Women in Business: Stop Apologizing & Start Living
I’ve been in business since I was 19, and now approaching 40 (what?!), I’m continually blown away that sexism (or ageism) is still even a topic of conversation and a general code of acceptable business conduct… in 2017. But there it is. There has always been pressure to accept sexual harassment as a currency of business, to diminish my value to make someone else feel better, to charge less than I deserve just because I’m young and/or female, and to be indirect or dance around my sincere thoughts or feelings.
Guess what. I refuse. You should too. I’m proud to be a “badly behaved” AND successful woman. When I was just starting my business years ago, I was lucky enough to be surrounded by excellent mentors that helped me to stand tall in my greatness, to be firm in my self-worth, never discount my value away, and to most importantly, say what I mean and mean what I say. Dear powerful women in business… I want to help you do the same.
Here’s how to do it:
Stop Accepting Sexual Harassment
It’s becoming cliché, but it’s true: “NO” is a complete sentence. It’s OK if you don’t make that sale. You didn’t sacrifice your self-worth to get it. It’s OK if you don’t get that promotion. You can go get a job within a better company that would never degrade you. It’s OK if you upset someone and they don’t like you anymore. Your self-worth or commercial value to the business world does not hinge on your harasser’s approval, and if you think it does, you are in the wrong circumstances that you need to take ownership of and change or opt-out of.
It rhymes with itch. You know the word. Be one. It’s OK to be smarter than someone else. It means they can learn from you. It’s OK to say no to something you don’t want to do. It means you are a powerful defender of your time and resources. It’s OK to disagree with someone respectfully and not back down. You have power and you’re creating a collection of people that feel something strongly about you – and good or bad – you win.
Stop Charging Less Than Top Dollar
I learned this a long time ago: swagger. If you think you deserve it, you’re right. If you think you don’t, you’re right. I, the absurdly confident 19-year-old, started my business and charged $100/hr. I didn’t discount down from that – I decided that I was worth that at the time and never wavered. Some people said no, and that was OK. Better sales came along where I could give them the 5-star service they deserved (and paid for). Hearing no is a good thing – it means you’ve qualified the sale. If you don’t get enough money when your raise comes, ask for more than you really wanted. It’s OK if they say no. They might meet you in the middle or offer you something else. It’s OK if you upset someone for having the “nerve” to ask for what you feel you deserve. They might learn a thing or two, and you might just learn how people truly see you. A word of caution: make sure that you always can back up the dollar with the delivery.
Stop Being Inauthentic
You can’t make everyone happy every day – it’s just not possible. The women that don’t care what others think are the ones that get things done. The women that aren’t afraid to upset someone are the ones that make history. Women are traditionally very compliant and nurturing, and that’s OK! At the same time, I encourage you to be that AND bold, and live the truth. It’s OK to be all of it – it’s not an “or” question! It’s OK if someone didn’t like what you had to say. If they can’t handle that, they probably won’t like the real you anyway, and who wants to pretend the whole time? Its OK if someone walks away from you for being honest. You’ll win loyal friends/followers/clients and lose the losers, and that’s OK too.
Authenticity and confidence as a career woman carries a heavy price tag, and I pay it daily but it’s worth it. It’s absurd that I have to pay it at all, but that’s our culture. I’m grateful for the opportunity to carry the lessons I learned with me and to pass them on to the women I employ and the other women around me as a regular part of my life. This issue annoys me to no end, so if I can make one woman’s life better by helping her to stand a little taller, get paid a little more, or to be truly, unapologetically herself – I’ve done my good deed for all womankind.
Let’s wrap here. Did you notice the theme? “It’s OK!” It’s a concept of permission – something we powerful women sometimes need to remind ourselves to do! It all starts with giving yourself that critical permission to exercise the power you already have. You’re amazing as is, and don’t let yourself forget it. Please, I urge you – be unafraid to live powerfully, unapologetically, and upset the apple cart. Nobody ever made history by following the rules and doing what they were told.
Now… pay it forward, lift up another powerful woman, and go break stuff.