This topic has been on my mind for a long time. The businesswomen I like and trust already know how I feel because I’ve talked to them about it.
And I have to warn you: I’m going to step on some toes.
It’s not as though I want to or enjoy doing it. But something has to be said because honestly, I’m tired of seeing women undermine themselves.
Throughout my professional career, I’ve belonged to women-only networking groups. I have enjoyed building professional relationships with women and helping them when I can. I have spent hours on the phone mentoring some women without charging a fee.
I know how tough it can be out there when you’re trying to build your own business or simply advance your own career within your industry. I also understand the “Boy’s Club” mentality and the problem with sexism in the workplace.
That said, in 2017, I experienced six different experiences with women business owners that caused great frustration and disappointment because I know women can do better.
Here is a summary of those experiences and then my suggestions for how we can all improve:
Experience 1: A colleague referred me to a woman who worked at a SaaS company. The woman and I exchanged emails and set up a time to call and learn more about each other. The first scheduled chat was canceled by the woman. We chose another date. She didn’t show. Later she apologized and said she was sick and didn’t check her messages until later that day. It seemed I had to chase her for a connection in which she originally had shown interest. When I finally confronted her about how much of a priority my service was for her, she confessed there really wasn’t a need.
Experience 2: I was referred to another woman who owns a marketing agency. After going back and forth regarding quotes, she admitted she only wanted to pay rock-bottom fees for projects that went for at least 300% higher (on average) in the marketplace than the amount she wanted to pay.
Experience 3: I met another woman at a networking event for women involved in digital marketing. She said we should get together for coffee and because she didn’t carry a business card, I told her I’d follow up with her on LinkedIn. She responded to my first message on LinkedIn but said she was transitioning to another role but could I follow up with her later in the month? I said I would (and did). In fact, I followed up several times. She never responded to any of my messages.
I originally wanted an introduction to someone in order to write a guest post on their website. Instead, I ended up locating the contact and introduced myself. I did get the guest post opportunity but it wasn’t through her introduction.
Experience 4: I was referred to another businesswoman from a woman business owner colleague. The referred company was interested in my copywriting services. Since they were local, we scheduled a meeting. I asked for an agenda but never received one. Finally, I postponed the meeting until we had an agreed-upon firm agenda. The referred prospect only responded to my email that it was good to cancel. My colleague followed up by letting me know they had gone into another direction for their project (at least my colleague followed up).
Experience 5: I create social media graphics. One was for a woman, another for a man. The woman asked if I’d do it for free and she’d send me referrals. The man insisted on paying me over twice the amount I quoted because “I know the value of this and your work is worth this amount.”
Experience 6: A colleague asked for a quote and I referred her to my pricing tier page for website copy. I followed up with her several times but never received a response.
Do men also refuse to respond to emails, pay the least amount for a project, or not show up on scheduled calls? Of course, they do (I had several do just that in 2017). However, from my experience, more women act like this than men.
So if what I say is true, and if you’re a professional woman reading this and realize that you’ve been guilty a few times of this behavior, what are the alternatives?
Here are 3 ways we can all improve:
#1 – Lead With Radical Generosity
This was the biggest eye-opener for me in 2017. Men are often much more generous with their money than women. The man who insisted that he pay me more than what I was asking was one example of this.
I’ve met a few generous professional women, but not many. I remember years ago helping an author by volunteering for her “back of the room” sales after she gave a presentation. I handled the transactions for her books and tapes. At the end, I received a “thank you” but nothing more. She could have given me a copy of her book as a way to express her gratitude but didn’t.
Meanwhile, there have been many times when I’ve received extra “bonuses” from professional men. I’ve always been touched by their kindness and generosity and expressed my gratitude. In fact, in 2017, I was “gifted” with attending several conferences, all by men. In other words, it was because of their generosity that I attended these conferences without paying the registration fee.
Women are notorious for being bargain-hunters. But when they bring this approach into their professional relationships, it can often backfire.
When a woman is stingy, it sends a message that she is operating from a scarcity mindset, which sends another message that she doesn’t understand investment, value, and quality.
What is ironic about this type of behavior is that it shows a lack of understanding the law of reciprocity. This doesn’t just address a situation where someone gives you something and you feel obligated to return the favor.
Instead, it has to do with the message you’re sending the universe. If you are stingy but then expect others to pay you well for your own services or product, guess what? You’ve essentially prevented that from happening.
Professional women cannot continue to refuse to pay market value prices while expecting others to pay full market value for their service/product.
Here’s a story to illustrate this: Years ago, Fabienne Frederickson, a business coach for women, admitted that she used to back out of affiliate links when they led to a product page. She’d search for the URL without the affiliate link attached and make the purchase because she didn’t want the other person to get credit.
One day, she realized that she was being ungenerous. She started to follow affiliate links for products and services and used that link. Within a very short amount of time, her sales increased. She had figured out the law of reciprocity.
You get back in return what you give – and usually more. If you constantly try to shortchange people or hold back on any acts of generosity, then don’t be surprised when your business doesn’t grow.
#2 Lead With Relentless Response
Here’s a fact: everyone is busy. Everyone.
So when you receive an email from someone and it would take you a minute to respond, do you?
Or do you put aside any email responses and then forget about them?
If you’re a professional woman, it doesn’t take that much effort to differentiate yourself from everyone else. Most businessmen and businesswomen don’t follow up or follow through.
Sales professionals realize they need to contact a prospect at least seven times before receiving a response. Others often quit after reaching out two or three times. Success is an equation of consistent action multiplied over time.
It is very easy to overlook the importance of follow up and follow through. Most do. But very often, more men demonstrate stamina for these types of tasks than women. Again, I’m not saying all men follow through and follow up relentlessly and not all women fail to do so. But over the past thirty years, I’ve seen more men show determination in this area than women.
When you follow up and follow through relentlessly, it demonstrates several things: 1) Your word can be trusted 2) You respect that the other person is busy and realize it will take time to connect and 3) You pay attention to details.
When you follow up and follow through, people learn fast they can depend on you. If they need an answer to a question, you’re on it. If they run into any type of problem and need your help, you respond quickly.
Those who consistently respond are memorable. It also is a great way to demonstrate to other professionals that you’re determined to create success – both for yourself and them. Commitment is the key to accomplishing any goal and in today’s economy; we’re all playing the long game.
#3 Lead With Inspired Integrity
My father emphasized a certain phrase to my brother and me when we were young.
“Do the right thing.”
It meant making the right choice, even when it was difficult to do so. It meant sticking to our original promise to someone, even if a better opportunity came along.
When I was a young girl, I remembered how often my girlfriends would bail on a social engagement we had planned. At the last minute, they received a call from a boy they were interested in and decided to go out with him (although they actually did have other plans).
These same young women would then be surprised when – long after the boy was gone – their former girlfriends didn’t have time for them.
We’ve all been there. Women often choose to be with a prospective romantic partner over her loyal friends. But do it too often and you pay a price. After a long string of broken commitments, no one wants to include you in any future plans.
I’ve watched this particular habit creep into the workplace and it hurts professional women. When a professional woman can’t be counted on to make good on her commitment, it sours a potentially beneficial professional relationship fast.
If women desire to succeed as business owners, they especially have to get this one right. I’ve heard some men say they don’t want to do business with a woman. Sexist? Yes. But when asked about the particulars, this reason came up again and again.
“Women too often ‘flake out’ on me.”
Or, “They don’t show up.” And by ‘showing up,’ they mean being fully present and engaged (not trying to multi-task or half-listening to a presentation while hammering out texts to her kid on her mobile phone).
Focus will always take effort. Some days, it takes more effort than others. But focusing fully on the individual you’re talking to and keeping your commitments will put you head and shoulders above most of your competition.
I’d say the 80/20 Rule applies in these scenarios. About 80% of prospects and clients will cancel last minute on meetings and phone calls. Some won’t even show up. And a few will offer half-hearted excuses as to why they couldn’t keep their commitment.
It doesn’t mean you should do the same. In fact, you have an excellent opportunity to stand out simply by showing up when and where you said you would. Believe me, reputations are built upon this and word will quickly get around that you’re the type people can depend upon.
Woman, Power UP
I’ve spent a great deal of my life coaching and mentoring women. Much of it has been within churches and ministries. I’ve served in roles such as small group leadership, women’s ministry leadership, a board of trustees’ member, and an ordained pastor.
I have belonged to many professional groups and currently am a member of several online communities for women business owners. However, I see women making the same mistakes I’ve mentioned above. It ultimately hurts a woman’s credibility.
I want to see women SOAR in 2018.
I want to see it go from “women power” to “Women, Power UP!” Power doesn’t mean much unless there is consistent proof backing it up.
It’s not enough for women to say, “Sexism exists and in order to change things, I must be given more influence and authority because I’m a woman.”
Instead, a woman has to put “the pedal to the metal” and go all out to prove to the business world that… well… that she means business.
I believe we have not yet seen the full potential of women business owners. We’re getting there but we still have a long way to go.
It’s not enough to build our own platforms.
We have to be willing to do what is needed to own those platforms – to let everyone know that not only are we brilliant at what we know how to do, but that we do it with generosity, humility, grace, and wisdom.
I always want to improve my game, no matter what I’m doing. I realize I also need to straighten up and fly right when it comes to being trustworthy. My expertise won’t mean much if I appear undependable, stingy, or lacking integrity.
But that’s the great thing about a new year. It’s the opportunity for second chances. For growth. For victory. And ultimately, for mastery. May it become your best year ever.