Empowerment Zone | Women supporting each other in business – a winning formula

It is of outmost importance for women to support each other in business or otherwise. The fight against the “Pull Her Down” (PHD) syndrome in both entrepreneurship and corporate settings is crucial.

Women already face too many challenges in corporates or business – PHD just rubs salt into an existing wound. The issues that will be the downfall of women in business include, in most cases, the unnecessary and toxic competition that ends up affecting the effective delivery of services to clients.

It is important for women to work past trivial issues like how pretty one is, how well they dress and, most importantly, how good one is at their job. It is very important for all of us to realise that supporting each other is more beneficial than working against one another. Also, it is vital to collaborate by feeding off each other’s strengths and complementing each other’s weaknesses.

Women are already facing a number of gender-related issues in corporate settings and some of these are the same in the business space. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research the top five gender-related issues in corporate environments include:

Unequal pay: For decades, women have earned more bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees than men, yet women in the workforce still earn less than their male counterparts.

Sexual harassment: This is an obstacle many women face in the workplace. While different movements over the years have helped to shed light on this issue, little was known about how women were subjected to this type of mistreatment until now.

Racism: Unfortunately race seems to have played a major role in the way women are treated and compensated in the workplace. The income a woman received has over the years varied, depending on race and ethnicity.

Women are promoted less often than men: Despite being more educated than men in some cases and the fact that women constitute nearly half of the workforce, they are promoted at work far less often than men.

Fear of asking to be paid what they are worth: Women often struggle with asking for higher pay. While related to the issues of unequal pay, fear of discussing money is a separate issue that affects women more significantly than men. For women, negotiating pay is often viewed as being greedy and this leads to hesitation when it comes to asking for what they are worth in a workplace.

While I was doing this research, I realised some of these issues actually follow women well into our entrepreneurship years. In corporate environments, we had to work three times harder to convince everyone that we were just as capable as our male counterparts. This is why, in most cases, before even thinking about starting our own businesses we felt it was important for us to gain extensive experience in corporates and make our name known before venturing into the entrepreneurship space.

Our fear, in most cases, is that if we open businesses without obtaining qualifications and corporate credentials we will not be taken seriously in the business space. We also worry that this might cause us not to be paid what we deserve for our services. Women who have, over the years, started their businesses with all the necessary credentials still experience issues that include sexual harassment, whether it is subtle or obvious.

Being professional, friendly and polite to some potential male clients is sometimes construed as being open to sleeping with the male counterpart to be able to secure that particular contract. Even if everyone involved in the process of pitching for a business contract knows you deserve the contract based solely on what you are capable of and your past record of service excellence, the notion that women are prepared to sleep their way up still lingers in some people’s minds.