What is it like to be a female entrepreneur while being neat, smart, confident and outgoing? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Being an entrepreneur alone is challenging. Being a female entrepreneur comes with a whole host of additional issues. We've been hit on, asked out, and finding investment has been much harder. For a number of my male peers, they just needed an idea to find funding. For us, we had to jump through hoops to get funding, which I'm proud to say we were able to successfully do for our angel round. The other issues I've experienced have to do with the way I've been treated by potential stakeholders (employees, vendors, investors, etc.) Believe me, we are hard to make happy and I'm the first to admit that. Communicating that to vendors, however, leads to them painting me as emotional.
As with the corporate world, you're constantly forced to strike a balance and getting it right is next to impossible. We seek to promote a screw-it attitude with our brand, which we ourselves have also come to adopt. If you're going to be sexist, we're going to let it roll off our backs, of course after we call you on it. Because walking away from bias is not acceptable. The resilience is what it takes to be a successful female entrepreneur. And just know that there are other female entrepreneurs that have been through it that are there to support you. And there are a ton of men also willing to show up and help fight the good fight.
Progress for me has hinged on resilience, confidence, and communication. I've faced a lot of push back in my career, none as apparent as what Eleanor and I have had to endure with Argent. Entrepreneurialism is intense and impossibly hard, especially as female founders. We've seen our fair share of setbacks, bias and small failures, but we persevere due to our commitment to our larger goal of giving women their seat at the table. It's cliche, but we don't always know exactly what we're doing or how to get it done, but we're confident in the 'why' enough to figure it out. And lastly, I always make a point to communicate bias as I see it, which is something I started doing at Cisco with my manager. It was one of the healthiest relationships that I've experienced, as I trusted him enough to highlight his unconscious biases and he changed his behavior and supported me through the challenges I experienced being on a predominantly male team. My goal is to identify unfair treatment as it happens. To remain silent is not an option as I want to see a shift and break barriers for future female leaders.
Eleanor: Working in fashion as a female may seem like a natural fit given that women are the primary end consumer of fashion. The fact of the matter is that women are still underrepresented in leadership across the industry. My best advice to a woman wanting a career in this industry would be to 'stay in your power'. In other words, be confident and don't let people shake your intuition or values. My first boss in this industry always empowered me to have an opinion. Even if he didn't agree, he always respected it. It cultivated a confidence in me that was unshakeable. That served me well in a lot of ways. As I moved on from that role, I faced bias and was challenged. Confidence was the single most important tool that kept me hungry and ambitious. It is especially important for women today in the shifting landscape of the industry. What was always deemed "the way to do things" is no longer working. Following intuition and having confidence is what gave Sali and I the courage to start Argent. And it's what we ultimately seek to empower within our community.
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