A little over a year ago I wrote a blog post about the advantages of including women in your team. If you're interested in reading about how your team WILL BE smarter, I encourage you to check it out here: Women: A Start-up’s Secret Weapon.
An opinion piece I read in a national newspaper this morning has prompted me to pen a quick follow up. Not to discuss how we can make our teams smarter, but how we can encourage more women to engage with technology and take a real leadership role in engaging with 'change the world' opportunities. Tenaciousness, take-charge attitudes, and leadership skills (also sometimes known as bossiness) are all qualities men and women alike must develop if they desire to be successful entrepreneurs (I'll expand on this shortly).
Women like Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer have done a lot in recent years to put a very public face on female success in the technology sector, albeit the IT space. However, one somewhat disturbing theme continues to bubble to the surface. For many women (and girls), being successful is at odds with being well liked. Be smart and successful and no one will like you is the message. Instead of drilling down and looking into the root cause of why we feel this inherent need to be well liked (when deep down we know you can't please everyone), Sheryl has launched an initiative called Ban Bossy. Ban Bossy is rooted in good intentions to help foster confidence in girls and nurture leadership skills. However, in my opinion, it sends mixed messages to girls and young women who currently are standing out in their schools or workplaces.
It is rare that I agree with this journalist's point of view, but the Ban Bossy campaign does girls and women everywhere a disservice. Instead of banning the term bossy – let's embrace it. Like many successful young professional women I too was deemed a bossy girl. But I would argue that tenaciousness and a refusal to let anyone tell me what to or get in my way enabled me to make bolder choices as I got older.
Quit my job and travel for 6 months before business school? Sign me up! Or perhaps more relevantly, join a small VC firm across the country where I would be the only woman on the team? I'm still here…!
Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, as an entrepreneur you must be bossy. In the start-up world of constrained resources one learns pretty quickly that (a) you must put your hand up and ask for things and (b) resources such as money, talent, time, customers, and partnerships rarely fall right into your lap. All must be actively pursued, perhaps courted in some cases. It takes a certain level of bossiness, assertiveness and persistence in order make progress on all of these fronts as an entrepreneur. One must be clear about their needs, wants and the value they are bringing to the table in exchange. And all this must be done with finesse and tact. Instead of discussing semantics and banning bossy – let's teach our young people to embrace it and provide them with the tools they need to fully harness the power of their tenaciousness.
Hopefully we will see more women raising their hands and taking part in groundbreaking technology research, launching companies with 'change the world' potential and gaining more profile in mainstream investment circles.
Margaret Wente's opinion piece can be found here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/ban-bossy-suck-it-up-girls/article17470665/