Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Women In Business Catch Up After The ‘Mancession’

It looks like women have caught up with men in numbers in the workplace. For the first time in history, women in the USA now outnumber men in the workforce, and there are now more women in supervisory positions than there are males. The question is whether they will handle the downside of working any better than men.

According to an article by Ella L. J. Edmondson Bell, PhD, titled The 21st Century Workplace -- Are Women the New Men?, the economic downturn has hit men harder. They held nearly 80 percent of jobs that have been lost during what is now being called the "mancession." Will women now inherit the stress, pressure, exhaustion, burn out and heart attacks commonly associated with male leaders in business?

Some predict that this new female-dominated workplace will mean a softening of the corporate culture, with more benevolent leaders. Others foresee just the opposite. Ella says many women don't want to be seen as "soft" -- and others simply aren't. No one would call Carly Fiorina, the head of Hewlett Packard from 1999 to 2005, a wilting lily. According to her memoir, Tough Choices, she was sometimes referred to as Chainsaw Carly.

All this is especially relevant on the entrepreneurial side, since statistics show that women are starting businesses at more than twice the rate of their male counterparts. Some would argue that the growing success rate of women entrepreneurs shows that they are resourceful, and better able to succeed, despite the odds.

While I’m sure we will continue to see progress on the female side, I predict that they will struggle with the same major challenges faced today by men. These include:

  1. Funding your dream. Raising money is hard, whether you are counting on friends, investors, or banks. I rarely see women at angel investment groups, either asking for money, or offering to fund new ventures. Men seem more focused on this one.

  2. Need for increased confidence and mindset skills. Many women and men are paralyzed by perfection, plagued by pessimism, and the need to satisfy others, rather than themselves. We need more women leaders.

  3. Motivation to succeed. Every entrepreneur needs to love what they do, and believe so strongly in their product or service that they can weather the tough times. On this one, it’s easy to spot the ones with passion, from either gender.

  4. Manage time and priorities. Women, often more than men, try to do too much. It’s hard to balance the continual demands of the business, personal relationships, and home life. Every entrepreneur needs to prioritize the important tasks ahead of urgent tasks.

  5. Never stop learning. After you start your business, the learning really begins. True entrepreneurs look at failures as their best learning experiences. Networking, and using your network is the next most important element of learning.

I don’t see any challenges which are so gender specific that they can’t be overcome by any entrepreneur. Yet I don’t think women should be convinced that the battle for equality is almost over. There is still the question of why there are so few women in high places, and why the average income for women in business is about 68% of men’s income.

What I am hoping is that women will not just be the new men, and suffer from the same maladies and limitations. I’ll be looking for women to create the “new business culture” that every worker wants – better role definitions, more effective and productive leadership, and better work-life balance. That would make women entrepreneurs the new women, rather than the new men!

Marty Zwilling




  1. Interesting. The Slate has a March 28th piece by Annie Lowrey: "Record Profits, Fewer Jobs" which basically says, fewer people are working longer hours, for less money. And if what you say about the mancession is true... there are more women than ever who are doing this stressful underpaid work.

    That sounds pretty icky and not at all inspiring. Seems women are the new cogs. I'd like to see stories of women entrepreneurs who aren't called mompreneurs. It takes guts to go to an Angel investment group and risk being patronized (and not in a good way!)

  2. @Leigh,thanks for the feedback, and the good suggestion for a follow-on article. I'm a member of a couple of angel groups, and I almost never see women requesting funding, or women as members of an angel organization. I wonder why this is true?

  3. Whoa... that's a big question Martin!

    I would say the biggest drawback is that it's intimidating and feels like a boys club.

    If angel groups are interested in attracting women I'd suggest:

    - stacking the deck and inviting women speakers

    - supporting DrupalChix and other women's open source software developer groups

    - collaborating with incubators for women entrepreneurs like Astia.org

    - make space for smaller learning projects (kickstarter size projects) so founders with less experience can grow with their project and maintain some agency/autonomy

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  5. I loved reading this post. Very inspiring! It’s great to know that some women made it so big, it’s stories like these that motivate people to do so much better in life and gives a lesson to never give up.

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  8. Hmmm for some reason only half the post can be seen. I tried reloading but still same.


  9. @zesovela, please try again. All looks good from my perspective, and no one else has reported a problem.

  10. Thank you for the nice info. It was easy to read, but I'd like to add that if your company needs to be updated try development of mobile applications.

  11. Wow, men are outnumbered by women in the workplace???!!! Who is cleaning and cooking for the family?