When I launched Create + Cultivate, now an online community and conference for women entrepreneurs, in 2012, women would email saying, “Hey, so I have this Etsy shop. It’s doing really well, but I wouldn’t consider myself an entrepreneur.” Or, “I have a full-time job and I’m working on this thing on the side, but I don’t think I’m necessarily an entrepreneur. Is this conference for me?” That happened over and over again.
We’d respond with, “Hey, you’re running a company, whether big or small, that makes you an entrepreneur.” Women have a really difficult time self-identifying as entrepreneurs, even when they’re running companies. They have a hard time owning that power.
At the end of the day, women contribute so much to the economy. More and more women are starting companies with less and less money, which is incredible. We have to stop thinking, “Unless I’m like beating the odds by a hundred million dollars, I’m not a success.” We should be thinking: “I’m an entrepreneur. I’m taking risks and building a business, growing teams and giving back to the economy.”
I was really lucky growing up because both of my parents were entrepreneurs — so I could envision myself as an entrepreneur. Seeing my mom in a leadership role meant that I neverever thought that it was a weird or uncommon phenomenon for a woman to start and run a business. I assumed that was status quo. But when you enter the working world as a woman, it’s just not the case. So many messages tell you it’s not possible. Even our online search engine results limit the ways we can see ourselves.
If you do an image search for the term “top CEOs,” or “famous investors,” for example, you don’t see any women. That’s not OK. If girls and women don’t see themselves represented in these roles, it’s harder to imagine themselves in them. That’s why S.H.E., a new Chrome Extension launched by Pantene, which expands and diversifies search results to include more women in leadership roles, is a vital first step in expanding how women see themselves.
It’s really about changing the way we think and creating content for women that looks, feels and accurately represents them online. Repetition is key: It takes seven times to see something to begin associating it with a new idea. If people start searching things like, “famous entrepreneur,” and seeing more women, it will start changing the narrative and helping more women see themselves as CEOs.