Women in business have more in common than not with their male peers. I was asked to write about the differences and the one that kept coming up most was politics.
Women in Business: Entrepreurs
All entrepreneurs look to make a difference, to have autonomy & to build something. Female entrepreneurs and women in business have more in common with their make counterparts than not.
Some female entrepreneurs go on their own in order to find the work/life balance they seek. Being on their own gives them control over their hours, their commitment, who they work with and what they work on. While this wasn’t the circumstances for me, many are seeking work/life balance. Most women I know that became entrepreneurs were driven by work/life balance and the expectations they had for themselves as mothers.
Women entrepreneurs, like men, take the leap because they have the confidence and the optimism to try to succeed on their own. Generally, it isn’t to run away from something. Rather, it is the ability to avoid traditional office politics and to create their own work/life balance. These are two factors that might differ for the women in business when compared to males.
Women in Business & Politics
The office politics is a key difference. I think it subconsciously plays a role for women in business. Some women are great at office politics and some even like them. We recognize the role they play in business.
The corporate world remains a patriotic system. The politics we all play were designed by men and designed for men. The activities that happen that increase exposure and build relationships are largely male-centric (hockey, golf, other sports, late drinks, etc.). There are instances where the #metoo movement has ignited fear of evenings one on one. Some men are now afraid to be with those women in business that can find time for happy hour or supper out. The navigation of these politics are played more by men and often come more naturally to them. Those women in business that excel are rare and that alone can be a stigma.
Politics are how things get done. They are unavoidable in large organizations. This is due to the complexity of those businesses and the sheer number of people.
Entrepreneurial and smaller entities don’t get bogged down as easily. Again it’s often about size & complexity. In other words, it’s about people and the number of them as well as how they are organized.
It is the design of the game and the perception of who’s playing that emotionally drains players that don’t fit the original mold. It’s not a lack of ‘leaning in’. It’s not a lack of skills.
You can be very experienced and effective at politics. You can have a track record of achieving results while navigating political environments and organizations. This doesn’t mean it is sustainable. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t drain you.
This conflicting dynamic is especially likely to exist for women in business as we are not the classic members and after all it’s likely not our game.
Great articles on Women in Business and Politics:
https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/297165 Corporate Politics and Toxic Environments Are the Real Reasons Women Are ‘Leaning Out’
https://hbr.org/2018/09/is-office-politics-a-white-mans-game Is Office Politics a White Man’s Game?