Confidently striding into Global Headquarters in Mountain View, CA, sporting my favorite skirt suit, I couldn't help but notice the multi-colored bicycles, plentiful basketball courts, and inviting lounge chairs in the sand surrounding the entrance. I felt warmly welcomed into the world of Google- there was a sense of belonging- as I prepared to assist the tech giant by drafting a defensive patent publication. I was a 2nd year law student at Santa Clara University and an intern at the Entrepreneurs Law Clinic at the time. The harsh realities of "grabbing 'em by the pussy," marching for social justice, and Google Manifestos were far off nightmares lingering in the distance. Fast-forward to 2017, and everything has changed.
With so much tension swirling in Silicon Valley and beyond, Parazim believes it is time for a prosperous pivot. In order to make progressive gains, smart businesswomen and female entrepreneurs do not dwell on haters, rely on the willfully blind, or depend upon litigation where the legal terrain is largely made up of laws written by the privileged, for the privileged, and interpreted by the privileged. Instead, leading women take action to raise awareness of longstanding societal stereotypes and implicit biases, engage in bold public speaking, leverage capitalism, and elevate strong women. At Parazim, we like to refer to it as the entrepreneurial "art of pivoting."
FOCUSING ON PROBLEMS:
What Smart Businesswomen Should Never Do
Before discussing how smart businesswomen rise up in the aftermath of the Google Manifesto, it is useful to first take note of what is not helpful to advancement of the entrepreneurial-minded woman.
1. Dwelling on Haters
Just as it is important not to grant sought after attention to a purposefully unruly child, smart businesswomen should not focus too long on societal negativities such as, for example, #45, or Joe Blow who wrote a Google Manifesto. Instead, a wise female entrepreneur should notice the problem, analyze it for a moment, and quickly pivot to solutions. The world craves new perspectives and valuable ideas. So, take heart, and carry on! Carry your important business idea into the world with all of the zest and fervor of a woman on a mission.
2. Relying on the (Willfully) Blind
There are two separate issues here; willfully blind leaders and relying on others. First, when searching for a leader, it is important not to choose someone who easily gets lost. Here, a discussion about the blind leader is not referencing those with a physical disability. Instead, this point references people in society who are too ignorant, selfish, or insecure to acknowledge the ways they are unrighteously privileged by the status quo. A strong woman in business should not focus her attention on a willfully blind leader, as that individual will never take her to the amazing places she is destined to go.
The second overarching issue arises where a businesswoman depends upon others to lead her at all (i.e. co-dependency behaviors). Rather than becoming distracted by what Tom, Dick, or Harry is doing or not doing that is perceived as inappropriate, instead it is wise for the strong businesswoman or female entrepreneur to remain sharply focused on what SHE is doing today to take her Company to the next level.
3. Expecting Litigation Alone to Foster Change
Anyone keeping up with gender pay discrimination lawsuits filed against Google and others are all-too-familiar with efforts to rely on the law as a vehicle for social change. One might be surprised, therefore, that litigation is described herein as not particularly helpful to advance women in the traditional world of business. If we are realistic, humble, and truly interested in taking appropriate action with a goal of growth and progress, however, it is wise to take an honest look at how well the law helps to inspire and support change in the fight for gender equality in the workforce (with a pointed focus on corporate, leadership, and careers in technology).
For the most part, laws are still created by privileged groups for privileged groups, and interpreted by privileged groups to benefit the privileged. Alternative actions such as collaboration and community organization to raise societal awareness are advisable where the condition of societal attitudes will largely determine the state of its laws.
Many people consistently turn to litigation as a vehicle for change, believing that the law can and will produce justice for all. One can imagine, for example, the stereotypical image of an authoritative, domineering attorney, adhering closely to legal solutions. On the other hand, some citizens fully distrust the law and view it as incapable of serving the interests of the poor and subordinated. These individuals argue that law is merely political and serves to reinforce existing power and class relations. Arguably, when adherence to current legal authority becomes more of a priority than serving the oppressed and the suffering, substantive authoritarianism results. Further, continued reliance on legal avenues to force change remains an insufficient and unreliable strategy. Lingering gender inequality in the workforce in spite of laws to combat discrimination provides ample evidence of the inadequacy of the legal system to successfully provoke change.
Implicit in the American cultural notion of justice and fairness is the equal treatment of disputes under the law. When societal application of equal treatment amounts to privileging one group while disadvantaging others, however, an unjust status quo is enforced. This type of procedural "equality" enables the privileged group to manipulate the system for its own benefit. Since the legal system focuses on preventing discriminatory treatment without acknowledging the privileging of certain groups over others, change is effectively blocked.
A review of federal legislation enacted to inhibit various forms of workplace discrimination showcases the limitations of the legal system to incite change. The problems arise in the language and interpretation of the law where the focus is on eliminating discrimination and the interpretation is largely placed in the hands of the privileged group the legal system serves. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employers from failing or refusing to hire or discharge any individual or otherwise discriminating in compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. The law applies to race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. The language is interpreted to mean that intentional discrimination is illegal and disparate impact may be illegal. Plaintiffs must show discriminatory intent was a motivating factor, and defendants may prove the same result would have occurred absent the discrimination.
The main delinquency with Title VII anti-discrimination doctrine turns on the analysis of "equal actors," with no judicial acknowledgment of the systemic nature of privileging some groups while discriminating against others. The missing discourse involves recognition of the privileges associated with being white, male, heterosexual, and middle class, for example, in the workplace and in society generally. Claiming that values, judgments, merit, and performance are awarded in a neutral manner masks the value system's alignment with the privileged group. Failure to discuss privilege while focusing only on intent creates a false sense of neutrality toward all parties, and effectively perpetuates gender inequality. This is especially the case where white males typically do not intend to discriminate against those not fitting the status quo, but rather assume society functions a certain way and it just so happens to be in alignment with their view.
Another judicial interpretation issue arises where society historically and predominantly associated the term "workplace" with males. The dynamic between males and their female relatives such as mothers and sisters influences the way these individuals relate to women in the workforce. Since there is a preconceived societal stereotype surrounding the notion of femininity, women find themselves in a double bind, or lose/lose situation where they are expected to wear makeup and jewelry but as a result, do not fit the image of the ideal (male) worker. Further issues arise where in the past, society largely viewed "women's work" as being limited to the domestic sphere. Females are still largely depended upon to meet family needs outside of the borders of the privileged "workplace," a discredited brand of work that is not largely recognized or valued in American capitalist society.
The focus of federal law on eliminating discrimination by treating parties equally in the traditionally male-defined workplace is therefore inadequate where the realities of the un-privileged female condition are not acknowledged or considered by the court.
The Equal Pay Act provides another example of the way in which the law's creation by a privileged group for a privileged group, and judicial interpretation by a privileged group effectively perpetuates the privilege. This legislation requires compliance with equal pay for equal work laws. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also offers initiatives for compliance. Yet, a significant portion of the societal pay gap between males and females remains unexplained. Equal opportunity mandates amount to nothing more than unpledged proposals for diversity and inclusion when invisible privilege is foundational to the system, the laws, and those privileged to interpret them.
The equality analysis inhibits law-inspired social change because it focuses on intent to discriminate while failing to acknowledge operation of privilege in societal structures. Analytical focus on discrimination wrongly draws attention to the plaintiff as a subservient victim. Alternatively, discussion of privilege places the focus and responsibility on the privileged actor to commit to exposing and changing the unfair social hierarchy. Lack of discussion about privilege is a constant deficiency in American statutory and case law development. Allowing unexamined privilege to thrive will continue to disadvantage women and other groups not meeting the societal status quo for years to come.
Society should humbly recognize that lasting change cannot be expected from the mere adoption of a legal rule without accompanying societal progress. The existence of widely held unconscious biases and unarticulated assumptions inhibit change. These systems of privilege are hidden from cultural consciousness and judicial review. For these reasons, adoption of alternative strategies such as collaboration and community organizing to raise societal awareness are advisable for businesswomen wishing to make real and lasting progress.
PIVOTING TO SOLUTIONS:
Rising Up in the Aftermath of the Google Manifesto
Rather than dwelling on haters, relying on the willfully blind, or expecting litigation to incite change, smart businesswomen and female entrepreneurs should take action by raising awareness of longstanding societal stereotypes and implicit biases, engaging in bold public speaking, leveraging capitalism, and elevating strong women. At Parazim, we like to refer to it as the entrepreneurial "art of pivoting."
1. Raising Awareness
Businesswomen, female entrepreneurs, and other leaders should take a bold stand to raise awareness about unconscious bias and privilege in society. These individuals should partner with both women and men, develop skills necessary for effective public speaking, share useful language, and raise social justice issues in common conversation.
Quota systems provide a prime example of the importance of raising awareness to change societal attitudes rather than strictly regulating structures. Quotas are sometimes implemented in foreign countries to help increase the number of females holding positions traditionally dominated by males, such as on Corporate Boards. According to Darren Rosenblum, guest speaker at the Santa Clara University Global Justice for Women Symposium, a problem arises in implementing quota systems because the women put into top level positions tend to act like men. This means gender equality is not achieved since a male standard is upheld.
Females in the workforce face a double bind. They must "man up" to fulfill the male urge for homogeneity while also meeting the stereotypes associated with femininity. Women often accomplish this by performing executive realness. Females subjugate personal and family life, attempt to be an excellent worker without the traditional wife or nanny support, express themselves in an assertive manner- though not too assertively, and attempt to increase male trust in them by discussing "male only" sports and other topics commonly included in male discourse. This means quite a bit of extra work for the female worker to fit in.
Rather than simply increasing the number of females in the workforce, society must also understand and address the underlying notion of the "ideal male worker." Female entrepreneurs and businesswomen should lead the way in shining a spotlight upon societal male privilege, in order to dissolve such dark, unconscious bias altogether. Social justice can only occur by discussing the invisible.
Privilege is the systemic conferral of benefit and advantage. Achievements by members of the privileged group are viewed as resulting solely from effort. Affiliation with the dominant side of the power line is often viewed as meritorious and worthwhile. Normalization of privilege means members of society are judged, and succeed or fail, based on the characteristics of the privileged group. For example, a loud, deep, masculine voice is privileged in public speaking. On the other hand, female voices are often criticized for being too shrill or overly loud.
Privilege is invisible to the holder. Others are viewed as lacking or deficient. Our language reflects the dominant cultural privileging of the white, heterosexual male. The holder of privilege can simply opt out of the struggle against oppression, and often does so unconsciously. A privileged person might be silent in the face of one form of oppression and meanwhile fight against another form. For example, heterosexual white women are often unconscious of sexual orientation and race privileges. Raising awareness of multi-dimensional overlaps can help reveal privilege when it might otherwise not be apparent. Once the hierarchy is revealed, engaging in discussions about solutions becomes more possible.
Unfortunately, society fears discussing matters viewed as a threat to the status quo, and there is an unwritten rule that discussions related to privilege are off limits. When oppressed individuals and groups express no criticism, privilege remains invisible and flourishes. Businesswomen and female entrepreneurs must first make power systems, hierarchies, and privileges part of discourse in order to eliminate subordination.
2. Discussing Privilege
Smart businesswomen and female entrepreneurs should set a positive example for others by openly discussing privilege, and teaching others to do the same. In the face of oppressive discourse, silence can never be an option. In order to make feminist progress, it is crucial that women get over their fear of public speaking and become good at it. Women must own their power, speak up without apology, and have the courage to endure stigmatization.
In order for women to engage in valuable conversations, they must become confident about the content and delivery of the message. Informational guidance and techniques are available to effectively manage stress and anxiety associated with speaking in front of others.
Terry Rogers, guest speaker at the Santa Clara University Global Justice for Women Symposium offers key principles to help women learn to confidently converse with others in a small or large group setting. First, women should know that thousands of people have learned to speak in public without stress, although initially terrified. All public speakers make mistakes or forget content, and still remain effective and successful at the endeavor, overall. Audiences do not expect perfection, and the goal should instead be to give the audience something valuable. If the audience leaves remembering one key point, the speaker is successful. Keep the discussion to one or two main points, and if possible, determine the main purpose in advance of presenting the information. The purpose should not be to gain the listener's approval, recognition, or fame. Rather, the purpose and focal point of delivery, in alignment with the truth about public speaking, is to give the audience a gift.
It is best not to consider oneself a public speaker. In fact, most successful speakers are simply comfortable acting authentic before others. This perspective allows the speaker to make a connection with the audience. Further, it is not necessary to control the behavior of the audience. The only things the speaker can control are personal thoughts, preparation, and visual aid arrangements. The audience desires for the speaker to succeed since most people are intimidated by the risk of embarrassment, humiliation, and failure. The audience will admire the courage of the speaker and will be forgiving, no matter what happens.
Additional tips include dressing up and conservatively for the occasion, providing an introduction, speaking slowly and clearly, standing up straight, making eye contact, keeping on point with a key message, and stating a conclusion. It is best not to memorize or read the content, but using an outline is advisable. Practicing a few times before delivery is helpful. Periodically engaging in speeches will help businesswomen to feel more comfortable over time, and giving the audience the gift of raising consciousness about privilege will become second nature.
Familiarization with theory will also help the strong businesswoman and female entrepreneur by providing useful language. This will assist her in advocating for change by enhancing preparation to engage in difficult conversations.
"Traditional feminism" theory focuses on gender and criticizes the misogynistic view of women that characterizes much of society. Feminist theorists identify and challenge the omission of women and their needs from analysis of societal issues, and showcase the still radical notion that women are people. Feminism generally includes all women and all men who have a stake in ending gender subordination in all forms.
Taking a "social justice feminist" approach involves looking to history, examining overlapping inter-relationships between oppressions, and focusing on bottom up strategies and solutions. Society is generally terrified of having honest conversations. The important privilege analysis lies at the heart of social justice feminism because subordination only exists where privilege is left unrecognized and unexamined. Failure to discuss certain topics allows their importance to remain diminished. Discrimination is permitted to grow and develop based on a failure to openly discuss certain topics or to acknowledge they exist. It is easy for people to ignore privileges when not negatively impacted by the system.
Privilege occurs across multiple identity categories such as race, gender, economic wealth, sexual orientation, physical ability, and age. Individuals typically have some privilege, while being excluded from privilege regarding other aspects of personhood. Issues and tensions arise due to the lack of recognition of the multi-dimensional aspect of privilege. For a thought provoking, thorough, and enlightening discussion on the topic of historical societal privilege, read "Privilege Revealed: How Invisible Preference Undermines America," by Stephanie Wildman, with contributions by Margalynne Armstrong, Adrienne Davis, and Trina Grillo.
Where traditional theories focused on one solitary issue or frame of thought, social justice feminism reconciles and raises awareness of the overlapping issues. It is a theory forged by action. Theorists advocate organizing from the bottom up and building leaders from among the least empowered and most marginalized in society. It is inclusive by encouraging women and men to share personal stories illuminating actual and current societal treatment based on gender. A goal is to uncover and dismantle structures that support patriarchy, such as white privilege and heterosexism. The businesswoman and female entrepreneur can advocate for change by boldly discussing these overlapping issues in society.
3. Leveraging Capitalism
Female entrepreneurs and women in business who are seeking to ignite change should first understand the historic reasons patriarchy exists. In a capitalistic society, creating laws focused on equality or asserting altruistic calls for fairness will prove unsuccessful if maintaining the current structure is more profitable. Strategically honing in on the motives of the players and playing by the rules of their game can prove to be an invaluable aspect of the social justice business model. Steps include informing capitalists regarding the value of gender equality and leading community organizational activities along the path toward change.
"Socialist feminism" focuses on understanding the system of power that is derived from capitalist patriarchy, a term that refers to the mutual dependence of capitalism and male supremacy. The U.S. is a patriarchal society where men and male attributes are valued, while women and female attributes are not. Patriarchy existed before capitalism and exists in post-capitalist societies. Patriarchy and capitalism mutually reinforce each other.
All males benefit from patriarchy to varying degrees. The sexual division of labor and the institutionalized "nuclear family" uphold capitalism. Rise of industrial capitalism disrupted the earlier organization of labor by bringing men out of the home into wage labor and defining women as non-working housewives and mothers. In patriarchal capitalist society, only work done outside the home where wages are produced is viewed as work. Yet, the "non-work" activities conducted by women stabilize the patriarchal structure because housework and childcare are necessary, women produce new workers for the paid and unpaid labor force, and they do lesser paid wage labor jobs. They also stabilize the economy as consumers.
Since patriarchy and capitalism co-exist in a mutually reinforcing manner, female entrepreneurs and women in business should address them simultaneously. Addressing the invisible, overlapping assumptions opens up opportunities for people to live in a state of critical awareness, rather than false consciousness. According to Darren Rosenblum, guest speaker at the Santa Clara University Global Justice for Women Symposium, focusing on corporate power and profitability is central to achieving gender equality. Another guest speaker at the Symposium, Deborah Vagins, agreed, adding that economic equality is the key to breaking down every barrier holding women back. Sustained gender inequality in the workforce is a family issue that results in inefficient markets.
The U.S. rates very high for inequality compared to other countries when it comes to women in leadership, volume of unpaid work, and representation in politics. As of 2016, just 5% of top U.S. firms had women in top leadership positions. According to the McKinsey Global Institute, the U.S. could add $4.3 trillion to the nation's gross domestic product in less than a decade if states made it a priority to raise women's workforce participation, increase the number of hours they work, and spread them into more-productive job sectors. According to the report, narrowing the gaps could boost GDP by 5% or more in every state, and half the states can add more than 10% (see also the McKinsey Global report, and the Forbes report). Employers can make a difference at a local level by ensuring fairness, eliminating pay disparities in all levels of employment, and avoiding punitive pay secrecy policies. Institutions should acknowledge and make publicly visible an ongoing commitment to diversity.
Altruism and fairness, however admirable, are often not enough to convince a for-profit company that inclusion and change are necessary or desirable. Where this is the case, businesswomen should consider using a collaborative model of community organizing to work toward a global vision. Organizing political action to raise consciousness regarding the intertwinement of patriarchy and capitalism, and the overlapping social and economic benefits of gender equality are some broad, diverse ways to incite social change.
4. Elevating Strong Women
In order for change to arrive, there comes a time when it is necessary to switch the focal point from raising awareness of social ills, to embracing solutions and celebrating progress. The businesswoman and female entrepreneur are in a unique position to take a leadership role in this regard.
It is important to establish gender equality as a "family issue," rather than simply a women's issue, in order to spread out responsibilities and rewards among all people in society. Businesswomen should engage men in the battle and consistently recognize the positive behaviors and actions performed by brave men committed to change. True community is not a group of people of the same class, gender, or race, but rather diverse people with a common commitment to certain legal rights and entitlements. Where there is recognition of and appreciation for difference, rather than an assumption that difference means a lack of understanding, only then can community be achieved.
Finally, businesswomen must consistently show support for one another. Female leaders should use creative strategies and engage media resources in order to effectively spread the message that women are strong, brave, intelligent and capable. Female lives, values, activities, and careers should be frequently discussed and celebrated. A wide array of successful women should join forces on the world stage to boldly declare that women are valuable, significant, and powerful forces in the world. Women helping women should collaborate to elect female government officials, to develop breakthrough startups, and as consumers by purchasing products and services from female owned companies in the marketplace. Segregation or exclusion is not advisable or suggested. Rather, now is the time for ALL of society to shift focus, in order to elevate strong women in leadership. The time of sisterhood has arrived!
Are you a female entrepreneur in need of legal solutions to launch or grow a successful business enterprise? Parazim can help! Our mission is to elevate and champion the most effective, extraordinary, and powerful women in the world. Our breakthrough habitude of "women helping women" leads to invaluable resource sharing and building strong allies so every female is 100% empowered to reach her highest potential. Get connected today - email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.parazim.com for more information.
Harmony Oswald, Esq. is licensed to practice law in the state of California. She is the Founder and Managing Attorney at Parazim. To learn more about Harmony Oswald, Esq. and her 2017 leadership book for women click HERE. The above article does not create an attorney client relationship. It provides information only and should not and cannot be construed as legal advice. For more information, please contact email@example.com.