By Gigi Stetler, Special for USDR
At the recent Women’s Entrepreneur Network Summit, Dell announced the results of its first-ever Global Women Entrepreneur Leaders Scorecard, and the figures are discouraging. It turns out, gender-based differences “stifle the growth of women-owned businesses” across all 31 countries measured. And while the U.S. tops the list as the best place for women entrepreneurs, it only scored a 71 percent. On a school exam, that’s a ‘C.’ That means, there’s still a lot of room for improvement, and the struggles women face in entrepreneurship aren’t disappearing anytime soon.
I should know. As a female CEO in the male-dominated industry of RV Sales, I have had to crawl my way to success as men worked to keep me out. In fact, at my first meeting, I was told to “go home and bake cookies.” But that was something that was not an option, I paid someone else to bake the cookies while I hustled my way to the top of the industry.
I find it interesting that even in today’s times, when women are running for President, females still don’t get the respect in the board room or on the pay scale. I see that imbalance every day while working in a business that is traditionally controlled by men. I have hands on in every department of my company—from service, to sales and everything in between.
When male customers come into my dealership, asking for service estimates and advice, I crawl right under their coach, uncover the problem, and determine a solution—even if I happen to be wearing a pair of stilettos. Once we discuss the cost for repairs, 99% of the time, the male customer often says, “so I guess this is your husband’s business. Can I speak with him?” But now, I don’t take it personally. It just amazes me that according to some people, even though a woman can run for president, she still can’t own a company.
I have always greeted life as a warrior, and not a victim, because playing the “Victim Card” will only slow you down. Therefore, instead of taking offense to gender stereotypes, I try to laugh it off. I’ve discovered that the more I laugh at the sexist comments, the stupider people feel, and I end up charging the right amount (or sometimes more). So this ‘warrior’ mentality ends up lining my pockets, giving the phrase ‘laughing all the way to the bank’ a whole new meaning.
It’s important to note that I don’t think sexist behavior is acceptable, but it can teach you to keep your eye on the big picture, and don’t sweat the small stuff. I always keep my game face on, and remind myself: it’s nothing personal, it’s just business.
I know my road to success has not been easy, and if I were a man, I’m sure the obstacles I’ve faced would have never been there in the first place. But those obstacles have ignited my entrepreneurial spirit, a hunger for more business endeavors and more financial success.
My parting piece off advice: always fight for what is right, but only fight the battles that you can win, or are worth winning. As women, we may have to work twice as hard for half as much, but don’t let that put out your fire. Position yourself in the driver’ seat, and everyone else will be getting half as much as you are when you become unstoppable.