail, it’s a “female-run-business” that fails, a huge X mark and it feels like a failure for females everywhere. Getting funding can be difficult, most of the VCs out there are men, so they don’t typically have a connection to the product we are trying to sell and it can be difficult for them to relate. Luckily, we work with some kick-ass investors who are able to share our vision.
There is an incredible opportunity to reshape the corporate landscape for female leaders and working women today and it is one we are hugely invested in. Issues like respecting maternity and paternity leaves, removing the stigma on hiring women who are engaged, who may become pregnant and take leave. Providing comprehensive women’s reproductive healthcare (including supplying femme care products) for female employees. These are things we take very seriously and a conversation we will continue to be a part of.