30 Apr 10 Advantages Women Didn’t Know They Had
Plenty of stereotypes get thrown around about why women would be bad leaders – women are too sensitive, opinionated, or only care about going shopping. But many of these so-called “negative” qualities could actually be advantages you never knew you had, and one of the key reasons you’ve got what it takes to start your own company.
Stereotype: Women are scatter-brained
Advantage: Women multi-task like a boss
Men marvel at many women’s ability to jump from one conversation topic to another over a cocktail or two. But what could be categorized as lack of focus, is just a symptom of women’s extreme multi-tasking skills.
The ability to juggle many different projects at once is key to working at a startup. A woman who can quickly go from one priority to the next, while keeping track of the company’s overall goals, has immediate value. A leader especially needs this skill, since he or she needs to manage several projects at once.
Stereotype: Women talk a lot
Advantage: Women communicate effectively
Women arguably dominate the art of communication. While some may say that’s a bad thing, in the world of startups it’s incredibly valuable.
Startups are often figuring things out as they go along, from hiring practices to social media strategy. With no set infrastructure for the business, team members need to connect regularly to make sure everyone is on the same page.
A leader that knows how to communicate well, and is comfortable with doing it often, can help keep the entire team on track.
Stereotype: Women run the household
Advantage: Women are power-consumers
Whether you embrace or deplore the thought of the stereotypically “bossy” mother figure, statistics show women make many key decisions for their families.
In fact, women make or influence about 85% of all disposable-income buying decisions. Their growing influence on a wide-range of industries creates a need for more women-led businesses that can better understand their needs.
Being in the woman club can not only help you improve the business plan, marketing strategy, or sales pitch at your current job, it can also help you realize a gap in the industry to leverage when you start your own business.
Stereotype: Women are nosy
Advantage: Women have supersonic understanding skills
Many women will admit they often pry in other people’s business. But the inclination to know what’s going on around you can also make you more in tune with your company’s target audience.
In a startup, it’s important to ask lots of questions. Founders need to know how their product is being received so they can move it in the right direction. Without this information, new businesses risk making decisions based on assumed knowledge.
Instead they need to get on-the-ground, closely monitor the process, and never stop prying customers for feedback.
Stereotype: Women are very opinionated
Advantage: Women have the courage to speak up
When it comes to leading a business, you have to make tough decisions.
An effective founder or CEO has a clear path for the business, and although she may be open to advice, she may sometimes find herself steamrolling the team to get there. Strong conviction, vision, and opinions all help a person maintain the necessary strength. Plus, a healthy dose of confidence won’t hurt when some team members inevitably push back against the leader’s decision.
It’s not enough to come up with one brilliant idea, a successful founder or CEO needs to make one difficult choice after another to move her business forward.
Stereotype: Women will buy anything
Advantage: Women are non-stop marketing experts
Since women are considered such big-spenders, marketers frequently target them to sell products. If you’re a woman, life is likely a non-stop pitch, with ads from all directions suggesting ways you can improve your body, family, career, and life.
Some businesses do a good job of marketing to women, by showing understanding of their wants or needs. But many others promote damaging ideas that try to convince women they need to do things based on other people’s wants or needs.
It’s pretty annoying, but women can use it to their advantage by being aware of the strategy behind each message. Women can turn each targeted ad into a quick case-study, giving themselves a free lesson about what works, what doesn’t, and what perpetuates dangerous stereotypes.
Then female leaders and CEOs can use this lifetime of daily observation to make decisions that promote feminism-friendly marketing of their own products.
Stereotype: Women care too much about looks
Advantage: Women are detail-oriented
Women are often categorized as caring too much about their clothes, hair, and shoes. While this is not the case for all women, those who do place importance on their overall appearance have one valuable skill in common: they pay close attention to detail.
When it comes to building a brand, small details can end up making all the difference. Picking the right color scheme, font, or cover photo could be the key to catching a client’s eye, and ultimately his or her business. And even though logos and color schemes often evolve with the business, paying attention to detail helps make sure the brand remains consistent and clear to consumers.
Stereotype: Women are too sensitive
Advantage: Women have heightened understanding skills
Sexists often worry that women can’t handle leadership roles because of their tender constitution—how sweet of them! But sensitivity helps leaders understand the wants, needs, and problems of their customers and employees.
Knowing what’s important to your customers means you know how to reach them, talk to them, and maintain a lasting relationship. This level of understanding is nearly impossible without sensitivity. A good leader is also sensitive to the needs of her employees, making it easier to recognize potential problems before they bring down the already fragile startup ecosystem.
Stereotype: Women think too much
Advantage: Women know how to analyze
Over-analyzing isn’t great for relationships, but it can be the key to getting a business off the ground.
Many good business ideas don’t go anywhere because leaders aren’t able to buckle down and look at the facts, consider options, and put together a detailed plan. The ability to get past the initial lightbulb moment, and really think about the product can help startups avoid devastating mistakes early-on.
Of course, there is such thing as thinking too much. By deciding exactly when each crucial decision must be made, female leaders can use over-analyzing to their advantage, without slowing down the entire process.
Stereotype: Women don’t belong
Advantage: We need more women at the table
The higher a woman climbs the corporate ladder, the fewer female faces she finds. While this fact may initially make you feel out of place, it ultimately gives you one major advantage: the business world needs you!
Women are the majority worldwide, yet are under-represented in the political and corporate worlds. There’s a great need for female executives to rise in the rankings and start contributing at a higher-level. Plus, stats are on your side: reports show that startups with more female executives are more likely to succeed.
Stereotype: Women just want marriage and babies
Advantage: Women know what they want
Most women have been told marriage and children are a priority, either by family, colleagues, society, or all of the above. Sometimes the message is subtle. Many times it’s right in your face in the form of a increasingly opinionated great aunt.
The stereotype weighs on many women and makes even the most successful and fulfilled businesswomen question their decisions. Meanwhile, many men dive headfirst into their careers without a second thought about when they’ll find a mate or have a family.
Although women generally envy that freedom, when it comes to starting or leading a business, you need to be prepared for what that means for other parts of your life. Startups require tons of attention and long hours, so any aspiring entrepreneur needs to understand the sacrifices he or she might make. Since many women have been urged to think about their domestic future for years, they’re often a step ahead.
Most women already know what they want out of their career, love life, and family life (or at least they have a general idea). This helps them understand the reality of launching a business or starting a new career, putting women in a better position if they decide to take that leap.
Stereotypes are limiting, but you never have to accept that limitation. As soon as women can learn how to embrace their differences as a gender, they will be able to use these stereotypes to their advantage. By channeling what makes females awesome, women can ultimately use their unique skills to land the big client, get the promotion, or start their own business.
The first ever Dallas Startup Weekend: Women is just one month away. With the goal of encouraging and inspiring more female leaders in startups, and connecting them to resources and mentors, you can register for the event here.