Being powerful, likable and feminine at the same time
I sat down this week with now a 3 time woman entrepreneur who is currently involved in her latest venture. Her first two ventures were successful exits. I could say that having those two successful exits under her belt gave her a comfort level when she spoke to me or perhaps it was just two women talking business but there was an ease and confidence she exuded that is powerful, likable and feminine at the same time.
That is not easy to achieve. Even men, who have yet to be funded and are just starting out their businesses have a different air about them than men who have been funded (or exited). There is something about getting to the next level that is empowering and it comes across.
There is an interesting study that is read at HBS and probably other business schools across the country about gender. The gist is that the students all read about an entrepreneur and their approach to their business, people, raising money, etc. Although the read is the same for each class there is only one thing that changes and that is the name of the person. One class reads that is it a man and another class sees the entrepreneur as a woman. What is fascinating yet not surprising is the reaction of the students reading the case study. The woman gets denounced as aggressive and pushy with a business model that isn't great. The man gets high kudos for his business and the way he deals with everyone around him. Now that does that say about our culture in regards to women entrepreneurs?
I do believe, at least I hope so, that it is getting easier for women entrepreneurs. I can attest to the fact that women are amazing entrepreneurs at every turn. It is important for women to exude power yet be likeable and feminine at the same time. Men exude power and are likeable at the same time but for whatever reason can get away with more and are not judged as strongly in regards to their swagger.
Women are women and men are men. As we go about our business life, lets try really hard to remember who is sitting on the other side of the table and pretend they are a totally neutral human being and appreciate their bravado, their business, their charm, their smarts no matter what gender they are. I think we'd all be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.