The LGBTQ community loves and appreciates the support of our straight allies, whether you’re marching in a parade with us or voting for candidates who promise to protect marriage equality. But there’s one place where we still desperately need your help—and that’s at work.

According to a Human Rights Campaign Foundation report, 46% of LGBTQ workers say they are still closeted at work. You can’t blame them. Many fear reprisals from unsupportive managers, hear homophobic jokes, or feel isolated and excluded, among other soul-crushing issues.

If you really want to be the best ally at work, there are subtle but deeply appreciated things you can do to show your LGBTQ co-workers that they can be their full selves around you—and more importantly, that they are valued. Here are 11 things you can do tomorrow, or right now, per an informal polling of all my favorite LGBTQ friends.

1. First, Don’t Make Assumptions

Even if you think you have the best “gaydar” in the world, you can’t tell anything LGBTQ-ish simply by looking at someone.

“I’ve had to come out at every job I’ve ever had because I look so ‘straight,’” says Nikki Levy, an entertainment executive at a studio and the creator of Don’t Tell My Mother! “I am engaged. I wear a ring. When you want to know things like how we met, ask, ‘How did you meet your partner?’ as opposed to, ‘How did you meet him?’ I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been apologized to because of their assumptions about my non-existent husband.”

In general, don’t assume anything, pleads Liz Glazer, a lesbian comic. It’s a tip from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and it “goes for pronouns, partner status, whatever. Work environments would be friendlier, and frankly, people would be more humble and better to be around, if this was a thing people did more, or less, as the case may be,” Glazer says. As Ruiz wrote, have the courage to ask questions and communicate to avoid misunderstandings.

2. Let Me Come Out When I’m Ready

It’s still very difficult for some LGBTQ folks to come out at work, for a variety of reasons, from serious safety concerns to being peppered with annoying questions by the ill-informed.

“I told one guy at my office about my girlfriend, and he started acting weird,” says Ganee Berkman, a dental hygienist. “He asked if a guy had ever hurt me, and why a girl who looked like me would be gay. That set me back so far and made me super nervous to come out to people.”

Even if a co-worker is out to you, that doesn’t mean they are out to everyone. They may choose not to tell certain folks at work because it makes their lives easier. Once they are out to you, feel free to ask them (privately) if everyone else knows. If not, be extra aware of how you speak to and about them at work, so you don’t out them, even by accident.

3. Go Ahead, Ask About My Partner

Once someone is out, have the same conversations and ask the same questions you’d ask a straight or cisgender person about their personal life. The worst thing you can do is ignore it, like it’s the giant elephant in the room. “I’ve encountered co-workers who know I’m gay, but never ever bring up my personal life,” Berkman says. “I don’t like that. If they’re quiet about it, it makes me feel like I need to hide it.”

Another thing she’s encountered is people lowering their voices when talking to her about gay stuff, as if it’s taboo. “Don’t whisper,” she laughs. “It makes it seem like even talking about gay stuff is bad. Use normal volume.”

4. But Don’t Be Too Nosy

It’s great to have conversations with your fellow LGBTQ co-workers about their lives outside of the office, as long as it’s appropriate for the workplace. “Don’t ask how I [knew] I was gay,” says Chloe Curran, a writer. “It’s weird.”

LGBTQ folks often get bombarded with questions that are overly personal or intimate, like when did we tell our parents, how do we have sex, or which body parts do we still have or not have. Levy, who is getting married in August, has been asked too many times if she and her future wife “are both wearing dresses” to their wedding.

The worst is when co-workers try to play matchmaker. We know you’re excited you know at least two gay people, but that doesn’t mean we will be even slightly attracted or have anything in common. “Oh, hey are you single? What’s your type? I know someone…” Ever Mainard, an actor/comic who has also worked as a production assistant, hears it all the time. “I know it’s well-meaning, but it’s mostly off-putting and insulting.”

5. Sure, Tell Me About Your Other Gay Friends

We might not want to be set up, but we don’t mind knowing you have other gay friends or family members. If you come out as an ally, as soon as humanly possible, we love that. We feel understood, safe, seen. A for effort!

Berkman, for example, didn’t know her favorite office manager had a gay daughter for a year and a half. “She always showed me so much love and understanding, and I finally found out why. I would’ve loved for her to tell me way sooner,” she says.

“I actually think it’s adorable when people find out that I’m gay, then start telling me about their one gay friend or their one encounter with anything gay,” Berkman adds. “It seems cheesy, but I actually appreciate that they’re trying to show support even though they might not have a lot of experience with gay people. Things like that make me feel 10,000 times more comfortable than people who stop talking to me after I come out to them. The ones who get awkwardly super excited and enthusiastic after finding out are the ones who make me the happiest.”

6. Don’t Only Talk About My Sexuality or Gender

Of course, there’s a limit to how much we want to talk about all of this. Being LGBTQ is obviously a huge part of our lives, but it’s not the only thing.

“I have had the privilege of working in a few settings where my sexual orientation felt about as relevant as my hair color—that is, irrelevant,” says Aaron Chapman, a medical director in Alameda County in northern California. “Being gay neither moved me ahead nor held me back. I was neither a victim of discrimination nor a token of progressivism. That was a privilege.”

What we as a community have been fighting so hard for is to have the same rights and be treated as anyone else, adds Eugene Huffman, an artist and paralegal. “Treat them as you would any other person—that they are a person, and LGBTQ is just one facet of who they are, not the entire picture,” Huffman says. “We have enough things that already make us feel different, we don’t need to add to it.”

7. Educate Yourself

“Don’t ask me to be your educator,” says Tre Temperilli, who works on Democratic political campaigns and identifies as gender ambivalent. “We all have to lift. So roll up your sleeves and Google some things. Participate in your own evolution.”

Stay on top of what is going on with the LGBTQ community in the news. Can we be fired for being gay? Can homophobes still refuse to make wedding cakes for us? Which bathrooms are we allowed to go in? Can we serve in the military or not? It’s exhausting being the teacher/expert on all things gay. If you want to be an ally, do a little homework on your own.

Also, “don’t assume that just because someone is gay that they know everything about the LGBTQ community,” adds Aaron Rasmussen, a writer. “It’s large [and] diverse and everyone has their own individual experience and story to tell.”

8. Make an Effort With My Pronouns

Those of us in the LGBTQ community who are transgender and gender fluid deal with a lot of confusion, bias, and misunderstanding on a daily basis. At work, it can be especially stressful. “Being nonbinary is slightly more difficult for people to wrap their heads around because they go, ‘Wait, you’re not a man or a woman?’” explains Samee Junio, who identifies as nonbinary. It’s much less “accepted” than being just “gay” or “lesbian.”

If you find it hard to adjust to a person’s pronouns, the best thing to do is to keep trying. “The excuse I hear most frequently from some is, ‘I’m old, this is all new to me,’” says Temperilli, who goes by he/him and they. “That’s fine, but after the third time I’m like, DUDE!”

Don’t be scared to ask if you’re not sure what pronouns someone uses. Temperilli believes most trans folks don’t mind answering, “but for all that is holy, don’t keep misgendering someone because you find it ‘too hard.’ It can be hurtful and as we know, respect is a two-way street,” they say. “What seems hard for you is likely a trillion times harder for the person you’re not seeing when you misgender trans folks.”

You can take it one step further by helping communicate your co-worker’s pronouns to others. Junio goes by they/them and works with new people constantly on different shows as the head of the tech department at Dynasty Typewriter at the Hayworth, a performance venue in Los Angeles. It often feels like a burden having to repeatedly explain the pronoun situation—so they don’t. “My bosses know and they prep everyone before they meet me,” they say. “There should be more of that in the workplace. I’m fortunate to have an incredible employer and the other employees correct people for me, too.”

9. Stick Up for Me

“If you hear a co-worker misgender a trans person or call them the wrong name outside that person’s presence, call them out, if you know the trans person is out to them and it is safe to do so,” says Charlie Arrowood, who identifies as trans or nonbinary and is the director of Name & Gender Recognition at Transcend Legal. If you hear someone tell a homophobic joke, again, don’t let it slide. Call them out, plus report it to HR. That’s how things change.

10. Show You Care About the LGBTQ Community

There are so many small but significant ways to do this. For example, you could encourage your office to sponsor a float in your local pride parade, or if that’s already in the works, you can show up to march. “At San Francisco Pride many of the workplace marching groups are like 50% straight supporters,” Chapman says. “It is cool to see straight co-workers come out to celebrate.”

Maybe less fun but even more impactful would be to look at your employee insurance policy and, if there is an exclusion for transgender care, “use your cisgender capital and privilege to ask your employer to remove it,” Arrowood says.

11. Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes

“It is critical that employees consciously cultivate an LGBTQ-inclusive workplace,” says Kelly Dermody, employment practice group chairperson at the law firm Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein. You might make some good faith mistakes along the way—that’s OK! “Ask, clarify, apologize, if necessary,” Dermody says, “but keep making the effort to be a place [where] LGBTQ employees and their friends, families, and allies want to work.”

WRITTEN BY DIBS BAER FOR THE MUSE 

Dibs Baer is an entertainment journalist and a New York Times bestselling author/coauthor of six books, including Lady Tigers in the Concrete Jungle: How Softball and Sisterhood Saved Lives in the South Bronx, out now.

Words of Wisdom from SpaceX Founder Elon Musk to get you inspired!

 

“MY MOTIVATION FOR ALL MY COMPANIES HAS BEEN TO BE INVOLVED IN SOMETHING THAT I THOUGHT WOULD HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON THE WORLD.”

WHEN SOMETHING IS IMPORTANT ENOUGH. YOU DO IT EVEN IF THE ODDS ARE NOT IN YOUR FAVOUR.”

THE FIRST STEP IS TO ESTABLISH THAT SOMETHING IS POSSIBLE. THEN PROBABILITY WILL OCCUR.”

IT IS POSSIBLE FOR ORDINARY PEOPLE TO CHOOSE TO BE EXTRAORDINARY”

I THINK THE BEST WAY TO ATTRACT VENTURE CAPITAL IS TO TRY & COME UP WITH A DEMONSTRATION OR WHATEVER PRODUCT SERVICE IT IS & IDEALLY TAKE THAT AS FAR AS YOU CAN. JUST SEE IF YOU CAN SELL THAT TO REAL CUSTOMERS & START GENERATING SOME MOMENTUM. THE FURTHER ALONG YOU CAN GET WITH THAT, THE MORE LIKELY YOU ARE TO GET FUNDING.”

NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU WORK, SOMEONE IS WORKING HARDER.”

Interviewing is a far cry from a walk in the park; with nerves flying all over the place, and the struggle of maintaining the correct body language, it’s difficult to focus on the important part of the interview; the questions. Aside from the most common interview questions, employers ask their candidates more tricky ones to see if there are any inconsistencies.

Although this can be nail-bitingly terrifying, there’s no need to panic; we’ve listed the hardest questions with suggestions on how to tackle them below, to help you prepare for your interview and bag your dream job.

1. ‘If you could change anything in your past, what would that be?’

The trap: How you answer this one will tell the interviewer a lot about your character and attitude. It may also be an indirect way of asking about mistakes, failures, and regrets.

How to answer: You could choose something that you wanted to improve on but never got the chance to, or an educational experience you missed; saying something like ‘The one thing that I would change if I could go back in time, would be attending university. Although being thrown into full-time work at a young age allowed me to develop a great work ethic and vital skills such as teamwork and how to use my initiative. I sometimes regret not living like other teenagers and learning useful skills through an educational course.’

2. ‘If you die, what do you want to be written on your tombstone?’

The trap: Although this question is completely bizarre, it’s used to figure out what a candidate wants their business legacy to be.

3. ‘Everyone has one exaggeration on their job application. What’s yours?’

The trap: The employer is trying to catch out the dishonest candidates. Hopefully, your application is free from any mistruths, and you will sail through this question.

How to answer: You know that you’ve been honest on your CV so make sure this comes across in your answer. You could say that you are confident that your CV accurately represents your experience and work and that ‘they are welcome to reach out to the references provided if you’d like them to vouch for your attributes.’

4. ‘How would you describe yourself in one word?’

The trap: Employers ask this question to figure out what type of person you are, and what your confidence level is, they also try to gauge if you will be a good culture fit.

How to answer: You have to tread carefully when answering this question and make sure you tailor your response to the job description. If you’re going for a role as a designer or art director ‘creative’ would be a good description, for example.

5. ‘How do you define success?’

The trap: This question gives hiring managers an insight into your priorities; they want to see if you’re motivated by paycheques, challenges or learning new skills.

How to answer: It’s important to be specific and give a job-related answer to this question. You could say something like ‘Applying my knowledge and skills on building your portfolio through XYZ marketing campaign and seeing the businesses success grow.’

6. ‘What would you do if you won $5 million tomorrow?’

The trap: The point of this question is to judge your work ethic and see if you would still work if you didn’t need the money.

How to answer: Even if you would want to leave work and jet-set around the world – do not tell your potential employer that! They want to hear that you would continue working because you’re passionate about what you do. Showing that you’d be irresponsible with your money is bound to raise a red flag.

7. ‘Have you ever been asked to compromise your integrity by your supervisor or colleague? Tell us about it.’

The trap: This tough question is designed to evaluate your moral compass by asking how you handled a delicate situation and put your integrity to the test. They also want to see how you handle confidential information.

How to answer: It’s vital that you choose your words carefully when answering this question. Make sure you don’t reveal any sensitive information about your previous employers (if you spill the beans on them, then you’ll be likely to do the same with this company). You could say something like ‘There was an incident where a supervisor had asked me to partake in a project that seemed unethical, I wasn’t happy taking part on something that went against mine and the company’s morals as I was very dedicated to our success.’

8. ‘Tell me about a time you had to deliver some bad news.’

The trap: Hiring managers are looking to see if you have the correct social skills. Dealing with sensitive information like this means you need to be fair and compassionate.

How to answer: The key here is to describe how you will plan and rehearse your delivery. It’s important to show compassion and be tactful when delivering bad news. If you had to fire someone or give them a warning, use this as an example.

9. ‘What would you do if you found out your best friend at work was stealing?’

The trap: The point of this awful question is to test your loyalty to your friend and company.

How to answer: Before you answer, ask what the severity of the theft is. Then explain that if it’s something silly like a pen, you’ll remain loyal to your friend but advise them to return it as it is company property after all. If it’s something more serious, you’ll have no choice but to turn them in as they are putting your job at risk too.

10. ‘How did you make time for this interview? Where does your boss think you are right now?’

The trap: Hiring managers want to know if your priorities are in the right place. They want to see if you’re truthful to your current employer, so they know how you will act with them if you decide to search for a job after they hire you.

How to answer: Never tell them that you’ve taken a ‘sick day’ (even if you have). Be vague with your answer and say something like ‘I am using my personal time for this interview; my boss doesn’t ask for further details. He/she is most interested in my results.’

11. ‘Are you the type of person who checks email during your vacation?’

The trap: This is a tricky one. You want to show that you are dedicated to the job yet, understand the importance of work-life balance and can arrange your time to succeed at work and time where you can switch off and relax, too.

How to answer: You could explain that you’re extremely dedicated to going above and beyond, but understand that it’s important to relax and not work on personal time off. You could say ‘Before I leave for a vacation, I always make sure all my duties are covered before signing off, and I do make sure my supervisor has my personal phone number should an emergency arise.”

12. ‘Will you try to take my job?’

The trap: Your potential employer wants to see how ambitious you are, but whether you are the kind of character to throw someone under the bus to get there too (and let me tell you, nobody likes that kind of colleague).

How to answer: You could say something like ‘Maybe in about twenty years, but by then, I suspect you’ll be running the entire company and will need a good, loyal lieutenant to help you manage this department.’

13. ‘What didn’t you like about your last job?’

The trap: Regardless of how much you hated your last job, this isn’t a counselling session where you can ramble on about all the reasons why you were desperate to move on. This question is designed to highlight your weaknesses and eliminate whiney employees.

How to answer: A perfect answer would be: ‘I did not feel my responsibilities were challenging enough or that there were opportunities for professional advancement’. This just shows your passion and dedication to progress – which is never a bad thing.

14. ‘Tell me one thing you would change about your last job.’

The trap: Similar to the above, this is to see where your strengths lie. If it was something that was in your power to change, it would go against you. Take a minute and think of a wise reply.

How to answer: Don’t overshare or make derogatory comments to your former manager. You must show that you can vocalise your opinion when a problem arises. You could say something like ‘I would change the system we were working on as I believe if it was faster, we would have all been a lot more productive.’

15. ‘Tell me about a time you disagreed with company policy.’

The trap: Employers want to see from past experience how you would behave at their company and whether you would be disruptive.

How to answer: It’s no good saying ‘Nothing.’ as it indicates that you’re a bit of a push-over and won’t stick up for what you believe in. On the other hand, the reason for your disagreement needs to be valid. Use a logical reason to describe why you disagreed with the policy and provide feasible solutions, too. You should also mention the steps you took to address this policy or at least the attempts you made.

16. ‘How do you respond to stress and pressure?’

The trap: Hiring managers ask this question to see if you crumble or thrive under pressure.

How to answer: ‘I don’t generally tend to feel stressed since I follow an organised plan to ensure that my work is delivered on time. That said, if something goes against schedule, I will focus on finding a solution rather than stressing out about it.’

17. ‘Do you have any regrets?’

The trap: Employers might ask this question to see if you’ve had any shortfalls in your life. Tread carefully when answering to ensure that it doesn’t hinder your chances of success.

How to answer: My only professional regret is that I didn’t discover what I truly wanted to do until I was 25 years old. Although I learnt transferable skills in my previous roles, I would have benefited by having more time working in this industry.

18. ‘Why weren’t you promoted during your time at the last company you worked for?’

The trap: Hiring managers want to see how ambitious you are and whether you’d like to develop your career with their company.

How to answer: ‘The company was going through financial struggles during my time there, and I was one of the few that wasn’t made redundant. However, I didn’t feel it was right for me to approach the topic of a promotion when I knew that the company couldn’t afford it.’

19. ‘How many hours a week do you usually work?’

The trap: Some employers ask this question to identify if you manage your hours effectively, while others want to see that you’d be dedicated and put in extra work if needed.

How to answer: ‘I’m committed to my job and would work extra hours to help out the team if needed – that said I praise myself on completing my tasks to a high standard during my regular working hours.’

20. ‘What are a couple of the most courageous actions or unpopular stands that you have ever taken?’

The trap: Employers ask this question to see if you can stick up for yourself or something that you believe in.

How to answer: ‘I overheard someone making a discriminatory remark towards another colleague, so I went over to their desk and asked them to stop and apologise; otherwise I would go directly to HR and report their actions. While it did take courage to stand up to them, it was the right thing to do.’

Source: Career Addict

Q:  What does your role entail?

A: My role entails sourcing of new clients & new business Development. It also entails placement of Technical positions at all levels in SA & Africa Engineering and Manufacturing sectors. 

Q: What made you decide to pursue a career in the HR Industry?

A:  I made this decision because the impact you can have is extremely rewarding. When I find someone their dream job or helping my client hire a great person to grow their business, well I guess I just love working closely with people.

Q: What is your motto?

A: It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.

Q: If you could give candidates one piece of advice what would it be?

A: Preparation for an interview is key be prepared to sell yourself and also be confident in your achievements. 

Q: As an office superhero, what is your greatest strength in the workplace?

A:  I have failed countless times losing deals/offers. I would say I manage to pick myself up, I never ever gave up.

Q:  What does your role entail?

A: I am a Jack of all trades. I am a Recruitment Researcher but I am also the go to person for all things finance.

Q: What made you decide to pursue a career in the HR Industry?

A: I love engaging with others and my role provides me the opportunity to alter someone’s life for the better

Q: What is your motto?

A: If not me, then who?!

Q: If you could give candidates one piece of advice what would it be?

A: Show passion and be authentic

Q: As an office superhero, what is your greatest strength in the workplace?

A: Being highly meticulous. 

Q:  What does your role entail?

A: Managing and leading the Recruitment team, Managing Client Relationships and also doing Executive Headhunting and Recruitment.

Q: What made you decide to pursue a career in the HR Industry?

A: I have a natural flair for building relationships with people and I absolutely enjoy matching candidates with their ideal jobs.

Q: What is your motto?

A: IF YOU FAIL TO PLAN YOU PLAN TO FAIL.

Q: If you could give candidates one piece of advice what would it be?

A: Be factual and ethical throughout the Recruitment process.

Q: As an office superhero, what is your greatest strength in the workplace?

A: I am able to multi task – Work multiple vacancies/manage a team/manage client relationships and I do it with a SMILE on my face.

 

If you’re worried that hybrid workforce and remote work models will ruin your organizational culture, data suggests you’re wrong.

About one-third of newly remote or hybrid employees report their organization’s culture has changed since starting to work remotely — and most of them say it’s a change for the better.

Employees who report that culture has improved since starting to work remotely are 2.4 times more likely to report high employee engagement

This finding — which emerged from a Gartner survey of 5,000 employees on their organization’s culture and their perceptions of recent culture change — will be news to naysayers of hybrid workforce models, who often complain that a lack of regular in-person contact dilutes an organization’s culture.

Attend webinar: The 2021 Gartner Predictions for the Future of Hybrid Work

Gartner finds 76% of newly remote or hybrid-work employees say their organization's culture has improved since they started working remotely.

Satisfaction with the culture is critical to key talent outcomes. Employees who report that culture has improved since starting to work remotely are:

  • 2.4 times more likely to report high employee engagement
  • 2.7 times more likely to report high discretionary effort and intent to stay
  • 3.5 times more likely to report high inclusion than employees who report their organization’s culture has deteriorated.

Notably, senior leaders are even more likely (1.9 times more than individual contributors) to report that their organization’s culture has improved since starting to work remotely.

Source: Gartner.com

Written By: Jackie Wiles

Q. What has 2020 taught you as a professional?

A. 2020 has taught (and forced) many valuable lessons. The most obvious is to NEVER be complacent no matter how well things are going – you just never know what’s around the corner. It’s taught me to plan for a ‘ rainy day ‘, to be grateful for the things that you have, to value your long-standing clients and relationships, and that sometimes, ‘ less is more’.

 


Q. What do you most admire about your team of consultants?

A. Their loyalty, their resilience, their refusal to cut corners or give in & their constant unwavering belief that quality is always more important than quantity. I love the passion they have for the industry that they love so much. 


Q. What is your favourite aspect of the Human Resources & Recruitment Industry?

A. Finding someone their ‘ Dream job’ and changing their lives will always be the best reward within our industry. Exposing candidates to opportunities that they would never have otherwise known about and Companies to candidates that they would never have been introduced to is also truly rewarding.


Q. If you could give one piece of advice to candidates what would it be?

A. My best advice to candidates remains constant – DON’T chase the opportunities that perhaps pay the most. Money does not equal happiness in the working world. Make a small list of the things that you want in your dream job or next career move, and try find a job or career that ticks most of those boxes. When you are happy doing what you want and love, the money usually follows..


Q. As a leader yourself, what attribute do you believe all professionals in leadership roles should possess? 

A. Leading by example is crucial. If times are tough, roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. Steering the ship through good and bad times makes all of the difference. I’ve had to learn this the hard way at times. Another important attribute is to never cut corners. Be honest and do things the correct way, not the quickest way. 

Over the last few years, women have become more entrepreneurial than ever before. The global rate of female entrepreneurship has been increasing faster than that of male counterparts, and American women started an average of 1,817 new businesses per day between 2018 and 2019.

Still, women who own businesses undeniably face unique challenges that men don’t, from having a harder time fundraising to mastering work-life balance. That was the case for Sana Javeri Kadri. After moving from India to the United States, Javeri Kadri noticed that the spice trade system in the U.S. was outdated. In 2017, she responded by founding Diaspora Co., a line of spices made by local farmers in India; she also works closely with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to support the country’s innovations in regenerative and sustainable agriculture.

Despite all her achievements, Javeri Kadri still had a difficult time running and scaling her company. “I have more experience than most of my male counterparts, and yet have to push twice as hard to be considered an expert,” she says. “I’ve lied about my age, my marital status, and my sexuality to gain access to certain tables.”

But just because women face extra challenges as entrepreneurs, it doesn’t mean success is out of reach. Here, four business owners share the hurdles they’ve faced and how they overcame them—and how you can, too.

Challenge #1: Getting People to Take You—and Your Business—Seriously

Between 2014 and 2019, the number of women-owned businesses increased 21% (compared to 9% for all businesses). Yet despite these growing numbers, many female entrepreneurs are faced with skepticism from investors, potential partners, prospective customers, or even their personal network. Lauren Bates, the founder of Wild Terrains—a travel company that plans small group trips for women, with itineraries supporting woman-owned hotels, restaurants, and other businesses—has experienced this first-hand. “When I tell most men what I do, they don’t get it,” she says. “They don’t see why there would be a need for it.”

The Solution

Establishing a strong digital presence is key. For Bates, her Squarespace website is responsible for about 95% of her bookings. And it ended up serving a bigger purpose when the pandemic hit and travel came to a halt. She added a section for virtual gatherings, working with her partners in Mexico City and Portugal to offer classes in cooking, photography, embroidery, and more.

“I think there were a lot of women who were really going through a lot of hard stuff and being able to take an hour and have a cooking class for $10 was a really nice escape for them at the moment,” Bates says.

screenshot of Wild Terrains website
Wild Terrains’ website, which founder Lauren Bates built on Squarespace.

Courtesy of Wild Terrains

Creating a website was the first thing that Kellie Wagner did when launching Collective, a consulting firm that offers diversity, equity, and inclusion training. “I’d built a few Squarespace sites for friends and other entrepreneurs, and I loved doing it, so it was a no-brainer for me as a place to start,” she says. “Having a clear and beautiful web presence immediately created a sense of credibility, but also allowed people to connect on a more emotional, personal level with Collective.”

Gabriel Blitz Rosen also turned to Squarespace when she founded Townhouse Digital, an editorial and social media content studio. “I felt like a website was so important, but I didn’t have the money back then to hire someone,” she says. “Squarespace had easy-to-use templates, and just made it so simple to create a website by myself. It had a polished editorial feel, and it showed potential clients what we can do through content.”

Pull quote: "Having a dialed-in website and an Instagram community are the reasons we're still here and growing."

And instead of relying on conventional ways to sell her product, Javeri Kadri created an easy-to-use website and focused on Diaspora Co.’s Instagram page, which currently has more than 50,000 followers. “Having a dialed-in website and an Instagram community are the reasons we’re still here and growing,” she says.

Challenge #2: Feeling the Need to Be Perfect

Women are more likely to exhibit perfectionist traits than men, so it makes sense that many female entrepreneurs apply that thinking to their businesses. But while it’s important to proofread your website and make sure the numbers add up on your profit and loss statement, Bates believes striving for total perfection can stifle productivity.

The Solution

Instead of waiting for every single piece of your business to fall into place just so, Bates encourages female entrepreneurs to prioritize progress over perfection. “You need to put something out into the universe, get feedback, and keep moving with it,” she says. “Wild Terrains looks really different now from when I first launched it. Half of the battle is committing to something and just doing it.”

Challenge #3: Being Labeled as Too Emotional

A common stereotype about women is that they are too emotional—and this preconception often follows female entrepreneurs into board rooms. The label can play out differently depending on the situation. Male investors, for example, may perceive women as not steady enough to lead a business to success. And male employees may prefer a female boss to lead in a tough, no-nonsense style (in other words, like a stereotypical man).

screenshot of Diaspora Co. website
Diaspora Co.’s website.

Courtesy of Diaspora Co.

“Vulnerability, transparency, compassion, and accountability are my pillars of good leadership, and all four are traits often brushed aside as ‘soft’ or ‘weak’ by the male-dominated business world,” says Javeri Kadri.

The Solution

Rather than stifle or hide your emotions, embrace them. That’s exactly what Javeri Kadri has done—and it’s worked. “My emotional, vulnerable leadership allows me to form community and relationships with customers and vendors—and in the long term, that’s as powerful as it is profitable,” she says.

Pull quote: "If that's 'emotional' or seen as being too feminine, I'm okay with that because it's the exact emotion that gets the best out of my team."

Wagner has used the same approach at Collective, which has laid the groundwork for a positive, trusting company culture. “I regularly hear feedback that my vulnerability allows my team to feel like they can be human, too,” she says. “It makes them show up in a different way because they know I care about each of them as full people, not just worker bees I pay to show up. If that’s ‘emotional’ or seen as being too feminine, I’m okay with that, because it’s the exact emotion that gets the best out of my team.”

Challenge #4: Finding the Right Investors

Raising funds is an exciting but intimidating process for most small businesses. And it can be especially daunting for women since the majority of venture capital firms are run by men. “It has definitely not been easy,” says Wagner of her experience trying to fundraise. “Not only am I female, but I’m a Black woman without any fancy Ivy League degree or impressive accolades to lean on. I don’t think that a lot of people are willing to take chances on people like me.”

screenshot of Collective's website
Collective’s website, which founder Kellie Wagner built on Squarespace.

Courtesy of Collective

She continues, “I think that one of the biggest challenges in the startup space especially when it comes to getting investors is that the industry relies on pattern-matching to deem investments risky or safe. Because men, especially white men, have had more chances to prove themselves and therefore more chances to succeed, they seem less risky of an investment, even though I’d argue that investing in Black women, many of whom have had to be more resilient and more resourceful than your typical entrepreneur, is actually a pretty solid bet.”

The Solution

When it’s harder to find investors willing to take a chance on you, it can be tempting to jump at the first offer. However, it’s important to make sure they believe in you and your vision for the business. Because if they don’t, you may end up in a situation where “there are expectations about how fast you need to grow, and having to make compromises on quality or brand values along the way to get there,” Bates says.

Pull quote: "You could also focus on finding female-run VC partners—especially since studies have shown that they invest in two times more female founding teams at the early stages than male-run VCs."

You could also focus on finding female-run VC partners—especially since studies have shown that they invest in two times more female founding teams at the early stages than male-run VCs.

And there’s always the chance that your patience in getting investors will pay off in another way: You might realize you don’t even need the capital. Wagner and her team have grown Collective’s revenue 10 times since its first year—without any outside investment. “Not only are we profitable, but I continue to own the entire company as the sole founder,” she says.

Challenge #5: Valuing Your Work Correctly

Women have historically been paid less than men; according to the 2018 Census, they earned 82 cents for every $1 earned by men of all races (a gap that grows even more for women of color). And when you’re so used to being undervalued, you may not even realize that you’re undervaluing yourself—which is what happened to Blitz Rosen.

screenshot of Townhouse Digital's website
Townhouse Digital’s website, which founder Gabrielle Blitz Rosen built on Squarespace.

Courtesy of Townhouse Digital

“When I first started Townhouse, I bent on certain prices because I had imposter syndrome. I didn’t think I should actually charge high prices,” Blitz Rosen says. “As we grew, I had a friend who I was working with say, ‘Are you insane? You should be charging double.’ And when COVID-19 hit, I had several male clients ask me to knock the prices in half because they were two or three months late in paying me. I felt like they just expected me to buckle.”

The Solution

The key is learning not to shortchange yourself, and to value yourself appropriately. Research the market, and figure out what other companies are charging for a similar service or product. You could also join a networking group for business-owning women, which can provide a wealth of knowledge. For example, Blitz Rosen—who has two young children—has found a lot of support through Hey Mama, a community for working moms. “I can go to this network and ask any question I have,” she says. (Bonus: She also finds clients through it.)

At the end of the day, you just have to remember that you are worth every penny that a male counterpart is worth. And getting paid the rates you deserve could be the difference between your company succeeding or not.

SOURCE: THE MUSE

WRITTEN BY: Kelsey Mulvey for The Muse

Kelsey Mulvey