“I’m not really a ‘women’s group’ type of person.” I remember saying that distinctly to Cathy Crosky, the regional chapter chair of the Women President’s Organization. Almost all of the CEOs I knew were men, and it felt like networking with the guys was the way I was going to get ahead. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Luckily, Cathy, like most business women I now know, was relentless, and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I went to one meeting to show her that I wouldn’t fit in. I listened as everyone introduced themselves and talked about their businesses, and I was immediately humbled. The individual drive for success coupled with a true care for the others in the group, and an openness to learn from one another… This was not a networking group. This was a growth group. And I had to eat my words.
More than five years later, the women in that room (and more who have joined our ranks in the meantime) are my board of directors, my mentors, and my true friends. We are very different personalities, and quite diverse in backgrounds, but there is something core to us that keeps us together. And as I have gotten exposed to the national network of WPO, I have found those same qualities repeated in every member I meet.
If you are a woman running a successful business, these things are most likely true about you:
- Women business owners are more empathic to employees. When an employee has a personal issue that shows up at work, or has a behavior issue, or a performance issue, we are likely to give second and third chances, provide coaching and support, and take their “full lives” into account. Some people would say that we also let problem employees linger too long, and that is certainly true (I speak from my own experience), but we have also created some incredible opportunities for stories of turnaround and personal growth with our teams, which is incredibly rewarding.
- Women business owners get shit done. We are used to juggling many roles and tasks, and carrying the weight of many people on our shoulders, and we don’t just survive those situations, we thrive in them. We are often the primary caretakers of someone else in addition to ourselves, whether it is children or parents, and function well as the practical “CEO” of those relationships as well. We make quick, gut-driven decisions, and carry a huge amount of information about others in our heads. If you have a question, just ask us. We have an answer.
- Women business owners are resilient. I have never met a woman who runs a business and has not worked hard for what she has. Whether she started her company, inherited it, or purchased it, she has faced serious challenges and set backs, and has risen to those challenges. She has faced discrimination and harassment, and pushed her way through it. On the flip side, I have met some guys who seem to succeed despite themselves…who were given everything they have, who don’t work hard, who blow stuff up and never pick up the pieces. The thing about never being held accountable? You don’t learn; you don’t improve. The good thing about resilience? You are constantly improving. Successful, long-time women business owners are seriously great at their jobs.
I know, I know. It is really uncomfortable to generalize. And I know many thoughtful, intelligent, humble men who run businesses that are thriving, who are kind to their employees, and who are extremely resilient.
I know that I owe my success to a core group of women who have modeled how I can embrace my strengths and my weaknesses as part of my entrepreneurial journey. So, thank you. Let’s celebrate each other!