Sanna Vohra

Sanna Vohra, CEO & Founder, The Wedding Brigade.

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Myth vs. Reality – Decoding the Woman Entrepreneur

I think it is absolutely ridiculous that in 2018, we still have lower expectations from women in the workplace, and particularly for women entrepreneurs. It is high time we are seen as equally likely to succeed as men.

How many times have you heard the phrase “She did a good job – for a woman,” or “She is strong – for a woman,” or “She handled that well – for a woman”?

I think it is absolutely ridiculous that in 2018, we still have lower expectations from women in the workplace, and particularly for women entrepreneurs. It is high time we are seen as equally likely to succeed as men.

Hence, in honor of Women’s Day, I want to break down some commonly held myths about women entrepreneurs, with the hope that in the future we will not need a day to recognize and celebrate our contribution to society – as there will be nothing left for us to prove.

Women entrepreneurs are only in it for the short haul and their future is out of their hands.

Many men whom I have personally spoken to believe women’s ultimate priorities are to get married and raise a family. They feel that though some women may be capable and talented, if their in-laws refuse to let them work post-marriage, or if their husbands chastise them for not staying home with their children, they will have no option but to succumb to their wishes.

However, the truth is that women who start companies in India are women who have fought to make it happen, and who believe they have the strength and stamina to make sure their business succeeds. If a woman has gone through the struggle of starting a company, she is unlikely to be the type to take a back-seat when it comes to making decisions that concern her. Extending personal stereotypes about women’s priorities as representative of the desires of over 500 million Indian women is simply wrong.

Women entrepreneurs who are fashionable and glamorous should not be taken seriously. 

There is an unspoken understanding in some pockets of the investor community that women who dress fashionably, wear make-up, or generally care about their appearance are too frivolous to run a company – as how could they possibly do a good job leading a team if they spend so much time on their appearance? On the other hand, if a man enters a meeting in a sharp suit, people compliment his ability to take care of himself, and see it as an indication of the professionalism he will bring to his business. It is about time this myth is put to rest. Women dress to make themselves feel good, confident, and powerful, which like men, affects their mood and energy in the office. Whether they feel that way in a pencil skirt or a saree says nothing about their seriousness and professionalism running a company.

Women who have too many male employees will not have the respect of their team. 

This is another issue I have heard people discussing in hushed tones, which to me only sheds light on the mentality of the person advocating it. Why wouldn’t a well-educated man, who has studied and worked with smart women, not take a woman entrepreneur seriously? After all, if a woman is running the business they work at, and the men have chosen to work there, doesn’t that mean that they inherently believe in her vision and in her as a leader, and have the ability to respect her for her intellect and experience instead of something as inconsequential as her gender?

Women get too emotional and cannot handle stress. 

This is perhaps one of the most pervasive beliefs about women in general, not just about women entrepreneurs. A person’s ability to handle their emotions and stress has nothing to do with their gender, and everything to do with their resolve. There is one characteristic that women are proven to have more of however – empathy. The 2009 paper by professors at Valencia university as well as numerous other studies have found that women are more empathetic than men, which in turn leads to happier and more productive employees. Our ability to understand our employees and relate to them actually helps rather than hurts in the workplace.

2017 and 2018 have been watershed years for women in the technology and business arenas, with the movement to recognize discrimination and predatory behavior by VCs in Silicon Valley, to the dismantling of Harvey Weinstein, to the #metoo and #Time’sUp movements that swept social media. It is my hope that this movement continues to grow steam on the home-front, and we start raising our expectations for the women of today and tomorrow, and swell with pride as the women around us exceed them.

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Myth vs. Reality Decoding the Woman Entrepreneur

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