I’ve been thinking a lot lately about life as an entrepreneur versus life in the corporate world and how it has affected me as a woman. I am thinking in particular about my ceiling in both worlds. How much success can women achieve in both worlds? How far out of reach is the ceiling and have us as women found the magic formula to breaking that glass ceiling?
Let’s start with the corporate world. In my case our corporate structure is that of the “good old boys club”. Senior executives are the picture of corporate with not a woman in sight. Middle management is made up of about 10 percent women. On the bottom of the totem pole, the structure is as expected – a male dominated production group and a female dominated office group. To excel in an environment as this takes a lot of game play and sometimes ruthlessness. You cannot be too tough or else you are labeled as “bitchy” or “moody” and you cannot be overly nice or you can be deemed to office “harlot.” You not only have to play the game, but you also have to continuously prove your knowledge and capabilities to the powers that be. This part has me baffled. Why? I’m sure those powers would not have made you a part of the organization if you were not remotely qualified to do the job or if they didn’t feel you were well suited for the position and the company. How far up the corporate ladder can women get in an environment such as this? It’s a far climb for us and especially rough when obstacles are placed in our way. My feeling is that we are fighting continuously for what we deserve – even when it is earned. Not many of us know how to demand what we have earned. In my case, I have set my goals to what my definition of success would be in the corporate world. Do I want to be President of the company? NO!! What I want is what I have earned – nothing more and definitely nothing less!!
As an entrepreneur I have the opportunity to be the President, Owner, Assistant, Director, coffee runner, pencil sharpener…you name it, I am in charge of it. More women are going down the entrepreneurial path without really understanding how much more work it takes to be successful. As a female entrepreneur, when I attend networking events that are male dominated I get a lot of pats on the back and “good for you”, “you’re a smart girl”, “you did this all on your own” from the male networkers. It is as if I am not perceived of being capable of achieving all that I have or that I have or that it is a surprise that a woman can really be successful in their world. There are also always a few men who are there to be the “saviours” or “messiah.” I remember being told by one man in particular who came to a female dominated networking event that he was there to help the women. Take note, he said HELP not SUPPORT. Now, I will be the first to agree that we all need to support each other, but what I do not like is the notion that women cannot find ways to help each other succeed. We are a resourceful group and we find ways to dig our way out of a hole. There is still that mental and societal influence that makes us feel like being solopreneurs is the pinnacle of success. Why not strive to grow your business into a multinational corporation? Sky is the limit-not the glass ceiling. It truly depends on what your personal goal is.
For me, I enjoy the challenges of both the corporate world and the entrepreneurial world. Women will always have to work extra hard to break that glass ceiling. For most of us, the ceiling is not made by others, but by our personal limiting beliefs. Identifying what is causing these beliefs is the first step towards breaking the ceiling and allowing ourselves to strive for the highest of highs. I know one thing – this woman plans to be on the top when it comes to the entrepreneurial game. I will not stop until my business is where I want it to be – Canada-wide. I will not let being woman be a hindrance. It is not a crutch.
Dwania is the Founder and Executive Director of Canadian Small Business Women Contact Canadian Small Business Women: