Women are making great strides these days, but there are still fewer of us in upper management roles than you’d think. As the founder and CEO of my own company, I run up against a ton of stereotypes about female bosses, so I’m excited to have a chance to set the record straight. Here, I'm unraveling seven of the most common misconceptions about us girls (who run the world).
1. I am different from a man, but we might have the same management style.
Even as I type this sentence, I almost can’t believe it: Comparing men and women, particularly as leaders, is silly.
Men and women are, quite simply, different beasts, but neither gender is monolithic: All bosses and leaders have their own style. It’s not like there are female bosses and male bosses and their traits are unique to their gender. I think there are good, empathetic, supportive leaders, and then there are bad, fear-inducing leaders. Whether you are male or female doesn’t predispose you to either.
2. I work at this, just like anyone else.
I juggle leading a growing organization with managing an amazing staff. And I work hard at it. I work at becoming a better leader every day, staying true to myself and the values we hold dear at Kit. But I frequently encounter a belief that women have to work harder at being amazing bosses because we are newer to the leadership pile. That we strive for excellence because we think people are going to judge all women’s ability to lead by their experience with their first female boss.
Not true. Honestly, at the end of the day, I’m just trying to stay on top of everything and get some sleep. I don’t work any harder than the next guy (or gal) on supporting my staff. I think that anyone who judges an entire gender’s ability to lead based on one boss lacks perspective.
3. I don't run everything by my husband—or father.
The single most frustrating question I get about leading a startup is, “So, is your husband/father involved?”
Ugh. The worst. Bankers are frequently guilty of asking this question. Please, there are just as many female accounting majors as there are male ones these days.
There is that old saying—"behind every great man is a good woman"—and vice versa. That may be true: I couldn’t do or achieve half of what I do without my husband, who is a great partner but not because I loop him in on decisions. It’s because he’s stepped up to shouldering half of the household burden, vacuuming, helping cook (Blue Apron is a godsend), and doing the vast majority of our household laundry. And he’s incredibly personally supportive.
He works in financial services. I run a clothing company. We’ve got a great team with excellent experience. And, quite frankly, I’ve managed a whole lot more people over my career than he has. I love him, but he doesn’t factor into who I am as a manager.
4. Yes, I want to be your friend.
There is a huge misconception around women and likability. The way I lead and manage has nothing to do with any desire to have people “like me.” I try to be a good, kind person, period. Not because I want everyone to like me—I try to steer clear of unattainable goals—but because I think there are merits to being your best self. I like myself a whole lot better, for one.
That said, I hire people who are talented, fill the gaps we need, and that I like. I don’t want them to like me because I have some innate craving for likability. I want to be friends because I think they’re smart, cool people. So…pretty much for the same reason you’d want to be friends with anyone.
5. I don't appreciate drama.
As a matter of fact, I don’t do drama, period.
Unlike any sitcom, ever, where women are almost always scheming and gossiping, particularly those in charge, I simply don’t do drama. I have very little time in the day, a lot of demands on that time, and a bunch of investors who would like to see that I’m doing my utmost to grow my company.
6. I’m the "Decider.”
This is one of my all-time favorite quotes, and it’s incredibly pertinent to addressing the perception that women, specifically, are indecisive.
As anyone in my life can tell you, I’m crazy decisive. I have been known to make decisions too quickly. I can’t stand indecision. I make a decision, we execute it, and I don’t second-guess it. Much like anything else, this has nothing to do with being male or female. People have their own decision-making styles; it’s as simple as that. And I feel really comfortable making decisions.
7. I will fire you.
Where did people get this idea that women are pushovers? They’ve clearly never spent time with the women in my family.
I am friends with my employees and I love them, but resources are finite. I’m not going to spend money paying someone if they aren’t the right fit for a job. I’ve fired people before, and I’m sure I will again. And nine times out of ten, it’s the right move for both parties.
Sometimes you’re not at the job that’s right for you, and sometimes your skills aren’t the right match for the company. I truly believe that the less time you spend doing the wrong job means the more time you have to figure out what is right for you. Do I enjoy firing people? God, no. Have I pushed it off a bit because I dread it? Sure, I’m human after all. But, at the end of the day, I want the best for my company, my team, and my customers.