Like most women, I’ve faced challenges most men haven’t and never will. Call it societal bias. Call it unfair. Call it whatever you want, but that’s reality… at least for now.
To understand the passion and motivation behind Women Entrepreneurs Can and why this magazine can help YOU, here’s something most women can relate to.
After I graduated from college in 2002, I got a job at a major bank doing mortgages. The ratio of men to women working there was about 70/30.
At the time, I was young and naïve and ready to take on the world, so the thought never crossed my mind that I was anything other than the equal of my male colleagues. I saw me for me.
I’m pretty competitive by nature, so I would force my friends to role play sales calls with me, simply because I wanted to see my name on the board as a top performer one day.
It took 13 months to make that goal reality, and even though it was a milestone and an achievement I was proud of, it wasn’t enough to see my name up their once: I wanted it to be a repeat offender. And I was. I was on top of the world. I felt like I was making a great career for myself, and loved what I was doing.
And then one day, something happened…
My sales manager pulled me into his office to talk to me about my performance. I figured it was going to be a conversation about how well I was doing.
It was a conversation about how I needed to “tone things down” because some people on the team felt I was “too aggressive.” I was floored. In the world of sales, aggressive is a good thing. Or so I thought.
Turns out, some of my male colleagues were grumbling because they weren’t seeing their name on the top performer board (aka: they were jealous that they were getting beat by a girl) and this friction was causing “disruption” with the team.
Soon thereafter, I decided to go out on my own. I’m too strong-willed to allow anyone to hold me back, especially not because I’m an ambitious woman with a deep-seeded desire to be successful.
Since I believe who and where we are in life is exactly where we’re supposed to be, this made a lot of sense. Through all of life’s twists and turns, ups and downs, here we are: in the present moment, whether we like it or not.
Fast forward a few years to late 2007, when the writing was on the wall as it relates to the housing market. I was exhausted from the long hours and stress of the job, and decided to close up shop before the bottom fell out of the market.
I took a sales and marketing job working at a media company that was very niche specific: working with the military and defense contractors (aka: a HEAVILY male dominated industry). The job itself seemed pretty cool since I was going to get to travel a lot, which I’d always wanted to do.
Like a lot of things, the reality was less glamorous.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but my new employer was notorious for hiring women for sales and marketing positions. We were bait.
When you’re talking about an industry that’s predominantly men, it’s easy for management to use us to “open doors” to new opportunities. I had a crash course in this reality at the first trade show I attended, which was a few weeks after I started.
At that trade show, numerous people stopped by our booth and asked me questions about specific contracts and RFP’s. Often times, I’d stand there with the dreaded “deer in the headlights” look, unable to answer their questions because I was new to the industry.
I’d then have to pass them along to a co-worker who could actually help. It was humiliating. I’d done my best to learn as much as I could prior, but with only a few weeks under my belt and an entire industry full of contracts and acronyms that were foreign to me, it was a tall order.
On the last day of this conference, a similar situation arose, but this time, the gentleman muttered, “Figures, just another dumb bimbo they hired.”
Are. You. Joking?!
Here’s some guy… a man who doesn’t even know me insulting my intelligence?!
I went from being humiliated to enraged.
I’ve always been one to embrace a challenge, so I embraced this one, too. I spent my nights and weekends reading magazines, researching contracts online, and immersing myself in that world.
Then, during the summer months, instead of reading things for fun while lounging by the community pool, I’d have an arsenal of military magazines in tow. It wasn’t easy, but I learned a lot.
In time, I‘d earned more than a great reputation in the industry, I’d earned respect. At one point, I was even recruited away to join a small woman-owned company that was a direct competitor. I was having fun. I was traveling. I was doing well with my job.
And then one day, something happened that completely changed my perspective – and views – on a lot of things…
I attended a trade show by myself in Fort Knox. By now, this had become pretty common, especially for small trade shows,
which was fine since I had grown accustomed to it. Once things died down on the first day, I headed back to my hotel.
About 5 minutes after I arrived, there was a knock on my door. It was one of the managers of a major defense contractor, who was at the same trade show. It seemed odd to me that he would know where I was staying, but I just assumed he was behind me coming off base and staying at the same place.
Thinking that I must’ve left something behind that he wanted to return it to me, I opened the door. He then pushed his way into my room and shut the door behind him. As it turned out, he wasn’t staying at the same place: he’d followed me. And,it wasn’t to return something I’d left behind.
He proceeded to tell me that he was in charge of a large advertising budget and that he’d be happy to allocate a certain percentage of those funds to the magazine I represented in exchange for certain “favors.” I stood there for what seemed like an eternity, frozen in panic, and completely dumbfounded that this scenario was unfolding right in front of me.
My mind raced: I was terrified.
I was terrified of what would happen when I said, “No.” Was he just going to force himself on me anyway? Thankfully, I wasn’t assaulted that night, and he left when I turned down his preposterous proposition.
After he left, I contacted my boss and told her what had happened. And her response floored me. She told me that, “these types of things happen,” in the industry, to block it out of my mind, and to continue to work the account.
I struggled with the experience for months: I felt embarrassed that it’d happened and was angry with my boss for her response. And, I found myself questioning whether her response would’ve been different if she would have been a he. I kept wondering if she was afraid to stick up for me just because we were both women.
Those questions gnawed at me for months.
After a lot of self-reflection, I figured out my true passion was marketing. So I began to lay the groundwork for starting my marketing agency, which brings us to present day.
Like most women, I still deal with a lot of BS when it comes to dealing with men in the professional realm. Over the course of the past 8 years, I’ve had male clients:
- Hire me for my expertise, yet undermine my every move and veto every suggestion I have, saying they “know better”
- Tell me that I’m “just a woman” and don’t know what I’m talking about
- Say that I’m just being “hormonal” or “emotional” if I don’t agree with something
- Essentially call me a bitch, simply for having an opinion or challenging ideas they’ve had
But that’s really just the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
Like many women business owners, on the exterior, everything seems perfectly fine on most days. Internally, however, it’s a constant struggle. I often feel like I’m walking a tight wire when it comes to managing people. I constantly second-guess the decisions I make. There’s an overwhelming sense of isolation at times because friends don’t understand why I can’t make it for wine Wednesday or happy hour Friday’s.
The catch-22 is: your friends are envious that you work for yourself. I mean, from an outsider’s view looking in, it seems badass. No boss. No one to answer to. Master of your own ship.
But they aren’t the ones in the trenches, hustling and grinding, day-in and day-out. They don’t see all the work that goes on behind the scenes. The late nights and working weekends. The stress and fear of the unknown.
For me personally, I seldom open up to people about these types of things. I don’t like burdening others with my problems, especially since I know most won’t be able to relate. But more important than that, I don’t want people to think I’m “weak.”
Society has conditioned us to believe that women are weak. We’re emotional. We aren’t as tough as men. As such, I carry a lot around inside because I don’t want people to judge or stereotype me. I suffer alone in silence.
I’ve never been formally diagnosed with depression, but since I started my marketing agency in October of 2010, I’m pretty sure I’ve gone a few rounds with it… or at least teetered on the edge.
It’s a miserable existence, and something that I equate to “a slow slog through hell.” Thankfully, through awareness and self-reflection, meditation, and a committed desire to regain a positive outlook on life, I’ve been able to fight my way back to the motivated, driven woman I’ve always strived to be.
I created this magazine with a genuine desire to help other women entrepreneurs, startup founders,
and small business owners navigate through the unique challenges we face in business.
Women Entrepreneurs Can is a platform to champion our cause, knock down barriers, and build successful businesses through a crowd sourced informational approach that puts US first.
To couple knowledge with camaraderie. To provide inspiration on the not-so-great days… and to celebrate together on the fantastic ones.
Women Entrepreneurs Can is a place to come when you want to learn more, do more and be more. Together… #WEcan.
Women Entrepreneurs Can Magazine