Facing Gender Bias as an Entrepreneur

Never waste your time...It happens to many women everyday. When it happens to you, what will you do about it? Will you stand against the behavior, or will you let the behavior intimidate you into silence? I will stand against chauvinistic behavior and confront gender bias.

After spending the past year and a half writing, publishing and starting my business, I am more than disappointed  that I once again encountered gender bias today.

I went to the Small Business Development Center in Savannah, Georgia to ask questions about business taxes and growing my business. From my hour meeting, I did receive two bits of e-commerce advice that I plan on implementing; however, I also left with the knowledge that the man who “mentored” me in that meeting was bias against me because I am a woman – and that both disgusted and angered me.

Along with telling me how much better I would look without my glasses, how I need to know that I’m a beautiful woman, and that I need to push my shoulders back and “giggle” at my next interview… The man also said that maybe the human resources would overlook my temporary handicap (my broken foot in the boot). Besides the chauvinistic comments, the man said other things that were positive too such as I already have success, that I am doing the right things, etc., but I just can’t stop thinking about how uncomfortable his other comments made me feel.

I stood up for myself in that I said I would not pretend to be someone that I am not, and that I will present myself for who I am – focused on my job, reserved, and a hard worker. This is not the first time I have encountered this type of gender bias, and I’m sure it won’t be the last time. Next time, however, I plan on confronting the behavior. Twice, I have experienced male businessmen pretending they are interested in my business only to try to worm their way into dating me. I very directly tell them that I’m interested in growing my business, only.

As for the meeting today, I would have ideally confronted the man and said: “This meeting is not about my looks. This meeting is about my business, and growing it into a profitable enterprise. If you can not move past my looks, then I need to speak with a different mentor.” Instead I chose to redirect the conversation back to my business. Part of the reason I did not confront the man is that the other people in the office had left for the day. It could have been potentially dangerous to make the man angry. Sometimes, you just have to keep going despite offense, play it smart, and report later.

Once safely locked inside my car, I had a chance to reflect on the meeting, my feelings of discomfort, and exactly what happened. I called a friend and vented about it on her voicemail, and then I drove to the church parking lot to pray about what happened.

It is obvious that the man has issues. Everything he said was “wrong” with me, was actually what was wrong with him. For instance, when he said that I came into the office “feeling sorry for myself” that was what he felt, not what I felt. When he said that I had a lot of problems, that was his life, not mine. When he said I needed to know I was beautiful, he was saying he thought I was beautiful. How would a perfect stranger know anything about my feelings or my life? He wouldn’t – it is impossible. He was projecting his life, thoughts and feelings onto me and my life. He was putting me down because he felt bad about himself. And that is his problem, not my problem.

As I drove to the church, I thought about something a friend taught me about releasing my spirit from every person I encounter. She said every time she visits a new place or meets new people, or has a difficult experience, she prays and releases the circumstance to God and removes herself from the experience spiritually. As I prayed, I released the power of the Holy Ghost and sent the negative words which attacked me today back to where they came from. I spent time praising God that He looks on the heart and not on the outward appearance. That God knows the truth about my abilities and talents, and that He doesn’t judge or limit me based on my looks. He sees the hours of time and focus I have spent on my business. He sees every giant I have faced and He has given me the tools I need to kill those giants.

I imagine the small business development center in Savannah will contact me asking for feedback on how my meeting went, and I will tell them the truth about my experience. I do not believe this man should be scheduled to mentor female entrepreneurs, and the office he volunteers for deserves to know about his behavior. The man may be a possible risk for depression and causing harm to himself. I may ask the office if I can be rescheduled to meet with a different business mentor, perhaps a female business mentor.

My experience today has reminded me of several important rules that I want to share with you.

#1. Be selective in whom you allow to speak into your life.

#2. Ask questions about the situation and circumstance of business mentor meetings before walking blindly into a new situation. Protect yourself. Not everyone is out to help you.

#3. Know who you are according to God, no one else’s opinion matters.

#4. BOUNDARIES. Set them and live by them.

#5. Talk about your experiences and confront situations in a safe and professional manner. Do not allow another person to bully you. You have a right to identify your feelings and the power to confront others when they are out of order.

It happens to many women everyday. When it happens to you, what will you do about it? Will you stand against the behavior, or will you let the behavior intimidate you into silence? I will stand against chauvinistic behavior and confront gender bias.

Rachael HartmanRachael Hartman is an experienced writer and author. She has worked as a full-time newspaper reporter, and as a freelance contributor to magazines. She writes high school Sunday school material for Word Aflame Press as well as lessons for Project 7 (P7) student-led Bible Clubs, and blogs for Lady by Design. She enjoys health and exercise, reading, art, and playing with her two dogs Darla and Danny. She owns Our Written Lives of Hope, an online bookstore and publishing house in which she helps others share the message of the hope of Jesus Christ and promotes holistic health. Check out her web site at www.owlofhope.com and link to her on Facebook.

© Rachael Hartman 2014

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6 comments

  1. Pingback: OWL of Hope
  2. WOW!! I am sorry this happened to you! I have had similar situations at the eye doctor no less, when I was trying to get an exam…I was super uncomfortable with that door shut and the lights dimmed!! Talk about skin crawling!! But God is good, He was with me the whole time, like He was with you in your meeting!!

    1. You know, the night before this happened I read several scriptures about how God was with me. I had a strong sense of peace that I was not alone. Even in the meeting when this was happening, though I felt uncomfortable, I still had the sense that God was with me – leading me on how I responded and when it was time to pack up and go. Thank you for your comment.

  3. Wow, I can’t believe he wasn’t more professional. He should have known that acting that way is a huge no-no!

    I am proud of you though. You handled the situation well, and I think you’re doing so well building a career you could have probably taught him a thing or two. 🙂

  4. I’ve also come across that sort of bias in a few situations. I think there is a lot of truth to the notion that people tend to project their own weaknesses on others. I’ve had it happen to me but also have had to remind myself a few times that, just because I was feeling down that day (or week, month, etc.) it didn’t mean I needed to see everything through that lens. I’m sorry you had that experience but glad you have the strength to know what to do about it.

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