As the male editor of an all-female editorial team I know one thing that most people don’t.
Women are grossly underestimated when it comes to business.
For every story, I read on the gender gap in leadership and the lack of equal pay, I see ten other women taking advantage of the exact same issues to advance their own careers and agendas. One woman who personifies my example is Sarah Landstreet. Sarah is the CEO of Georgette Packaging, a 7-figure company that serves over five hundred businesses globally while redefining the 200 billion dollar packaging industry.
Sarah is a mechanical engineer who in 2008 decided to leave her consultancy role in a London firm to pivot and open her own cupcake bakery in Belfast. Most entrepreneurs will tell you the idea for their companies sprang forth from a day to day issue they were facing in their own jobs. For Sarah, this was the ubiquitous nature of her cupcake boxes. For every palatable piece she created, she had to ship them in the same box as Bjorn’s Bakery down the road. The problem with this is that the personality of her food could be found in the same box as the dehydrated date scone from Bjorn’s not so boutique bakery. Wanting more for her next chef-d’œuvre, Sarah put the steps in motion to understand how she could make a better box for her bakery.
Sarah put in a full year based at a packaging manufacturing facility, doing every job under the sun (and then some). As manufacturing is the third largest industry in terms of employment in the U.S with only 27% of those jobs being occupied by women, you might think this would make for a tough ride for Sarah. Like most assumptions though, this was misguided and here are Sarah’s secrets to taking advantage of being a female in your industry.
1. Let People Assume Less Of You
Most people have a tendency to want respect, to want recognition, to want appreciation and this is normal. What most of us don’t realise is that when we have these things, it makes our competitors wary of us. If you’re a stand out in your industry, you are also a threat to others competing for the same space. Sarah shared with me why being a female is a blessing in a male-dominated field
“What I learned in my time in manufacturing was that men were open to sharing their knowledge with me as I wasn’t percieved as a threat. As a female founder, people really underestimate you and don’t regard you as such a competitive threat because they’re less sure what to make of you. I learned an enormous amount while working in manufacturing plants and ultimately it laid the foundations for Georgette’s success”
Let men assume less of you as a female because even as the idea turns the stomach and isn’t acceptable on many levels, ultimately the credit and recognition will come when you start eating into their profits and their business.
2. Women Are Coming To The Forefront
With the majority of founders on the planet being men this only creates more opportunities for females. With women’s issues on the rise paired with women also spending more than men there has never been a better time to be a female. Here is what Sarah said,
“Women’s issues are finally coming to the forefront and there is a huge open space for female founders because women understand women. With women being the biggest spenders it makes sense that your gender has never been more of a benefit than it is today”
As the gender gap begins to close, capitalize on this time because there will soon be a time when the roles are reversed and the opportunities that exist now will be drastically smaller.
3. Women Leaders Perform Better Than Men
Males compete with one another whereas women collaborate; just take a look at the BossBabe community. So it’s no shock that females are better aligned to outperform men in business. Females are more willing to work with one another than men and that’s exactly what you need to get where you need to go. As Sarah explains
“Female-founded companies are known to be more fiscally responsible, but also more criticized; the first is a great advantage and something we should be proud of and build on. The latter point is disappointing – we need the consistent support not only of our customers but of our staff, investors, co-founders and suppliers to be successful.”
Men do not see both sides of the coin as well as females and it is something that female commanders in chief are better equipped for. As business and the demands of having a better work-life balance evolve, women are pioneering this space and that is an asset in any endeavour.
Entrepreneurship, progress and growth aren’t easy regardless of sex but being a female is an advantage, not a detriment. I know that but don’t let too many other men know it.