The myth that women entrepreneurs need to combat is that traditionally feminine traits are a detriment. Many women mistakenly feel they need to adopt “traditionally masculine traits”, such as aggressiveness, competitiveness, and independent work ethic, to be considered competent. We often feel we have a lot of prove, just by virtue of sitting “at the boys table”. We feel compelled to present ourselves as devoid of any of our feminine characteristics; we might feel the need to compensate by overstressing certain behaviours, like interrupting or cutting others off. Often we forgo our normal responses and swap them for a “more masculine” response, thinking it will appear more credible.
However, it’s important to note that something inherent is lost when we mask the unique skills we bring: the traditionally feminine traits. Traditionally feminine characteristics such as collaboration, receptivity, patience, and showing vulnerability. While these qualities aren’t openly welcomed, they have a lot of value in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship is about the relationships you build; investors, partners, the people around you are more interested in the person sitting in front of them. Practice becoming more comfortable in your authentic nature and your natural responses to situations instead of pushing them aside for their “masculine” counterpart — and make that narrative your brand. The most compelling thing an entrepreneur and a leader brings to the table is their own personal brand.
Adopting forced characteristics that don’t truly belong to you will dilute your message and eventually drain you. There is a great value to the inherent skills and capacities in the gender differences, and in incorporating both ends of the spectrum as the situation requires. Effective leadership is successful when you are true to your own self. Whatever table you are sitting at, never feel the need to negotiate your identity.
About Israa Nasir: Israa Nasir, a psychotherapist and the co-founder of the Ammi Service, is an advocate for equal opportunities for women in all spheres of society. She has worked extensively with marginalized communities in helping them restore balance in their lives. Israa’s training began at the University of Toronto and continued at The Derner Institute of Psychological Studies in New York. She is currently based in Lahore and is the healthcare lead for Ammi Service, working to improve maternal health and women’s access to education in Pakistan. Her life and work reflect her belief in harnessing the power of change.
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