When Should We Fight For Women’s Equality In Business?
by Tanis Jorge
I’ve mentioned in previous posts that on my journey in entrepreneurship, gender never played a role. In over a decade and a half (I can’t believe that’s how long I have been doing this!), I never considered my sex an asset or a liability. It was only brought to my attention a couple years ago when people in my local tech community began to comment on how great it was to see “A Woman in Tech”. I remember thinking that was such an interesting comment, as I never gave much thought to the gap nor was I aware of its vastness. But isn’t it interesting that despite the fact that it was there; it was not an issue as I built my businesses?
As I’ve stated previously, I’m not a proponent of altering the world to accommodate female entrepreneurs. I think the tools and opportunities are there for the taking just as equally for a man as for a woman. That said, I do think there are instances where we need to vehemently draw attention to and fight the inequality between men and women in business. But before I explain when and where this should happen, I want to clarify the way I define discrimination.
On a table are a hammer and a work order to put a birdhouse together. There is also a sign that says, “The opportunity and tools are available to as many people as who want to take it on.” There are no limitations imposed that favor one gender over the other such as strength or mental capability and no additional restrictions that would make it difficult or impossible for one gender to do the job. It’s just there and completely unbiased. Now, if mostly men step forward and say, “I’ll do it”, I wouldn’t say that we have a gender problem in the birdhouse building industry. The tool and the job are available and doable for ANYONE who wants to undertake the work; it just so happens that men have chosen to take it on in higher numbers. Hardly a call for discrimination.
I feel that this is the way it is with entrepreneurship and tech. The tools and opportunities ARE equally available to both men and women to pick up and run with. Education in computer science and business are not limited to men, and the skills and requirements to embark on entrepreneurship are not either. NOW, if there was a sign that said “No Women”, or “Women must first obtain a license”, THEN I would say that there is a discrimination factor. It is when the tools and opportunities are made available with the precursor, “Women: need not apply”, that we have a SERIOUS problem.
Take for an example; the issues facing women in parts of the world where their gender prohibits them from engaging with the business sector. Where they are limited due to legislative, cultural and religious restrictions which include:
- The inability to get a driver’s license,
- The inability to be out in public without a male family member
- Segregation from and the inability to interact with those of the opposite sex
- The inability to open a bank account without a male family member.
These requirements restrict a woman’s ability to build a business due to the obvious constraints. When the cultural expectation is that women do not belong in the marketplace and regulations are put in place to ensure it, then that is the time to take up arms! That is when you fight for legal representation in the courts, equality in national and state legislation and give a voice to those who do not have one. It is then and there that we orchestrate gender specific events that enable a safe and comfortable environment for women to get educated and have access to the tools necessary to build their business. It is then that we engage investors with an open mind to the concept of female entrepreneurship and seek provision of capital for those whose ideas warrant investment. It is then that we fund studies and provide grants to those willing and able to identify and communicate the value of women in business.
I am not saying that discrimination doesn’t exist in western society; it does to be sure. There is no doubt that there are people who think that a woman may be incapable of leading a company or writing code. However, I feel that these people are a minority, with a waning influence that has no bearing on today’s female representation in business and tech. Their presence and limited influence, I believe, is not a significant obstacle to women in general reaching their business goals. Therefore, I am suggesting that we reserve the term “discrimination” for instances where it belongs; among the female populace where the right and ability to run a business is limited if not impossible.
What do you think?