Thursday, November 5, 2009

Because I'm Worth It

I know a lot of superwomen. We pride ourselves on shouldering the challenges of career, family, charity, and friends with nary a hair out of place. Complaining about this is really a form of bragging. Secretly we don't want to change anything because being needed makes us feel secure.

Superwomen are notoriously awful at voicing needs, setting boundaries, and saying no. This may make us beloved (and thus relationally “safe”) but it puts us at serious disadvantage in other ways.

Amanda Steinberg at Daily Worth recently asked me to comment on the news that only 4% of venture capital is directed to companies with female chief executives. Is this because women entrepreneurs tend to prefer a different type of business than the kind favored by VC firms, or could the reason be more insidious?

Sure, there probably is a component of gender bias in the VC system, but my hunch is that the superwoman complex is also present. Women run small businesses in record numbers (where they will take on monumental work loads and start up costs, not to mention considerable debt) but competing for capital is another story.

Being financially powerful women, whether that means raising capital or saving for our own retirement, requires that we confront unconscious paradoxes that hold us back. Too many of us believe that we are only loveable (or attractive) when we are non-threatening givers, focused more on the needs of others than ourselves.

What kind of ROI can be expected from a belief system like that? Apparently not the kind that attracts VC money.