We women of the world have an amazing opportunity right now. We have the resources, skills, and experience to create, from the ground up, a new business economy that works for women. The infrastructure surrounding women entrepreneurs is solidifying and the roles in these structures are being filled by women. More and more support groups for women entrepreneurs are appearing and many of them are more specific in their focus than the early groups, giving each woman more exactly what she needs.
But there is a crucial opportunity—or pitfall, depending on how you look at it—in building this new ecosystem. We must make sure we build it so we like the business culture we end up with. We could easily end up with a new parallel economy that has a lot of the traits we don’t like. We could build a new economy by and for women, but still be exhausted, burned out, and blocked from fully manifesting our talents. Alternatively, we could create a new business environment that incorporates the best of the existing culture and also values our contributions and gives us a chance to live healthy, balanced lives and the opportunity to create and build.
Women entrepreneurs around the globe all need the support of women investors. All women share some similar experiences and we also have incredibly interesting differences that we can learn from. We have an opportunity to define the values that are important to us both in our local circles and as global women. Where our practices don’t match our important values, we can create new practices together that do.
Women, Psychology, and Money
One example of a place where women can work together to define values is in the area of women’s psychology around money. For example, some women’s angel investing groups are regularly criticized (by both women and men) for conducting overly onerous due diligence. Angel investing is inherently risky, and these women angels are risk-averse—or so the story goes. This is seen as a problem because entrepreneurs are busy. It’s in everyone’s best interest that they focus on building their businesses, not on supplying unnecessary documentation to potential investors.
This criticism opens an opportunity for a powerful conversation among women investors. Many of our woman-centered values and practices are an improvement over the dominant entrepreneurial ecosystem and business culture. But, some of our ingrained modes of operating may not serve our higher purposes. Figuring out which is which is the challenge. As women, we are the experts on our own psychology. We can tap each other’s wisdom to sort out the transformation from the habitual and decide whether our practices are advantageous or not.
The chance to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem optimized for everyone’s success is a heady opportunity. To do it, we must not shy away from challenging each other to grow. More open conversations about women’s psychology around money and risk are an example of how we can share our deep wisdom and create a new world.
Given this opportunity to create our own culture there are many values that women might want to integrate into our work lives. As we move ahead building companies and organizations, we will keep an eye on what is important to each of us individually and to all of us collectively. For example, some of the feminine values that have been identified through research and discussions are collaboration, support, community, and humility. Let’s examine these briefly so we can discuss them further as they relate to practices.
Mainstream business culture places a greater emphasis on competitiveness and fairness than many women naturally would. We look to collaboration for a broader definition of winning, and much of our innovation and creativity
springs from this place.
Women particularly enjoy and thrive in a supportive environment. We benefit from encouragement and find it satisfying to provide encouragement to others. We bring out the best in one another more effectively through a supportive culture than in a competitive environment. We challenge each other to grow through valuing each other’s experience and wisdom, and looking after each other’s well-being.
Healthy community is important to women. We like to be among friends and colleagues who know one another well and uphold a culture of respect. The value we place on healthy community leads us to prioritize inclusivity and sustainability. We derive satisfaction from contributing positively to our community and making life better for others.
Women may decide to incorporate honesty about our own capabilities into the business environment. Women may prefer humility over a typical business style that sometimes feels like bravado. Perhaps we find integrity in being straightforward and humble. This thinking around creating new business practices and culture centered around women-friendly values is in its infancy. As women share their thinking and continue to collaborate, more insights will emerge.
The opportunity to create and share new business practices that support women’s values is boundless. You can participate in this exciting area of new knowledge creation as a woman angel investor.
Suzanne Andrews is a co-author of the book “Impact With Wings” by Wingpact (www.wingpact.com) As an angel investor, Suzanne focuses her investments on women-owned positive social impact companies, with a particular interest in the fair fashion industry.