Thoughts on International Women's Day From a Woman Founder
I don’t talk publicly about what it’s like being a female co-founder of a tech company very often. I’m torn about it. Sometimes I wish no one would notice and other times I want the world to know. Today, being International Women’s Day, and to show support for #daywithoutawoman, I thought I’d share a bit of my experience.
In the past, when asked about what struggles I feel as a woman business owner, my answer usually is that I feel the same struggles that any business owner feels - the pressure to succeed, the fight to be seen and heard, and the weight of the responsibility to your business partners and employees. I sometimes dismiss the subtle differences I feel because they are in fact subtle.
Sometimes I feel that people have an easier time talking over me in meetings, sometimes people are surprised that I’m one of the founders, sometimes I feel that I need to scream to be heard, sometimes I hear things that are sexist and I have to think about whether or not I should say something. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman and I worry that if I say something I’ll be seen as a complainer or feed into the stereotype of women being overly sensitive.
About a year and a half ago, I really started to think about it in a deeper way. I was quickly edging my way into my mid 30s, the company was just into it’s second year, and my partner and I found out that we were having a baby. Immediate feelings of excitement turned into worry - How will this affect the company? Will the other co-founders be resentful? How much time should I take off? Where will I find the time for a family and a business? If I don’t drop work and devote my entire self to my child, am I a bad Mom?
I’m one of the lucky ones, though. My business partners are people I’m friends with. They are supportive, encouraging, and we share a lot of the same views. I talked to them about my worries, we shared our excitement and the potential struggles, and we came up with a plan that worked for everyone. I felt good and I thought that would be the end of my stress about it. It wasn’t.
I was still burdened with the feeling that I was letting them down, that I should be doing more, that others would judge me for not dropping everything to focus on being a Mom, and that being a business owner automatically means I have to miss out on spending time with my daughter. I want to meet all the unspoken expectations that are put on men in the workplace because I want to be held to the same standard, but I also want to meet the expectations that are put on mothers because I want to be the best Mom I can be.
Even though I considered myself to be in a best-case scenario, I still felt an immense amount of pressure to make everyone happy.
My daughter and I.
My daughter is now a year old and I’m still feeling the same struggles, but I try to act in a way that might influence change:
I make my opinions known, regardless of how loud I have to be and how uncomfortable it can sometimes make me feel.
I seek out other women to work with which can be hard because there is an obvious gender imbalance.
I bring my kid to work so she can see what I do and so my co-workers, who I spend a great deal of time with, can also build a relationship with her.
I talk openly about my partner being my daughter’s primary caregiver, about the work sacrifice he made to stay home with her, and about the judgement that he sometimes feels.
I have it easier than a lot and I still feel torn. I can’t help but think, especially on a day like today, about what women in less than ideal situations have to go through when trying to balance work and family. So, to all of the working Moms out there - I am grateful for you. Your choices are making it easier for all women that follow. It’s a hard path, and it shouldn’t be. Normalizing our presence, especially in the tech industry, is important. You are helping things change for the better.
- by Rachael Hosein