As an entrepreneur, I don’t have a boss who talks to me. I attend further training seminars for self-reflection in order to reflect my behaviour and work. I did this recently and now I am faced with a paradox. I asked the participants for feedback, because I occasionally get feedback that I demand too much, drive in too hard, run over my immediate environment – even frighten some people. This unsettles me, because it doesn’t correspond to my self-image. In the seminar one person said: “This energy from you, if it came from a man, then I wouldn’t have any trouble with it, then it would be right, but you are a woman and that is a male energy and that disturbs me. I miss the fine, the vulnerable – your feminine energy.” Phew! What do I do with it now? We know from behavioural research that women who appear clichéd “feminine” are better liked. The price for this is that they are taken less seriously on the content level: they appear less qualified. This is a fatal trade off for management functions: As a woman you can choose between unsympathetic bossy or naively nice. What do you prefer: fleas or lice? Both are itchy. This may be one reason for the “leaking pipeline” and for the fact that the proportion of women among self-employed entrepreneurs is by far the highest at 39 percent. There’s no boss who won’t promote you anyway.
Unsympathetic bossy or naïve nice – what do you want? Fleas or lice?
But there is also contempt lurking in entrepreneurship. When I presented this chain of argumentation in a BD training course, one participant complacently reported: “Yes, but, what kind of entrepreneurs are these – hairdressers? I asked the group who had never had their hair cut before. Silence. Exactly: hairdressing salons are part of the basic supply. They usually have several employees and train apprentices. This means that many salons are among the 11 percent of companies in Switzerland that employ more than ten people. We have to re-evaluate our perception. That is a good resolution for 2019. Column in the Handelszeitung of 6 December 2018 by Esther-Mirjam de Boer