Being Equal Doesn’t Mean Being the Same: Why Behaving Like a Girl Can Change Your Life and Grow Your Business by Joanna L Krotz: A Book Review

I recommend this book on entrepreneurship for women by Joanna Krotz to any woman thinking of starting a business. Why is entrepreneurship an important topic for women? Krotz explains that because women still don’t have pay parity and are subject to what Kolb and Porter describe as “second-generation bias,” they are leaving male-run organizations to launch and grow their own businesses in record numbers. For example, women leave technology companies at a rate of 52 percent, twice the rate of men. Krotz notes that in 2015, there were 10 million women-owned businesses (WOBs) in the United States, which generated $1.6 trillion in sales and employed 9 million people. Women of color owned one-third of these WOBs. Krotz describes many unique characteristics and strengths that women bring to running a business that are especially relevant to today’s world, and she offers specific female-friendly tools to help leverage those strengths.

Some Historical Context

I found the historical context offered by Krotz very interesting. She notes that there have been many successful female entrepreneurs in the United States, such as Madame C.J. Walker, who have been overlooked and under recognized. She tells the inspiring stories of several of these early role models. In addition, she explains that the source of our current gender wage gap is federal labor policies established during World War II, when women were encouraged to take up the manufacturing jobs vacated by men drafted by the military to fight in the war, which sanctioned paying women less than men for doing the same work. While these policies were not intended to create a permanent justification for paying women less, this is another example of “second-generation bias” where the negative impact on women’s earnings continues to this day.

Some Differences Women Owners Bring to the Table

Krotz identifies some important trends and strengths for women business owners:
  • Women owners may be satisfied with smaller enterprises to meet income and professional needs and maintain desired work/life balance.
  • Women may define success differently. Krotz notes, “Size is a male obsession and a less-relevant measure for women’s success. Fulfillment may be harder to measure, but it’s far more appropriate for women-owned businesses,” which often seek to accomplish a combination of profit, social impact, culture, and employee-satisfaction goals.
  • Women are more collaborative and more patient than men in the start-up phase of a business.
Of particular interest is a SWOT business model analysis created by Krotz to showcase the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of today’s women entrepreneurs. Krotz lays out her analysis and then offers tips and strategies for leveraging the strengths and addressing areas of weakness, opportunity, and threats. Here are some examples of strengths and weaknesses in the analysis: Strengths of women entrepreneurs
  • Can quickly connect with prospects and stakeholders
  • Strategically assess perilous risks
  • Identify early market opportunities
  • Respect staff and instill loyalty
  • Capably organize and manage
Weaknesses of women entrepreneurs
  • Undersell their accomplishments to potential investors
  • Avoid reasonable debt needed for growth
  • Undervalue the ROI of building networks
  • Resist delegating: prey to the Superwoman syndrome
  • Set product prices too low
This book draws upon research from the Babson College Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership and the Center for Gender in Organizations at the Simmons School of Management in Boston, along with a range of other research from brain mapping to leadership competencies, to examine gender differences for entrepreneurs. Overall, it provides excellent context for why women are choosing to become entrepreneurs, validates our strengths, and gives practical tools and strategies for becoming successful business owners. I particularly appreciate the author’s suggestions for rewriting the rules of success for women entrepreneurs, along with a frank and honest assessment of ways we undermine our success. The information about different avenues for raising investment funding in addition to a variety of online resources for entrepreneurs makes this a must-own resource book for current and potential women entrepreneurs.]]>

Four Reasons Why the Bar Is Higher for Women in Authority Roles

I have been curious for a long time about the persistence of double binds, which create challenges for women in leadership that men do not have to deal with. My interest in this question shaped my own research, published in my recent book, New Rules for Women: Revolutionizing the Way Women Work Together. A new article by Carol Hay offers some thoughtful perspectives on the deep cultural roots that keep these double binds in place. In her article, Hay writes from the perspective of a female professor and describes the confusion of both male and female students about what to expect from her as a female authority figure. I believe that everything she describes has widespread application and can also be said for women in authority or leadership roles in most other types of organizations.

  1. The Madonna-whore cultural script limits women. Hay notes that we lack cultural scripts for how to deal with women in authority. Women are locked into limited cultural scripts described by Freud in 1925 as the “Madonna-whore” complex. Freud explained that men can only see women in either the Madonna/mother role, where the expectation is that women will only express compassion or unconditional acceptance, or as sexual objects. I submit that women have also internalized these scripts about women. In addition, Hay cites feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins, who writes that the cultural scripts for women of color are even worse—“mammies, matriarchs, welfare recipients, or hot mommas.” Hay notes that there is no middle ground for women, thus setting up the double bind dynamic. She states, “My male colleagues don’t have these problems. There’s no shortage of roles they can avail themselves of in trying to reach their students.”
  2. Father knows best: another cultural script creates additional challenges. Hay states that “in our culture, men are the keepers of the intellectual flame . . . and can use their positions of authority to inspire a student. Female professors have no such personae available to them.” This same challenge exists for women leaders in most other types of organizations when women leaders are expected to “dispense hugs” and not wisdom or constructive feedback.
  3. Few cultural scripts exist for women as leaders of women. Both past and current feminist philosophers such as Simone de Beauvoir and John Stuart Mill, and more recently Sandra Bartky, have described the difficulty women have with accepting leadership from other women—a finding also in my own research. Hay notes Bartsky’s description of the phenomena of internalized oppression at play in this dynamic and shares her experience with a current-day example from academia: “surprisingly few female students seek out female mentors.” I think this probably maps to recent studies showing that both women and men prefer working for a male boss.
  4. Women are responsible for the emotional work. There is an unspoken, unwritten expectation that women will do the emotional work in the workplace because, Hay writes, “women are thought to be naturally caring and empathic.” One of my colleagues, a senior HR professional, gave this example: “Male leaders are more likely to ask a woman for help with personnel problems than to ask another man.” This is work that women are expected to do that takes time and is not recognized, rewarded, or expected from men. The bar is higher for women and they are penalized harshly and vilified if they don’t play this role.

The Challenge

“We lack cultural narratives to make sense of women in positions of social power or authority,” explains Hay. “The ones we have haven’t changed much since the days of Freud and de Beauvoir. This failure of cultural imagination affects women’s political, economic, and social prospects. It always has.” We need new role models for women in authority. We need to figure out how to be those role models, while dealing with the old cultural scripts that are still operating about women. What has worked for you? What new models have you seen and admired in women leaders?   Image courtesy of marcolm at]]>