By Lenora Rand, Mylene Pollock
Well-behaved women seldom make history. - Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, 1976
We’ve been thinking about this quote today, nearly 50 years after Ms. Ulrich said it.
It’s July, a couple of weeks after Roe v Wade was overturned in the Supreme Court. Reproductive rights took a nosedive in this country. And the effects of it will be felt for years to come and most deeply among people with the least money and power. Some say a “poverty shock" is coming.
Jezael Melgoza for Unsplash
Clearly, overturning Roe v Wade was about more than taking away the right to abortion. It was part of a greater strategy to keep women “well-behaved” and “in their place.” It was about control. About keeping certain people in charge. It was about holding onto power by taking away women’s full human rights as citizens of this country - full rights, complete access, all the opportunities.
Though nearly 60% of Americans didn’t want to see Roe overturned (including more than 30% of Republicans), it seems like women having equal rights is, for some reason a very scary prospect…at least for those who have worked the political system well and gotten into positions of power.
As the founders of SmallGood, we've been thinking and talking about this. We started asking why. Why is it so scary and threatening to these folks for women to have power? For women to have equal opportunities? Equal pay? For women not to be held back? To be in control of their own lives?
And why is it so scary for women to be in charge?
We think partly it’s because women are just so damn good at it.
In the business world, for example, despite the fact that the vast majority of business is still led by men (in 2018, women-owned firms made up less than 20% of the firms that employed people in the United States) women-owned small businesses grow faster and drive better returns,
Hmmm. It turns out thinking and behaving like a woman might have a few benefits.
To be honest, when the two of us started SmallGood, we didn't set out to start a “women-led business." We just knew we worked well together. We challenged each other creatively. We listened to each other and learned from each other. We weren't afraid to be emotional with each other. We weren't afraid to encourage each other. We were aligned on what we wanted to do - which was to create marketing that added more positive impact in the world.
But after running our own company and working with many women-led companies over the past 5 years, we’ve seen what a difference it makes when women have power.
Women make space at the table.
A 2017 Prattle study reviewed over 155,000 conference calls to discover that men spoke a full 92% of the time. The American Political Science Review found that women speak, on average, 25% less than men do in meetings, and a 2014 study revealed that women are more frequently interrupted than their male counterparts. The pressure to get a word in edgewise in the face of very real, measurable scarcity is daunting.
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When we work with women, we notice something remarkable - space is simply shared. Communication is efficient, laughter is plentiful, and the work of finding the best idea becomes less about competition and more about collaboration. Instead of spending time fighting against scarcity and “the way things have always been,” we get to fill our minutes working together to do something much more valuable - create a really great product.
Women are less hesitant to lean into feelings. And that’s a good thing.
“Too emotional” might be a stereotype, but it might also be a marketing superpower. At this point, we’re certain that emotion is a significant factor in the way folks choose what to buy, listen to, support, or invest in. We also know that women make up 70-80% of US consumer purchases - and it certainly pays to know your customer. In a 2019 article, Forbes called emotion “the super weapon of marketing and advertising,” and backed it up with an IPA dataBAnk study that showed campaigns with purely emotional content performed twice as well as purely rational campaigns.
The days of pretending your feelings don’t matter are over, and advertising that doesn’t hit you right in the heartstrings feels downright stale to younger generations.
Ayo Ogunseind for Unsplash
According to the Credit Suisse research report, “companies with females in decision-making positions generated superior profits than those without.” Maybe, just maybe, all those times women have been told to keep emotion out of the workplace weren’t so good for the bottom line after all.
Women aren’t afraid to share their enthusiasm.
We rarely have to wonder if our women clients love an idea or a direction - they show us. The enthusiastic language, generous praise, real connection, and yes, plenty of exclamation points that women are often shamed for in professional spaces function like well-lit runways that help us get the plane (or project) off the ground efficiently and well. Enthusiasm also translates to a passion for individual talents. We continually leverage our ability to get excited about people’s strengths and skills, regardless of gender. We believe our readiness to celebrate each individual’s gifts is key to creating winning teams.
In addition to the timesaving and team-building magic of clearly-communicated enthusiasm, that whole-hearted feedback also comes with the benefit of making folks feel truly appreciated for the work they do. The few extra minutes we notice many female leaders invest in praising work well done comes back to them tenfold in satisfied, motivated employees and contractors who can’t wait to partner with them again.
Women create more healthy workplaces – where people want to work.
Coming out of the pandemic, we’ve all learned something powerful: we can work from home, see our families and friends more often, and still get the job done. Family life and work life are forever intertwined, and the “pretend you don’t have kids who might get sick and make you have to stay home sometimes, or you’ll never climb the ladder here” attitudes of the past seem, frankly, a bit silly. The workspaces of the future are flexible and gender-equitable, which includes consideration of childcare, breastfeeding space, and the ability to work remotely.
Jhon David for Unsplash
Unsurprisingly, women-led companies appear to be leading the charge for a more holistically healthy workspace. Here at SmallGood, flexible work schedules, remote workspaces, and respect for family time have been built into our DNA since the beginning - long before the pandemic. Peakon, an HR insights platform that collects information from hundreds of companies around the world, found that according to employees, women-led companies are more purpose-driven, more likely to include access to childcare, and more likely to offer equal pay. In Forbes magazine, Caroline Castrillion summarizes study findings: “Employees at women-led companies seem to enjoy more autonomy and are specifically more satisfied with work-from-home policies when compared to male-led companies.”
The positive atmosphere in women-led spaces comes with a payoff. Between 2002 and 2014, the returns of Fortune 1000 companies with female CEOs were a whopping 226% higher than the S&P 500.
What can you do about the Roe v Wade decision?
We know many of us are feeling angry and frightened about the loss of Roe v Wade and about what it’s going to mean for the health and well-being of so many individuals and families in this country. Many of us are mourning the handcuffs it’s going to place on women, the loss to all of us when women can’t live up to their full potential. And when women don’t have the opportunities they deserve.
Many of us are going to continue to fight for women’s reproductive rights. Many of us will do whatever we can to support the people who will suffer the most because of the Roe v Wade decision. Many of us are going to donate to Funds that will support women in the 26 states where abortion will essentially be outlawed.
Many of us are going to use our leadership skills to win political power so that we can make the changes that are so needed in this country.
But here’s something else we would like to suggest you can do and we can do:
Support women in leadership.
If you’re a decision-maker with a company or organization, make a decision to work with more women-led businesses. Make a decision to promote more women and see what happens when women are in charge in your company or organization. Make a decision to make sure they are paid equitably.
If you’re a woman with a brilliant business idea, go for it. Start and run a business and do it as well as we believe you will. And if you can mentor and support a woman who’s starting or running a business, do that.
Marivi Pazos for Unsplash
Yes, in the grand scheme, these may seem like small things. But we believe they’re good things. Positive things we can all do, despite how painful things seem right now. It’s how we can take a stand against those who would try to keep women in their place. “Well-behaved.” And under control.
It’s how we can all continue to create a world without limitations based on gender.
Oh, and by the way, we also strongly suggest you use your vote for people who believe in and fight for that kind of world, too.