Written by: Deborah Jackson, Founder and CEO of JumpThru
I have been completely taken by an article that appeared last week in the Huffington Post in the women’s section about Sarah Palin. Now as many of you know I am a Democrat by philosophy and practice, having raised money for Hillary Clinton in her Presidential race and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand in 2006. But, something in the article about Sarah Palin rang true to me. She is a perfect example of a woman who just did it. She just got out there and never seemed to back off or have a moment of doubt either because she was at the right place at the right time or because she was totally naive. Her behavior was so “unlady” like. Sarah Palin gave women, as the title suggests in the Huffington Post article, a role model, of sorts. In my thinking she is a role model for “outrageous” behavior. Now that I think about that, that is really important. A woman who just got out there and did it– oblivious to all the consequences that may occur. Wouldn’t we all like to just get out there and do it without any hold backs. To say what we really think, to not care what anyone thinks of us and to not feel insecure about it.
That is very much like a female founder of a company. You can’t possibly care what others think when you start a company because most people will tell you you are crazy and you will fail. Many women will think that but not tell you. In a start up you founded, you can’t play politics or suck up to someone. You are on the front line visible for everyone to critique. Sometimes women get terribly uncomfortable when other women break out and have a voice or do something brave. I wonder if that isn’t because deep down they are insecure that they can’t do the same or that women should be in a circle and no one should be out front as a leader.
I have not found it easy to start a company, especially at my advanced age. I did it because I felt I could make a difference in some way– as a role model for young or older women or because the start up space needed someone in the trenches day to day to have a voice and support other women. I did it for myself and my daughters. Practice what you preach. Be brave, just do it, you can do it is what I tell my daughters. I did it because I sense a shift, an opportunity to advance the mission. The opportunity just fell in our lap with the internet and now we need to sieze the occasion.
The great thing about being a bit older is that you are secure. I will still be ok if I don’t help anything or anyone, I will still have a roof over my head if my start up just breaks even after taxes, and I will emerge with what I consider another advanced degree, I will be a better investor and “current and relevant” in my life today. I think the most important thing for women right now is to get out of their comfort zone. Take a risk, try something new, learn something new if you have the energy to do it.
All in all, I see that females have made gains since I was just out of college but in different ways than I could have imagined. Look at the women founding companies at an unprecedented rate. What strikes me is that these companies founded by women understand women and female behavior. Do you think any man would have created: Rent The Runway, Birch Box, Learn Vest, Snapette or a whole list of other companies that were founded by women? What is happening, in my opinion, is that we have raised a generation of females that don’t think twice about founding a company. They found a company that capitalizes on what they know about women and women’s needs and are trying to address those needs. These early stage companies have lots of revenue. No male could completely understand about women’s lives. My generation and the women’s movement must have done something right to move the needle to open opportunities for women. We imagined we would open doors for women to be in the executive suite, or on corporate boards or in the Senate. But that wasn’t successful for women. Perhaps what we have done is enabled a generation of women who don’t think twice about founding companies where they are on the front line and held accountable to investors and a board at a young age. That is pretty gutsy. And that is worth noting. How lucky are we that the internet has totally changed the world. It is the great equalizer and given every under represented person and group the chance to play in our economy. This is profound and I hope I’ll be around to see all the manifestations of that and all the benefits of that to our world.