Women in Entrepreneurship: Defying Societal Expectations

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As a young girl, I had many career aspirations. I wanted to be a teacher, a lawyer, a marine biologist, or perhaps, a cowgirl. It is children's nature to let their imaginations take them to many dreams and aspirations. However, as they grow older, these dreams become more structured and realistic. I pictured myself growing up to be strong and successful, just like the female role models in my life. It was not until recently that I realized my one true career aspiration, to own a business.

In, "Entrepreneurs are expected to be white and male. We need to change this," Patti Fletcher discusses the overrepresentation of young, white males in the world of entrepreneurship. She also emphasizes the societal restrictions that have been imparted on women due to their past status of a "disadvantaged class." It is the combination of the lack of diversity in entrepreneurship and the remaining discrimination in the professional world that has contributed to this phenomenon. (1)

Although I have never thought in my mind that entrepreneurs must be white and male to succeed, this unconscious understanding has impacted me nonetheless. This impact is apparent in the differences in advice given to males compared to females, even at a young age. Girls are often encouraged to be responsible and organized. It can be argued that boys do not feel obligated to have these attributes in order to succeed. Remember when one of your classmates submitted an assignment without signing their name in school? One of the most common practices for finding the author, in my experience, was to analyze the neatness of the hand writing. It was common for a messy assignment to be attributed to a male, while neat handwriting would be found to have a female author. Was this just a result of stereotypes or did girls actually put more value on neat writing than boys? Fletcher comments on this practice:

We teach women to be good students in school. To write neatly. To color within the lines. To dot every "i" and cross every "t". When women enter the workforce, we tell them to perfect their PowerPoints for an idea pitch. We tell them to be a good girl and go to awkward networking events or to find a mentor. But as my friend and fellow Astia Board of Trustees member, Jeanne Sullivan, says "You need more than a team, a dream, a PowerPoint, and a dog" to get investors to get their wallets out of their pockets.

What girls really need, perhaps, is to be advised to be bold. It may be time to teach girls that they are valued for more than their practical skills, but rather, they are appreciated for their ideas. It’s time to stop the behaviours that put destructive unconscious thoughts in the minds of young girls that later present in their sense of self-worth. If this can be accomplished, girls may be willing to be braver, to go further, and to expect more out of themselves than they have in the past. I hope that as a result of making this shift, "entrepreneur" will be a common career aspiration for young girls one day.

By: Georgia McClure-Kunc

Sources:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/women-in-leadership/2014/dec/12/entrepreneurs-are-expected-to-be-white-and-male-we-need-to-change-this