Hashtags that identify us as women founders and leaders are another way of telling 'herstory' and increasing visibility; both critical to women's empowerment.
By Donna Fisher, Founder of woman-led SheSaw, a tech start up on a mission to increase women's visibility through AR public art, NFT gaming and digital tourism.
Being a woman tech founder, my social feeds are packed with the hastags #girlboss #mumpreneur #femalefounder and all sorts of tongue-twisting variations. But recently, it’s also been full of women and men criticising these terms, telling us women who use them, that we shouldn’t. ‘Why do we need to identify ourselves as women, or girls or mums? Men don’t do it they don’t call themselves boy bosses or menpreneurs or dad founders. That’s ridiculous!’
Yes, that is ridiculous. But let me give you three reasons why I will continue to call myself a woman founder, and why I think women do need to play the gender card when discussing their business or career.
I can’t stop calling myself a woman founder/boss/entrepreneur because the expectation is that founders/bosses/entrepreneurs are men.
The idea of men identifying themselves as a boy boss or a menpreneur is so silly. It’s because they don’t have to. Women are identifying themselves and calling attention to the fact that they are women in business or in their chosen field as a way to break down stereotypes, to make a point that not all successful people are men.
They are also doing it to beat the algorithms and search engines that reinforce this stereotype. If you pop the hashtag entrepreneur into LinkedIn, it will give you about 7 million results and a sea of men’s faces. If you look for stock images of scientists, athletes, doctors or lawyers, you’ll be met with another wave of men.
I’m not saying women aren’t there, we are. We are just difficult to spot. It’s a bit like playing a feminist version of “Where’s Waldo.”
Which leads me to my next point.
I can’t stop calling myself a woman founder, because successful women are not easy to find.
There is a lot of truth to the saying “you need to see it to be it’. In fact, my whole business is built on sharing untold women’s stories – and believe me there are millions. SheSaw shares these stories to make women role models accessible and to show women what is possible – even if they are being told by society or their culture that it isn’t.
If you haven’t faced adversity as a woman in starting a business or following your chosen career path, then that’s great! Tell other women about your success. Normalise it. Make it easy to find you, and the way to do that is to use specific titles and hashtags that make you easy to find.
Think of them as the high-vis vest of networking and social media.
I want to know when a business is women-owned, for the same reason I want to know if a business is Black-owned. Indigenous owned. Disability-owned. LGBTQIA-owned. Because as much as I wish the world was fair, it isn’t. This isn’t pity-spending. This is doing a small bit to help level the playing field. To direct funds to businesses that do not have access to the same opportunities as businesses ran by straight, white men.
Which leads us on to...
Recognition - I can’t stop calling myself a woman founder, because women face more disadvantages and hurdles in business than men.
Here’s just a few. (Keep in mind, that if women are from one or more marginalised groups, they will face additional unique and compounding hurdles).
- There is no country in the world that does not have a gender pay gap. Iceland is the first to introduce a policy designed to close it.
- According to Harvard Business Review 2.3% of global VC investment went into women-led start-ups in 2020.
- Women face more sexual harassment in the workplace – a 2018 Australian Human Rights National Survey found 2 in 5 women reported experiencing this.
- The majority of primary carers are women. The OECD estimates that women spend an average of 3-6 hours undertaking unpaid care activities.
- Globally, only 29 percent of senior management roles are filled by women.
- In the August 2020 Fortune Global list, only 13 women (2.6%) were CEOs of Fortune Global 500 companies - all of them were White.
Women deserve to be recognised for overcoming these barriers to success in business. More importantly, we shouldn’t feel bad about giving ourselves a pat on the back for it either. We wear our titles - Woman Founder, Girl Boss, Mumpreneur – as a medal or a gold star for effort. I want to see all women proudly wearing their badge, she has earned it.
I will keep calling myself a woman founder because I am one. I will keep supporting girl-bosses, mumpreneurs, bizqueens, women in STEM, women in sport, women in film...in fact all women-owned businesses and all women slaying in their chosen field. Because I’m bloody proud of all of them. Whatever she chooses to call herself.