I spend a lot of time thinking about running my business, VerticalResponse as a CEO, but not a ton of time thinking about running it as a woman CEO. But every now and then, I run across something that really inspires me to write an article about being a woman in business.
This time my inspiration came from the 2009 Ms. Universe Pageant--especially the Q&A portion. I like to know what these young, beautiful international women are thinking on a plethora of topics. Up came Ms. Venezuela's turn. She was asked: "In many parts of the world, obstacles still exist that impede women from achieving their goals in some corporations. What can women do to overcome this?" Her reply? "I do believe that we have reached the same level that men have. We must realize that there are no longer any barriers amongst us."
Hey, that's a positive outlook but a bit naïve.
Maybe Ms. Venezuela read the The Shriver Report that stated women are half of all U.S. workers and mothers are the primary breadwinners or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of American families. And although I applaud Ms. Shriver for taking a deep dive into this issue, it seems like women have to work harder to make as much as men. It's proven by Obama's first piece of real legislation, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 ensuring that women that do the same job as men should get equal pay.
But I'm sure Ms. V. missed the Top Chef episodes where contestant Michael Isabella tossed around phrases like, "There's no way a girl should be at the same [clam shucking] level as me," and "That's one less old lady I have to worry about." (He was talking about a woman contestant who was 43 that was booted). Personally I think he's got an issue with his last name being a woman's first name, but that's my opinion.
Ms. Venezuela definitely didn't catch these stats either:
- Only 13 percent of the Inc. 5000 list this year was made up of women.
- Of the Forbes 67 Most Powerful People, just three are women.
- In 2009 there are only 4 women governors.
- Fifteen Fortune 500 companies are run by women, which is up an astonishing three from last year.
- Another breakthrough for women this year? Ursula Burns is the first black women to be appointed to top post of a Fortune 500 company, Xerox.
I'm sure Ms. Venezuela hasn't experienced situations like this: I once worked with a man who was at the same level in a technology company as I was, a VP. In a company re-org he was put on my team and reported to me. "Do you know how this is going to look?" he said to me one day. For the first time I felt the gender gap hitting close to home. I told him he could concoct whatever story he needed to make him look better and save his male ego.
So what do we need to do to make it better for women? As I've heard Suze Orman say, often times we get in our own way. We don't go for it like men do, and I tend to agree. Maybe it's because we don't feel like we're as deserving and as a result get passed over by men. Some of it is our own fault. Women need to step it up because we won't get what we don't ask for. Hell, my dad wouldn't let me ride the lawn mower when I was a kid because it wasn't a "girl's" job. Then when he wasn't well enough to do it anymore he had no choice but to "let" me do it. I sure wish he were alive to see me today.