The Nobility of Women Entrepreneurship
Women's empowerment starts with empowering yourself and your dreams
In a sobering article called "When Leaving is the Only Option," published in The Atlantic this week, author Li Zhou shares the experiences of women who, at the height of their careers in corporate America, had no other option than to leave in order to succeed.
Zhou shares the stories of a VP veteran in the software industry, Ellen Pao of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers fame, Hollywood stars like Reese Witherspoon, Lena Dunham, Shonda Rhimes, and Eva Longoria, and even a fictional character from a new novel called Opening Bell.
As Zhou writes, "In all of these cases, women are conducting business on their own terms, by circumventing the barriers present in existing systems. For some, starting their own companies is the only alternative to hitting the glass ceiling at their current jobs."
The only alternative or the alternative?
After reading the article, I was struck by the feeling of regret and defeatism it had. To me, there was a subtle tone that implied it was too bad that these women had to leave high-powered, high-paying careers and start their own business in order to succeed.
While the conditions many women face in corporate America are wrong and tragic, the outcome of more women-owned firms is no unfortunate byproduct. Indeed, women are not the only ones who leave a company because they feel they can't get ahead or operate in a culture that they want to.
The prerogative of the entrepreneur to do things her or his way is one of the ultimate benefits of starting your own company! And it's something that should be celebrated, not looked at as the regrettable secondary option.
Entrepreneurship and social change
Towards the end of her article, Zhou does hit on something important:
While many women have gone outside the dated, discriminatory models in sexist industries to excel, often via smaller, boutique firms, the influence and power of industry giants within these fields remains unparalleled. These organizations, too, desperately need to change to insure that men and women have equal opportunities to achieve success. Perhaps the external pressure from women who've left to start their own companies and tell their own stories, like Sherry, will play a role in making that happen.
For years, I've been a proponent of entrepreneurship as the vehicle for social change. The more women (and minorities) we have who start their own businesses, the more empowered those communities become.
Long ago, Robert and I decided that it was better (and more fun!) to start our own revolution than to try and start one in the confines of a business or industry. That's one reason why, though we create educational products for personal finance, we never work with the education industry. Why waste our time? It's much better spent building a world we want to be a part of and being solution-oriented rather than fighting everything that's wrong with something already built.
Celebrate your success
If you're a woman reading this and you feel you need to leave your job to achieve your dreams, I want to encourage you! It's a bold, noble, and exciting endeavor! You don't need a title and a salary to be respected-that's a lie our culture gives us about success. Rather, success is taking your future into your own hands, not handing it over to some corporation, and making your contribution to building the world you want to live in. Celebrate it, don't fight it!
Why is this important? Because when it comes to success, 90 percent of the battle is mindset. And I guarantee you that women focused on building something for the future, rather than building something against something else, are more successful, and better yet, happier.
Today, try and see your world differently-as one of opportunity. It is before you. Now grab it.