IWD & a promise to myself
It being International Women’s Day I thought it only right that I put down a little about my experiences as a female design founder. Although for me that word ‘female’ doesn’t really have a place. I’m a design founder. Period.
Not that I’m against telling my story, but perhaps telling my story ‘as a woman’ isn’t necessarily the way to go about it. However I am conscious of the fact that I can only say that because I’m incredibly fortunate that I’ve never really had to overcome any gender related barriers in my professional career to date.
Ah - you are a woman…!
There are obviously a few humorous anecdotes. Mostly around a client or suppliers sudden realisation that the ‘Jo’ they have been communicating with for the past month is in fact Jo - female, rather than Jo - male. Despite J-O being a more common female than male spelling, I can’t really judge someone for making the mistake. In the same way that I still have to caution myself for jumping to a gender conclusion when I read Dr. Someoneorother (even despite my mother being a doctor) the ratio of male to female founders makes it a fairly logical assumption that I would be male. However the obvious embarrassment displayed when they realise that they have made such an error is a small win for females founders and leaders everywhere and hopefully one less person likely to jump to conclusion next time.
Women get stuff done.
I’ve never been a man, so I obviously do not know if there is any difference between being a male founder or a female founder. I asked Andy, the Design Manager at Morrama, what he thought. His answer was super interesting.
The one thing I’ve always noticed is that when I’ve worked with a woman every part of the job is always done. Even the little jobs, the menial stuff. Women are meticulous. When my boss has been a man only the important stuff gets done. The big stuff, the easy wins. And the little stuff often just gets forgotten about. I’m not sure if this is a good or bad thing really, perhaps men aren’t slowed down by the little things and this is why they appear to make quicker progress, although eventually the little things might add up and become big things.
Reflecting on this, I can certainly agree that I do sometimes get caught up about the little things and sometimes I make them feel like big things when really they are nothing at all.
Going back to another short story from my favourite book 1 + 1 = 3 by Dave Trott about Sheryl Sandberg giving a talk on empowering women in business. After the talk a woman from the audience comes up to her and says:
“I’m going to start putting my hand up even when I don’t think it’s right.”
Sheryl Sandberg asked her what she meant.
“At the end of the talk you had 20 minutes for questions, at the end you said you would take just two more questions. After you’d answered two more questions all the women stopped raising their hands but the men kept them up and you kept answering their questions. The women followed the rules and didn’t get their questions answered, the men broke the rules and did. So I’ve learnt I’m going to put my hand up even when I think it’s wrong”.
The conclusion of the story is that the biggest thing holding women back is women. They are overthinking things, worrying about being right, worrying too much about the rules.
A promise to myself.
Now I’m questioning the logic of reading too much into this, because categorising women as worrying rule followers isn’t going to help anyone. However going back to Andy highlighting that women tend to put a lot of time and effort into getting the little things done, I think this is also down to a level of overthinking and worrying about getting it right. Whether this is just in our nature or a product of working in male dominated environments and fearing making mistakes and appearing incompetent, I don’t know and to me it doesn't matter. What does matter is that I do feel that I overthink things and that it never brings any benefit to the overall outcome, which brings me to the promise I’m making myself on this International Women’s Day:
Inspired by Mills (founder of Ustwo and overall top bloke) and the title of his entertaining if not somewhat insane JFDI podcast, I’m making a promise to myself to do at least one new thing a week that I haven’t prepared for or over thought or planned out. This week I’m aiming to write a new blog post every day. To just get my thoughts out on paper, even if it isn’t in the most perfect English.
Next week who knows - I’m not going to think about it too much.