Are you a feminist entrepreneur? Yes, if you care about these things.
When you want to think beyond what you are selling, to why you are selling it, how you are selling it, and what difference it could make to the world, then it is important to get clear on four additional aspects of the business: its purpose, its structure, its processes, and its values. Feminist entrepreneurs know that their mission needs to be invested in all of these pieces of their enterprise when they are setting out.
First, they will think carefully about what their business does and whether or not it promotes, or impinges on, gender and social equality. For example, a feminist entrepreneur won’t have a business that degrades or de-values women, that exploits them, or otherwise works against the achievement of gender equality. They are not just looking at the world that exists now and using it to their advance; they are consciously deciding what they want the world to look like in the future, and ensuring their business contributes to that goal.
A feminist entrepreneur knows that structures are important, and that a businesses structure speaks volumes about its true nature. Therefore, a feminist entrepreneur does not follow the dictates of conventional (patriarchal) business structures, understanding that both business structures and practices have been dominated by a certain type of man for a very long time, and that just because something has been done for a long time doesn’t make it right. Indeed, how business has been structured has, so far, hindered social equality. A feminist entrepreneur builds the embodiment of their vision, not on the structures that have gone before, but with new structures that would make a better future.
In practice this can mean having less hierarchy, and reversing the trend where white men dominate the board room by ensuring women, and people of colour, take these top jobs instead. It’s also about valuing the role of everyone in the organisation; guaranteeing equal pay, facilitating open consultation, and ensuring that the structure supports the safety of everyone in the organisation.
The processes of a business are the sinews that hold everything together, they speak volumes about what type of organisation it is that you are running. In setting up business processes, a feminist entrepreneur is thinking about how they can practically demonstrate the organisation’s commitment to embody equality and respect.
Fair labour practices and staff welfare are something to be embraced and built on rather than begrudged. Policies such as equal maternity, paternity and parental leave and pay are essential to ensure that the organisation does what it can to enable more equitable childcare for its employees. More novel practices such as period days, which acknowledge women’s needs, help to create a flexible business that works around its people, rather than forcing them to fit into a traditional rigid shape.
It is the values of an organisation that speak volumes about what it stands for. The values breathe life into an enterprise and are played out in the unwritten culture in subtle, and not so subtle, ways.
Feminist values, and fostering a feminist culture, is about creating an environment that is safe, trusting and holistic. It is a place where emotion is encouraged rather than discouraged.
Rather than getting things done through a command and control style, feminist leadership will promote and enhance trust in the organisation. Leaders must set an example, role model respect, and not use their senior position to act with impunity, but foster the organisation as a place for unlocking each employees’ purpose towards a broader organisational purpose.
Creating a business is more than just creating something you can sell, and it is all the more exciting because this is so. Any entrepreneur is in a powerful position to be able to re-define conventional organisational wisdom; to do things differently. A feminist entrepreneur has even more clarity about what is right, how to align their business decisions with their values, and how to change businesses overall for the better.
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Marianne is an entrepreneur, business and leadership specialist. She is on a mission to de-legitimise the structures and values of traditional business, helping the world to see that a new way is possible. Marianne set up her first company Justice Studio in 2011.