It started with a little girl with a big dream
This is a different kind of blog today. I started it intending to write about whether feminism still has a role to play in modern business.
The answer to that, by the way, is yes.
Do you know that:
- Women are the main breadwinner in 40% of families?
- Women receive more college and graduate degrees than men?
- Women make 79 cents for every dollar earned by men – a gender pay gap of over 20%?
Feminism hasn’t had its day, we need it as much as we ever did. But as I started to research this article, I realized I wasn’t writing the story of feminism in business. I was writing my story.
I was a child of the 60s and 70s. I grew up in those halcyon bra-burning days, where women were challenging the traditional roles, promoting the concept that we could have it all, sticking two fingers up at an establishment that was trying to put us back in our kitchens, while trying to make us feel liberated by ‘letting us’ have pin money jobs outside the home.
I was so going to be different. Though I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do it, I knew I was going to have my own business, and live life on my terms. Yet there was that quiet voice inside – you know the one – the one that whispers ‘who do you think you are?’ – that persisted. I wanted to challenge the status quo, but I was scared that if I did, people wouldn’t like me, they’d see me as less worthy. There was a part of me that felt I didn’t QUITE deserve it.
I remember one evening being taught a complicated card game by my then boyfriend’s father and uncles. I’m quick with numbers, and I saw the pattern immediately – but a part of me felt that it wasn’t ‘nice’ or appropriate to whoop those kind men at a new game in their own home. So I played the role of cute girlfriend they expected of me, and deliberately lost the first few games, and let the men win. Yeah, sure. Some feminist.
I got married very young, had 4 kids in pretty quick succession, got a job in telecom, and shot up the corporate ladder. I made huge bonuses, with promotions coming thick and fast. Headhunters were calling, I was so on fire that I decided it was time to launch that business I’d been dreaming about. Infinity Communications Group flourished from the start, and I signed some substantial contracts with companies that had previously had me on payroll. The future looked bright.
This is the point where I should be telling you about my company’s meteoric rise, and how I sold it for an undisclosed 8 figure sum and retired somewhere warm and sunny at 40. I wish. It was a freaking disaster. I was hot at sales, I’m one of those lucky people that just ‘get’ technology, I’m a master networker. Getting clients was no problem. Running a business on the other hand? I didn’t have a clue. I was drowning in detail, and so far out of my zone of genius I’d almost forgotten I had one.
In one of those odd quirks of fate where your personal life mirrors your professional life, my marriage was falling apart. In attempting to embrace the feminist message of having it all, I was killing myself by DOING it all. I felt I was letting down my business partners, my clients, my kids, and worst of all, that little girl with the big dream. That hopeful teenager who had swallowed the message of playing big in the world was sure getting a rude wake up call.
I sold the business, went back to cubicle city, and spent 10 years doing whatever I needed to do to get my kids through orthodontics and college. I know I was lucky that I had the skills and experience to make me a great prospect as an employee, and I tried to be happy with that. I wasn’t in a crap job by any means. Six figure salary, great benefits, nice pension to look forward to. But still the little voice. ‘There has to be more. Is this IT?’
Five years ago, with my kids nearly all grown, I decided I had to try again. This time I did it differently. For a couple of years I’d been hearing this buzz round the internet about Marie Forleo. She was teaching people that there was a third way. It was about taking what you loved, and what you were good at, and building that into a business that suited you. It wasn’t a choice between corporate run by someone else, or a corporation run by you. It wasn’t about making a small business function like a big business, which was the trap I’d fallen into before. Nor was she saying that micro businesses were only about pin money. She was showing you how to build a business that utilized modern technology, had the potential for massive reach and significant growth, and doing it in a way that was fun and sustainable.
I had too many commitments to ditch the 9 to 5 overnight, but gradually I took what I learned from her and implemented it piece by piece. I built my new business alongside my job. Over time, I cut back my office hours, and upped the time spent working on my business. Two years later, I’d built it to a point that allowed me to feel comfortable about leaving my job. Now, I have a full time business with two arms: one working with small business owners and entrepreneurs, showing them how to use social media profitably, and the other is a full service social media agency.
Today, I work from my spare room at home, or on the balcony of my condo in Florida. I’ve ditched the commute, I earn my own benefits, and while I still work very hard, I’m in a very different place from 5 years ago. Most importantly of all, that little girl with a wish has had her dream realized.
I know that your dream may be different. You may want to be a writer, a web designer, a consultant. You may want to market and sell your gorgeous stationary, jewelry or crafts. You may want to open a childcare facility, or do doggie day care. You may want to fully replace your corporate income, you may want to avoid ever starting the 9-5. You may have an idea for a product or service that makes the world a better place. Whatever it is, I suspect if you really listen, there is a little voice in your head, saying ‘there has to be more than this’. While I hope you’ve got a much more robust sense of self than I had – seriously, if I find my daughter playing dumb in a game to please a man, there would be hell to pay – there are still so many gaps in education. Education is still about preparing young people for the workforce, but there are no jobs for life these days. What we need to foster to complete the feminist movement is entrepreneurial smarts. Women (and men to) need to know how to leverage their time, expertise and interests to make the biggest impact. There’s an exciting new business world out there – and you are never too old, or too young, to participate in it. Make your passions work for you!
I’d love to hear your stories and dreams, so do get in touch. If you’d like to know more about the program that helped me realize mine, then you can sign up here for more information.
For a short time, Marie Forleo is sharing this B-School training series free of charge. CLICK HERE to watch today!
Comment below and tell me, what was YOUR high school dream?