I belong to this awesome Facebook group, Pittsburgh Startups and Entrepreneurs (yep, they let this San Francisco transplant in. Love you, Pittsburgh). Lindsay posted a thought provoking article on women in power positions and depression. The hypothesis of the article is that society views women as unconfident when they are in strong leadership roles. This leads to fewer women who are willing to take positions where they have hire/firing responsibilities. Towards the end of the article, the author wondered if the lack of social support for powerful women is discouraging them from creating startups.
I made the following comment on the post and was challenged to expand my reasoning (thanks for encouraging me, Dave!).
This blog is me accepting that challenge. Let me recap my working experience over the last 7 years. I've been a little of everything:
- Project Manager
- Business Development
- Partner Relations
- Product Manager
- Tech Support
- Customer Service
- Even, Developer!
I've worked for one small business, a non-profit open source project and four startups stretched across Pittsburgh and San Francisco. Unsurprisingly, all of these jobs have had their good times and hard times. The leaders that I respected were my colleagues that rose to the challenge when team morale was at its lowest. I began to see the pattern that it was women who were the best at rallying the team, making quick, critical decisions and were willing to see the tough times through. Under their leadership, teams were completely turned around, when months before, the writing was on the wall.
Emotional intelligence has four parts: self-awareness, managing our emotions, empathy, and social skill. Studies have shown that women tend to have a higher EI. Leaders who excel in emotional empathy make good counselors, strategists, and leaders because of their ability to read at that moment what their team is thinking. Not shocking -- startups are incredibly emotional trying situations. Anyone can start one but it takes someone with high EI to motivate a team when times are tough - out of money, out of time and out of ideas. On top of that, EI is absolutely needed when trying to solve the pain point for the startups's users, especially if the founders are not in the targeted user demographic.
Now that I'm in San Francisco, I'm surrounded by entrepreneurs starting companies because starting a company is sexy. I worked in a co-working space at one point and every 3 months, companies would either graduate to their own offices or flunk out (on demand perfume, really?!!). SF is in a hiring frenzy because everyone has an idea for a business but not many are motivated and able to see a startup to stability.
If you are a smart, hard-working woman with an idea you are incredibly passionate about, go out there and create that startup. If not, please find that struggling startup that needs your EI, experience and passion to turn their future around. It will lead to bigger, better, and more socially relevant startups.
Fixing a company is far more heroic than starting one.
Authors' note: There are always exceptions to the rules. I'm writing from my experience and have met plenty of men with high EI. I welcome comments with your thoughts.