One of my jobs as a young woman was representing a consumer electronics company in Europe. It involved demoing audio products to consumers on all the NATO bases in Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure where to fit in. I was one of three women working in an industry that was saturated with men, and while I felt comfortable with the technology, having grown up with an audiophile father who taught me not only to appreciate music, but the inner workings of the equipment that produced it, I knew how to do the job and not by batting my eyes at the soldiers buying the equipment. I wanted to ensure my reputation was built on the work and results I produced, not my gender. With that agenda in mind, I took on the belief that “When at work, we are ALL men.” In other words, to be successful, I should work like a man, lead like a man and rule with an iron fist. Boy was I wrong.
Now, with more than 15 years of experience as an entrepreneur, startup leader and for the last three years, a woman CEO in the mobile gaming and technology space, I have learned the hard way, that my strength as a leader and a manager is as a woman, not a woman trying to be a man. Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way.
Paint the White Elephant Bright Red
It is important to acknowledge gender bias, head on. It’s deeply rooted in the human subconscious. We must bring it to consciousness to overcome it. For a long time, I tried to ignore gender issues, but hitting this wall over and over, specifically while pitching venture capital, I finally decided it was time to shine the light on the white elephant in the room. Better yet, paint it bright red. Why not? Worse case was I was going to raise consciousness around the subject. Once I began walking into those pitches and slapping it right on the table, things became much easier, or at least I felt better about getting a “no thanks” response. The statistics are everywhere. Only 2.2 percent of U.S. venture capital went to women founders last year. Yet businesses founded by women ultimately deliver higher revenue—more than twice as much per dollar invested—than those founded by men, making women-owned companies better investments for financial backers. Hello? It’s a fact, straight out of the VC data book. Now, that may not be the single best reason to invest in a company with a woman founder, but with 9 out of 10 startups failing, VC’s may want to seriously consider these facts as they make their decisions of who to bet on.
In the gaming space, despite women accounting for 45 percent of the people who consume games, there is still a gender disparity in the industry, with only 28 percent of game developers identifying as non-male.
There are also intrinsic biases, that apply to all industries, such as confidence exuding from female leaders being labeled as ‘aggressive’ and the myth that women are unable to make decisions without emotion. The truth is, factors like emotion and confidence are the qualities that make women great leaders, which I will get to in my next points.
Run Your Company like a Woman, Not a Man
In the beginning, I thought the way to be successful in business was to rule with an iron fist and be a ‘man,’ at work. I was overwhelmed with the positive feedback from my team when I gave up on that mentality and embraced my feminine ways of being. Vulnerability and compassion are not negative qualities, especially in leadership. Trust your instincts.
Women bring collaboration to a company culture which is becoming increasingly more important as it relates to younger generations and the technology industry, particularly. When I embraced growing my team and making decisions from a collaborative and nurturing perspective, the sentiments of my team and the results showed the difference.
According to a study by Hewlett Packard, men apply for a job when they meet only 60 percent of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100 percent of them. Why is this? This primarily comes down to a lack of confidence. Another 22 percent of the women surveyed, in this study, indicated their top reason was, “I didn’t think they would hire me since I didn’t meet the qualifications and I didn’t want to put myself out there if I was likely to fail.” Women are leaders, women are innovators and women are contributing to the national economy through business. They should put on the cape of confidence and step up to bat. Take risks.
This may go without saying but you must work hard to be successful in anything, despite your gender. Women commonly take multitasking and hard work in stride. Become highly educated on your products, services and business. Let your expertise and confidence do the talking.
Women make great leaders and should be confident in their leadership instincts. There is a way to have gentle strength and still be able to call a spade, a spade. No matter the industry, these tips may help you find success in any career.