I try my best to avoid using this blog as a platform for me to vent my personal frustrations, because usually I don’t think there’s any real benefit in doing so. Afterall, the purpose of me doing this is to get better at writing, not to just blurt stuff out that annoys me. But today I’m going to take a quick break away from that on the extremely off chance that sharing my frustration may help to validate someone else’s. Because I think it’s something worth talking about.
Last Friday I eluded to the fact that my husband was resigning from his work to help me build a business. This sounds riskier than it is – he can always take on contract work or get a ‘real job’ if need be. He has technical skills that can enable opportunities that otherwise wouldn’t be possible without external investment, he was looking for a change and a challenge and it suited him. This business is based on the insights I’ve gained through the work I’ve been doing over the past 8+ years. He knows, and I know, that this business will be my baby (better option than a third child I say). He knows, and I know, that I am just as capable as anyone else to start and run a business, especially those in their early twenties who’ve never worked a real day in their lives.
Now it’s not that people haven’t been supportive of him doing this, they have. But there has been an underlying line of questioning that I just don’t think would be there if it was the other way round. Questions that wouldn’t be asked, assumptions that wouldn’t be made if it were me leaving my secure career to support him. Which, by the way, is essentially what we collectively decided I would do six years ago when I went on maternity leave and chose not to return to full time work so that he could focus on his career instead.
How many women do you know that do work to support their partner’s business? Maybe do the invoicing, look after the books, some admin work, cover some shifts? I’m guessing heaps. Because women have been doing this forever. We are expected to do it and we are used to seeing it. And that’s a perfectly OK thing to choose to do, just as it’s perfectly OK for a male to leave their career to support their partner.
We have an archetype in our heads that white men make good entrepreneurs, an unconscious bias. This isn’t based upon a skills analysis, it’s just because we see it all the time. We’re comfortable with it as a society, so the path for them to pursue it is easier, and so we get more and more white male entrepreneurs.
Consequently, women (and others) don’t fit the entrepreneur archetype so we don’t think they’ll be as good. If we don’t think they’ll be as good we don’t encourage them to do it. We don’t remove the barriers for them, we put up more. But it’s just because we’re not used to seeing it, it’s not because they’re less capable.
This was the subject of discussion in this podcast I was listening to the other day with Amy Nelson. She moved on from being a lawyer after getting fired up about the number of capable women that are lost from the workforce coupled with the 2016 US election result. So she started a startup building co-working spaces, training opportunities and an online community in the US to support women and their allies in business called The Riveter.
I think Elizabeth Warren summed up the challenges women face in the workforce pretty well last week when she was talking about her withdrawal from running for democratic nominee for President.
You know, that’s the trap question for any woman. If you say , ‘Yeah, there was sexism in this race,’ everyone says, ‘Whiner.’ And if you say, ‘There was no sexism,’ about a bazillion women think, ‘What planet do you live on?’”
I don’t know if I’m just sensitised to it at the moment, or if it’s because I’ve moved from a more traditional job of practising pharmacist to whatever the hell I am now, but I feel like I’m being smacked in the face with examples of inherent sexism at the moment and it’s really giving me the shits. It’s not going to stop me doing what I’m doing, but it is going to result in a rant every now and then.
The rant is over, but the fight is not.