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In my research on the entrepreneurial resilience of women entrepreneurs I have heard stories of women who were spurred to keep going in their business endeavours because they had been… belittled, overlooked, told to take a back seat.

Claudia* told me about pouring her heart and soul into a plan for a business in a male-dominated field. She was sad when her bank declined financing. On a whim she changed her name to her MALE partner’s name, and it got approved at another branch just a few weeks later. How do you think she felt? Janelle* was advised by an accountant “not to bother” registering her business for a Harmonized Sales Tax number, because “it would likely never get that big anyway.” She was so offended that she says it spurred her on to grow her venture into a multiple location healthcare enterprise.

One woman I interviewed called this “Fuck You Fuel.” It describes it so well, doesn’t it? I couldn’t be sure if she heard it from Barbie The Welder (yup, that’s the name of a very kickass woman), who self-published Fuck You Fuel: How to Turn Shit Into Sugar, available on Amazon. It doesn’t matter, the sentiment is the same.

The topic of resilience spurred on by negative emotion has come up repeatedly. It’s always in connection to misogynistic attitudes; at times, sadly, from loved ones. Take for instance Nathalie,* who had toiled in the family business for years and eventually became CFO. Her own father told her she wasn’t suitable to take over the helm, but her brothers would be.

When that happens, many women entrepreneurs dig deeper, using this negativity to succeed despite others’ opinions. The owner of a professional services firm for the last 12 years, Betty* confided “When sometimes I feel like my husband doesn’t trust my decisions, it makes me work harder in terms of my business, to push it more.”  Heather* started her business in her early twenties, when her relatives never thought she’d last beyond a few months. That was 10 years ago. “What keeps me moving forward? It’s definitely a little bit of proving people wrong.” By the way Nathalie took over the family business in the end, after her dad was out of the way and her brothers wanted out.

Whenever I hear fuck you fuel stories I wonder: how much more could these women have accomplished, if only they had been supported, rather than disrespected? A certain element of hardship often is thought to beget resilience, but systemic and misogynistic barriers don’t make anyone better entrepreneurs.

What do you think? Have you experienced oppression and turned it to your advantage?

*Quotes and stories in this post are from real people, but names are fictional to protect their identity.

What Do You Think?

Please share your experiences and thoughts below. Let’s learn from one another and celebrate each other’s successes.

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