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Women In Business Are Not “Lipstick Entrepreneurs”

Women In Business Are Not “Lipstick Entrepreneurs”

“Lipstick entrepreneur.”  “Domestecutive.”  “Femterprise.”  “Fempreneur.”  Oh, how I wish that the Times Online were using any of these cutesy non-phrases in an ironic way – but no, they are sadly earnest in using them to convince their readers that we are entering a “decade for the women.”

There has been a lot of discussion about what the Times Online calls the “mancession” (thankfully, I don’t think that’s actually a phrase) – so named because 78 percent of the jobs lost during the recession belonged to men.  This led to close-to-equal numbers of men and women in the workforce, not necessarily because hiring practices are becoming more equitable, but quite the contrary.  Because of sexism and gender inequalities, women are easily employed at lower wages, so they are desirable during times of economic unrest. 

This memo was apparently not passed on to the Times.  They note that “the past 12 months have seen a significant growth in the number of women starting their own businesses and entering the workforce” – but in the rest of the article, their failure to unpack the reasons behind these new trends is really abysmal.  So I’m going to respond to a few points from the article, in an attempt to see what the new decade really holds in store for women in business.

Apparently, at an Avon-commissioned discussion about “lipstick entrepreneurs” (what a fantastic coincidence, that this new term would refer directly to one of Avon’s products – corporations are so subtle!), there was “breathless talk of female boards and millionaires, of a rise in househusbands and of the end of the pay gap and the glass ceiling.”  An end of the glass ceiling – because of “lipstick entrepreneurs”?  The whole problem with these new names for female executives and businesswomen is that people feel the need to create separate names for women at all.  What proves more acutely that our image of an “executive” (supposedly not a gendered term) is male than the need to create a female-only version, especially something like “domestecutive,” which first of all makes very little sense, since female executives are presumably doing the same work as their male counterparts (there’s yet another problem if they’re not) and reinforces the notion that women’s roles are inherently “domestic.”

The Times then goes on to point out that “this new class of “fempreneur” makes her work fit around her life — by being her own boss, she can choose her own (family-friendly) hours, preferred work/life balance and office location.”  So it doesn’t matter that there is inadequate childcare or job security, or that women are still stuck with the bulk of child-rearing responsibilities and domestic work, because now they can just do it all, from home!  No need to start subsidizing daycare – these “fempreneurs” have figured it out for us.

If possible, it gets worse.  The article then delves into the dangerous world of “feminine” and “masculine” leadership styles, claiming that we’re so jaded by “greedy male bankers” that corporate life is beginning to “value the feminine skills of intuition, communication and caring.”  This reminded me immediately of a NYT  article from last August, discussing whether women make better bosses.  The answer: there are very few jobs where one’s genitalia matters, so why are we talking about leadership styles in terms of gender at all?  “Intuition, communication and caring” are not inherently male or female traits, just as there can be “greedy” female bankers as well.

There is one true statistic: that research by the Women’s Leadership Fund has shown that “companies with a balance of men and women in senior jobs outperform those with men at the helm.”  But we’re not going to approach parity in this arena by using cutesy, inaccurate names to prove that women can enter business too – especially since in the U.S. and Britain, we’re shockingly far from any kind of gender balance.  The little testimonials from female entrepreneurs that close the article are nice, I suppose, but they inevitably say very little about what it’s like to be a woman in business today, while the article speaks volumes.  We’re not going to have a “femterprise revolution” until we stop using words like “domestecutive,” for sure.

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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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38 comments

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1:43PM PST on Feb 27, 2011

Perhaps we will see freedom when we give up judging how we ought to be. If we take the lead and stop judging ourselves and each other, perhaps men may follow.

We live in a society that is inundated with patriarchal values and, sometimes I think we simply accept those values - either in the positive or the negative - instead of creating new ones.

Is there really something wrong with the things women are doing to earn money? Is it possible that the "glass ceiling" protects women from reaching the top of something that has no real sustainable value or support our feelings of self-worth? Is it possible that we have higher aspirations? Is it possible that the expression of women's sexuality through what they wear or their make-up is only a fear-based patriarchal issue rather than something that really needs to change? Do women need to change the way they wish to express themselves? Or do men need to change their perception of women? When Indira Ghandi was told by her parliament that the increase in rapes should result in women being given a curfew, her response was that men may need a curfew.

It seems to me that, if we truly want to give up patriarchal concepts, we have to be suspicious of everything we have ever thought in our lives. As women, we may need to rethink our own view of women.

These are just some of my thoughts... We may need to turn our entire thinking process upside down.

9:43PM PST on Jan 10, 2010

Kudos to You shannon, lol. totally agree with you!

9:06PM PST on Jan 6, 2010

Amen Beba!! Its time for women to step up for themselves. That's the only way its going to change. I just need to figure out how to explain this to all the 21 yr old girls who are still going out to bars in fake hair, full makeup, fake nails, fake tan, in spandex dress UP to here and DOWN to there!!!

12:34PM PST on Jan 5, 2010

Thanks for the info.

8:59PM PST on Jan 4, 2010

Women need to continue to take back their power in business and in their personal lives--until they do their will not be a healing of the planet---it is because it has been male dominated and that women have allowed that--that we are in the mess we are in.

7:39PM PST on Jan 4, 2010

I think the use of this type of cutsey language to describe women in the work force is a type of passive agression.

It has become clear that at least in certain situations women have better motives and therefore make better decisions. A prime example is in the area of microloans. Many NGOs started out giving equal numbers of loans to men and women. However, they soon discovered that the women were a far better investment. They used their loans to start small businesses to support their families and worked with other women. Whereas the men used the money to gamble and drink.

I have worked with many fine men and women as bosses and co-workers some who are still really good friends. However, I have to admit by far the two worst supervisors and worst co-worker were all women. Everyone has different experiences and this does not mean anything in the broader sense.

7:21PM PST on Jan 4, 2010

I believer that men and women are created by God equal so that equal treatmnet and opporutnity shdould be givent to both party. Fairness is the name of the game!

5:55PM PST on Jan 4, 2010

Oops! ... that was supposed to be - Equality

5:52PM PST on Jan 4, 2010

quality under the law does not imply "sameness", it implies
equal opportunity, consideration, recognition, pay, say, etc.

As to the ability of women to lead: Speaking in generalizations and granting that there are, thankfully, many exceptions to what I am about to say; Men are confrontational, Women are cooperative. Men are interested in power questions, Women are interested in nurturing questions. Men are stronger in the physical sense but think with their small head, Women are strong enough physically (we don't have to kill our food with our bare teeth any more) and think with their hearts as well as their brains.

As long as the woman under discussion has not been warped by irrational dogma, ill treatment, or just too damned many
close graphic examples of bad reasoning and behavior, I would be happy for any woman to fill any position of of authority and leadership; very happy to follow if I could choose her. The most remarkable person I ever met (and I have met and dealt with many tens of thousands of people over the years) was a woman. I trusted her opinion and decisions of all others, even my own if we disagreed. Many of the rest of the remarkable people I have know were women. The rest of the remarkable people I have known respected women as much as I do.

If women ran the world, it would not only be different, it
would be incredibly better. They would also have the sense
to choose the Best males to assist them, not those with the
best connections.

5:50PM PST on Jan 4, 2010

The true effect women will eventually have on business, politics and what is generally thought of as the male dominated portions of society will be transformation through incorporation of nurturing instinct. Because women think with both their brain and the Heart, they do see things differently and, I think, better than most, not all, men. When enough women are in enough positions of control, from which they can begin to turn the ship toward a better course, they will move society in a new direction - away from its course of the last 2,000 or so years.

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