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What’s Wrong With This Question?

What’s Wrong With This Question?

In a podcast interview last week, I was asked how I was feeling about women’s progress in getting CEO jobs.

In my old industry — the big banks — not so good. (Fortune wrote an article about how it feels like we are farther away from a woman big-bank CEO than we were a decade ago. As if to underscore the point, in the two weeks since the article was published, the sole woman big-bank CEO announced her retirement — to be succeeded by a man. And, after much speculation that Wells Fargo might appoint a woman CEO to clean the place up, they … well, they didn’t.)

In my new life — entrepreneurship — I feel better.

Not great. But better. I mean, have you seen the three badass start-up CEOs on national magazine covers, currently on newsstands? It’s a wow.

Yes, my (female) interviewer said … but those are women-run companies that cater to women. When will we start seeing women running companies that cater not just to women? But also to men?

Well, gentle reader, you might imagine my intake of breath.

You might imagine that I paused for a second. And then you might imagine my response.

What is wrong with women building businesses for women?

We are half the population. And, in any number of cases, an overlooked half of the population, thus with opportunities for smart entrepreneurs to meet those needs and build successful — even massive — businesses.

Who but a woman saw that we women needed our own dating site? Or that we were open to having stylists choose and send us clothes each month? Or that we craved our own meeting spaces? Or, indeed, that the traditional investing industry wasn’t working for us?

And why, when men build businesses that cater to men, do we not bat an eye?

Why is “for women” viewed as “lesser” … even among women?

Why? Because we’ve been socialized that way. Because we’ve been taught that way. Like a fish who doesn’t know she’s in water, we may not even recognize that we think that way.

We saw it in any number of different forms in building Ellevest. It began with “Do women really need their own investing platform, since they don’t invest as much as men do?” (Um, that’s why we needed one built for us — to help us invest more.)

We saw it when we launched Ellevest, when our “for women” positioning had a lot of people — a lot of women — saying that must mean it was dumbed down. (Not a single person that I can remember noted that since it was for women, it must be more sophisticated. The best we could hope for was not to get dinged too much for it.)

“For men” doesn’t mean superior. Period.

Not when everything from investing lifespan algorithms to office temperatures to car seatbelts get us (dangerously) wrong.

That also means that when women design businesses for women, there’s a lot of room to make every single one of those industries better. That’s what Bumble is doing. And Stitch Fix. And The Wing.

And I believe that when we start consciously thinking of women in our approach to every industry, we’ll see the products improve … for everyone.

Just ask all the people of all genders happily toting Away luggage on your next flight.

Because when women thrive, everyone thrives.

Read the original article here.


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