Four big fallacies that continue to hold women back at work

One Roof is a digital membership for women, providing mentorship, resources, networking, and sponsorship opportunities. Tickets are now available for their annual #UNSPOKEN conference with a special offer for Women’s Agenda readers. Click on “access hidden tickets” and input the code “womensagenda” to join hundreds of women and a range of excellent speakers to unpack the unspoken stories that affect women in business, starting May 16.

As mentors of working women, we work tirelessly to support start-up founders, business owners and working professionals as they navigate their careers, business challenges and the work-family juggle.

As a result, we understand the true social, political, and economic costs women pay to exist in patriarchal societies. From gender bias to systemic barriers, women are still up against a host of issues that prevent a level playing field from their male counterparts.

At One Roof, our mission is to see women and female generations to come unlearn the embedded narratives about their perceived place in the world. Below we highlight four common fallacies still routinely told to modern women that create part of the problem:

1. Mums can have it all

For anyone who has ever told a working mother that she can “have it all but not at the same time,” they were sorely mistaken. Working mothers do in fact have it all and at the same time– but it’s not generally a healthy equation.

Too often women take on the pressure of being the primary carer, the expectation to work the same hours as a childless male, the assumption that they are less competent and less interested in their career post-kids and the criticism heaped upon them if they complain or appear ungrateful.

According to a Harvard study, even among dual-career couples who claim to give both spouses’ careers the same priority, women are doing the lion’s share of domestic work, a setup that adds cognitive and time burdens to women’s experiences that their male colleagues, by and large, don’t share. It’s no wonder women experience higher rates of burnout, poor mental health, and even physical health issues.

Beyond giving working mothers a village amongst which to raise their children, women need supporters who are genuinely interested in their business and career success. The importance of online communities such as One Roof, cannot be understated.

2. Be a “Boss Babe”

Before unpacking the ‘Boss Babe’ myth, it’s important to acknowledge the patriarchal power play that continues to undermine women’s attempts to in fact be their own #girlboss.

Labels like ‘boss babe’ and ‘girlboss’ and the culture surrounding this phenomenon, are problematic for various reasons. Best-selling author Jessica Khouri for example, points out that gendering such terms like ‘boss’ or ‘entrepreneur,’ at worst trivialise women’s contributions and successes and at worst infantilise us. 

Moreover, many organisations adopt these terms to sell products and services while not actually working towards any goals or helping to change systems that combat gender inequity. Such terms can also exclude certain individuals who don’t identify with these constructs. It’s imperative to be mindful of and choose language that includes women across cultures, intersections, ages and gender preferences. 

3. Hustle = Success

Women are being sold online course after online course on how to start, sell and scale their businesses. While education is a critical part of leadership success, offerings which exploit the myth that there is a straightforward pathway for all women to start, sell and scale their product or service are ultimately harmful (not to mention expensive).

The myth prevails that if women just hustle, work harder, faster and smarter, they can be the next Zuck, Jobs or Bezos. However, the reality is that successful women startup founders remain few and far between, owing to major barriers such as the little funding available to women in entrepreneurship and the deeply entrenched gender bias persisting against women.

A Babson College report found that venture capitalists still tend to select for homogeneity and to invest in startups run by people of their own “tribe” (meaning not female or culturally diverse) despite the various studies which have shown that women-owned companies outperform their counterparts on financial return.

Fortunately, there are a growing number of female-focused angel investors, investment funds and grants, such as Scale Investors, SheEO, ALIVIA and the forthcoming third round of Boosting Female Founders Initiative, in the startup ecosystem to provide nuanced support that women in entrepreneurship need. 

4. There is no professional penalty

It often seems women’s ability to have a successful career, and be seen as a successful carer, are diametrically opposed. If you show too much ambition or appear to be working too hard, then society deems you an unsuitable mother or wife. If you try to make arrangements for flexibility around your family’s schedule and to manage competing priorities, you’ll likely be accused of being unambitious or lazy.

Like many women, Sheree Rubinstein, founder of One Roof, grew up truly believing that women could have it all. She soon realised that “the reality is sadly much harsher.”

“Women are still penalised for having kids, for being too ambitious, for being too silent, for being too outspoken, for being too ethnic and too emotional,” she says.

However, the last two and a half years may have triggered a silver lining none of us expected. Businesses now know that their bottom line won’t suffer if they fairly accommodate women and families and adjust expectations, such as offering greater workplace flexibility.

Organisations such as the award-winning digital platform Grace Papers, offer enterprise solutions that empower parents, carers, people leaders, and workplace culture, with founder, Prue Gilbert, suggesting that “if workplaces fail to reimagine the way they return to work, and fail to view the opportunity with a gendered lens, we – as a society – will have lost the lesson”.

And frankly, it’s a lesson we can’t afford to lose.

Want to help us work to shift the status quo? Join One Roof at their second annual conference, where we discuss the systemic, often #unspoken challenges affecting women in business as well as the solutions needed. A no-BS approach with hundreds of like-minded, ambitious women and high profile speakers. Don’t miss out on redeeming your special Women’s Agenda offer, here!


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