my god, i missed these pages, i'm blogging after ages, not good at all. so i thought i should make up, as many of you know, since March i have been doing a regular column for the magazine entrepreneur. so i thought i'll post the articles that have already been published here so even those of you who don't read the magazine (you should you know, its very good) will get to read the article.
so here goes, this was the first article printed in the March issue, reprinted here with permission from the Entrepreneur magazine.
When the devil wears Prada : what it means to be a ‘woman’ entrepreneur
Prof. Nandini Vaidyanathan
Why is it necessary to qualify the word ‘entrepreneur’ in gender terms? Does the fact that men are from Mars and women are from Venus justify or warrant it? Are women entrepreneurs really so different from their male counterparts?
The answer is layered. It is necessary to qualify not only because women bring different skill-sets to the table but also because society looks at women entrepreneurs differently.
Every act of creation is first of all an act of destruction (Picasso):
The first lesson in being a woman entrepreneur is that society does not take her seriously. A young mentee of mine recently had her company stall in an exhibition and she found that all the visitors to her stall either pretended as if she was part of the furniture or asked her if they could speak to her boss. Reason: the product was a hi-tech education software and no one believed there could be a woman entrepreneur behind it!
Therefore, the first mind-set that she needs to destroy is that women become entrepreneurs for time pass only, and that it is not a serious do-or-die career option for them.
Try? There is no try. There is only do or not do (Yoda, Jedi warrior):
The second lesson is that even though men don’t take her entrepreneurial aspirations seriously, in the event she fails, she is doomed forever. A mentee of mine was under tremendous pressure to raise capital for her company, without much success. In an attempt to de-stress her I told her that we had tried all possible avenues and she shouldn’t be so hard on herself. Her reaction was : ‘trying is not enough, we have to do it, if we don’t, my failure will become the pivot of every argument with my husband’.
Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. Try looking for fashion in an airport or history in a hardware store (Robert Wieder):
The third lesson is that it is alright for men to build a business around an idea which may be a ‘me too’ in the market, but the woman entrepreneur’s idea has to be necessarily a prime mover. Ironically, a woman is expected to think different even if the idea is as ancient as time, bring a whole new perspective, and look for opportunities in the least likely places.
A bell is a cup until it is struck (Wire):
In India, women constitute 48% of the population, yet their contribution to GDP is negligible. Historically, if a woman became an entrepreneur, it was because circumstances forced it on her. Today with education and empowerment, women are becoming entrepreneurs out of choice, yet, the male-dominant social order believes that women have lowly management skills, lack motivation and drive to earn and therefore do not take business seriously.
It is interesting that these perceptions contradict empirical evidence which show that women are better at multi-tasking, have ‘web-thinking’ abilities, in the sense that they have tremendous networking and leveraging capability (Helen Fisher), have high EQ- all of which are key ingredients for building a successful business.
Entrepreneurship defines the identity of men and women as no job can. But the one reason to gender-qualify it is that for men, identity comes with the territory; for women, it has to be ascribed by men.