When it comes to being a woman in business, all I've really wanted from my peers (male or otherwise) is respect. Why is this hard to understand?

Women in Business — It’s about respect.

When it comes to being a woman in business, all I’ve really wanted from my peers (male or otherwise) is respect. I am a highly-motivated person who achieves. As a professional, I have experience. That experience translates into intuition.

I’ve been working in offices for over 30 years from a publisher to a trucking company, churches to schools, construction to tech. All of the businesses I’ve worked in were lead by men.

For the most part I feel that I get along with men. I don’t have the mindset that all men are sexist and I feel that I am fair in how I approach work.

I was inspired chat about this today, so here goes.

How do you get respect as a woman in business?

So how does a woman in business get respect? I’ve found out that I have to demand respect. Sometimes this comes at a cost. It could be personal or financial. Getting respect means setting boundaries and defending them. I struggle with being dismissed. It’s sad but true.

Things I’ve actually been told:

  • You’re not a writer.
  • You’re just a marketer.
  • You can’t write about [topic]; it’s too technical.
  • You’re an alarmist.
  • You should learn to code and build a website before a developer will respect you.
  • That’s just your opinion.
  • You just work from home.
  • That’s not a real job.

Yeah. It’s not awesome. It sucks. It makes me feel marginalized.

How can you support a woman in business?

Supporting a woman in business means supporting your peers. I am fond of definitions by contrast so let’s go with what not to do.

  • Don’t mischaracterize the concerns of your coworkers or teammates. “She’s mad, upset, etc.”
  • Don’t offer your advice if she didn’t ask for it.
  • Don’t presume she isn’t educated or informed on the topic at hand.
  • Don’t marginalize analysis as opinion.
  • Don’t ask her about her personal life or plans for children in the interview.
  • Don’t interrupt her while she’s speaking. Don’t presume you know what she wants to say. Rian Rietveld

How can you support a woman-owned business?

There are plenty of ways to support businesses, regardless of who owns them. But let’s stick with the gender.

  • Send clients her way via an email introduction — as you would with any of your friends.
  • Send a personalized tweet about them or link to their website.
  • Share about her services and expertise on LinkedIn is awesome.
  • Write a review on LinkedIn, Facebook, or Yelp.
  • Pay her for her advice.

I’m wondering why this isn’t obvious.

The problem with diversity can be tokenization. I find most people want to be treated with respect because of their merit, skills, and talent. Not because they belong to [insert group here].

Thoughts from My Mom

After reading this, my mom gave me a call this morning. She was part of the generation who wasn’t allowed to wear jeans to school, couldn’t purchase birth control, and at the tail end of not having property rights. It’s worth adding her perspective.

She says respect is like inspiration — it’s intangible. It’s invisible. You know it when you have it but you can’t demand it.

It’s completely true and a wise point of view.

How do I want to be supported as a women in business?

As a woman in business, with my own almost a year old, what I’d like to see is emotional support and peer mentoring. And I’ve had this. I know I’m fortunate as this is not always the case.

Alex Vasquez, Jason Tucker, Roy Sivan, Jen Miller, Yvette Sonneveld, Carin Arrigo Hauser, Yvonne C. Williams, Sarah Pressler, John Locke… the list goes on and on.

I believe that if we support one another, regardless of our demographic, things will come our way.

When, however, you have an opportunity to have influence for good, be aware of how you approach it.  The only way to make “things better” is to change your own behavior. That has a ripple effect.

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