I’m a Woman CEO And It Doesn’t Change Anything
I’m the CEO of a tech startup. For the past year, I’ve been managing a growing team, developing a product, raising funds and dealing with the ups and downs on a daily basis. Just usual CEO work, basically. I also happen to be a woman. Yet, this fact alone leads to a lot of questions regarding my “situation”: How do I manage day in and day out? Isn’t it just plain too hard? How is it to fight an uphill battle? And so on. Because, you know, it’s always tougher for women, right?
It’s Not that Different to Be a Woman CEO
The word has been spreading around, that being a female CEO is somehow harder than being a male CEO. When people ask me the question: “So, what’s it like to be CEO?” most of them are actually asking me “so, what’s it like to be a CEO and a girl?” And they often expect me to tell them how difficult it is. That’s what people want to read and hear, but this is just not how I feel.
Of course there are some drawbacks of being a female CEO. When you’re a woman in charge, you do have to work a bit more to get credibility and have people listen to you; it might be harder to recruit developers and make them trust you; and you will end up going to a few sales meetings where the other person is more interested in you than in your product.
There are also some pretty good advantages. It’s sometimes easier to get press coverage, and sales can happen faster. People will usually be keener on lending a hand. And I’m not even talking about all the help I got from fellow female entrepreneurs, especially when I was trying to get things off the ground.
But those pros and cons are just minor details. They don’t make or break a company. The hard part is to ship a product people love, meet growth goals and get money in the bank. My point is: it’s tough being a CEO, period. Male or female. We each get our own advantages and drawbacks, and we should all try to play the best out of the cards we’ve been dealt. I would just recommend not overplaying the “woman” card though as it can backfire. You want people to picture you as the CEO, not as the “woman CEO”.
Today women only hold 5.1% of Fortune 1000 CEO positions. I am not alone when I say that I believe this number should be higher. There are a lot of different opinions out there on why we’re in this situation and how to make it better. However, I tend to disagree with most. I’m bored with the “We should have more executive women because they bring femininity, joy, warmth, etc.” rhetoric. It’s sexist and it’s plain wrong. We need female CEOs because women are as talented as men can be, and it takes talented people to build great companies. For me, that’s the only valuable reason.
A Call for Women to Talk About Their Lives as CEOs
Going over the differences between executive men and women again and again is not going to change anything. We don’t ask Rihanna, “How is it to be a woman singer?” Both men and women get into singing — some girls will be inspired by Rihanna. If we want to get serious about empowering women to become CEOs or get top management jobs, the starting point is for potential women CEOs to be inspired by other women. I have been striving to do this over the last year, like when I shared what’s it like to be at Y Combinator on a major tech website or when I gave out some tips on how to launch a tech product on my company blog. You’ll never see me share how all of these things are different because I’m a woman.
In short, what women need today are more models of successful CEOs that, yes, also happen to be women. We need to start emphasizing the success of women CEOs instead of the womanliness of successful CEOs.
Original post on Wall Street Journal, August 4th, 2014
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: MATHILDE COLLIN
SaaS lover. LEGO builder. Co-founder & CEO of Frontapp, a collaborative email app.Location: Paris, France Twitter: @collinmathilde Sphere(s) of Innovation: Tech & Startups Read more from Mathilde: Mathilde’s WiLab Profile