Last year, Jillian and I put in a lot of time and energy building the foundation to our business. What you see today is the amazing community we have at Birdtown CrossFit.
At the beginning of our journey, we found Bad Girl Ventures Cleveland’s business development program and began to build the foundation for our gym. At the completion of the program, and with great pride, I can tell you that we were awarded a $25k loan from Cleveland’s Economic and Community Development Institute. With that honor, came invitations to speak to different groups of entrepreneurs and students about our experiences. Coming from BGV, a lot of the questions we were asked in these forums were in reference to being entrepreneurial women (if you didn’t know: we’re girls).
During Q&A session at an event held at The Hard Rock Cafe, a young woman asked the question if we felt we were treated differently because we were women. Jillian knows I have a hard time with this question because I refuse to believe that I have to acknowledge that I’m different from a man.
I am the middle child with two brothers – jovially referred to as a rose between two thorns – but I was not treated differently in my family home: we all cut the lawn, took out the garbage, painted the shed, moved bricks, worked for my father in whatever manual labor chore he saw fit – and I’m grateful for it. As an adult I took a sales job. And for the past 13 years, I’ve worked for a large manufacturer whose sales reps are 80% male. The majority of my customers are men between the ages of 35-70 years old. Until Jan 2014, all of my bosses have been men. The point is that I don’t have time to worry if they are judging me differently because I am a woman – I have to stay busy selling product to keep my job.
The Hard Rock woman asked a very simple question and I’m sure she expected a stock answer….in fact, I gave her a pretty crappy answer and Jillian recognized that I had nothing nice to say and saved my ass by jumping in and offering a short reply. When the question and answer segment was over, I found that woman and apologized that my response was lousy and I told her that, yes, women are treated differently.
I confirmed for her (and myself) that I am asked more questions, and questioned more frequently than my male counterparts. I choose my words carefully and never talk about my feelings at work. I swear more than I should and I wear high heels to make me taller (which makes me feel more confident) when I’m addressing a group of men. And most importantly: I know my shit. They can make assumptions and judgments, and ask whatever question they want. In fact they can ask questions until they are blue in the face. They are testing me.
Try to catch me offguard, I say!
Their judgments and misconceptions of what a woman is capable of have made me more successful, driven me to better myself and pushed the limits of my comfort zone.
This article hit me hard today and I want to find that young woman from The Hard Rock and offer it to her as a guide on how to survive as a woman in business. So if you have the patience for a list of “19 Hard Things You Need To Do Be Successful” I invite you to click and read it – and I hope you see yourself in a few bulletpoints and find some way to incorporate another into your life in 2014. Better – Faster – Stronger (wink wink!)