Yesterday I sat with my head in my hands, feeling like a caged animal, trying to figure out how I got into this cage and what I was doing there. Was I trapped and put in here? Did I enter voluntarily? Did I just get lost and wander into the cage? I don’t know. I pondered this feeling for a long while (getting in touch with my inner self ?) and then realised that I have felt like this almost my whole adult life. Why I wondered?
You won’t understand unless you have some background, so here goes… I am an ideas person – hundreds and thousands of fabulous, awesome ideas. Some do-able and some not. Some I have tried and some I have given to other people who have gone on to make a success of my ideas. Some ideas were “stolen” and many of them are just writings in my journals. This could partly be because of the wonderful gift I have of being an ADHW – Attention Deficit Hyperactive Woman. Over the years I have learned and taught myself how to manage this gift. It is a daily struggle, but one I wouldn’t change for anything. Yes, I make mistakes and I fall off the wagon every now and again. By that I mean I could find myself doing 10 (yes 10!!) things all at once, forgetting what I was doing, while trying to remind myself to write everything down that I am thinking so that I don’t forget! As soon as I become aware of this I stop, relax, focus and try to get back on track. People either love me or dislike me. No in-betweeners. A LOT of people don’t get me and don’t understand me – too bad for them.
So getting back to the caged animal feeling… I have been working on one project for about 8 years. It was an idea I came up with while driving back from Limpopo one very HOT Friday afternoon, and decided that this one was a keeper. At first, I thought it was going to be an easy exercise to put it all together. I soon learned the hard way, that NOTHING worthwhile is easy. Slowly, through hard work, all my life savings, sweat, blood and LOTS of tears the idea has become a tangible thing and is taking shape. The project involves a lot of technical jargon, logistical stuff, engineering and financial know-how. That immediately put me on the back foot. I know, or rather, knew NOTHING about any of this. I had to rely on others, 99% being men, to help me and teach me. I’m STILL looking for a mentor…the only people that have responded to my request have been male “business coaches” who want to charge me a fortune to “coach” me. I’m not sure they understand the difference between a mentor and the new buzz of “business coaches”.
This is where it gets interesting… MEN DO NOT TAKE WOMEN SERIOUSLY, especially in business. At first, I thought it was because I lacked good communication skills, so I did courses, signed up (and wasted too much money) for BS “how to communicate better” webinars and “masterclasses” and started teaching myself what all the BS (in case you don’t know, BS is short for “bullshit”) business acronyms meant. I learned how to put the basics of a business plan together (still working on this ?) and interacted with a lot of people who did know something about the business I was getting into. I worked on my assertiveness and learned as much as I could about this business, so that I wouldn’t be caught short during a meeting. I then approached certain companies whom I though would be a good match to work with. As this was and is so technical, I would meet with the CEO’s, technical managers or engineers all of whom were men. A lot of these companies turned me down and dismissed me outright, before I had even pitched my business plan. On MANY occasions I would go into a meeting with my wonderful engineer and mentor, who happens to be a man, and we would meet with a whole team of guys. Throughout the meeting they would not even acknowledge me! All discussion, negotiations, questions and answers would be directed to, with and at *John. It was as if I was irrelevant and invisible. This happened so many times that I started therapy because I though there was something wrong with me.? (there is a lot wrong with me, but knowing this business was not one of them ?). Recently, like in the last 2 months, I have been requesting a very important quotation from a certain well-known company. During the meeting with them I was told I would have the quotation within the week. It has been 2 months now, and I am still waiting. The guy does not return my calls and now and again, he will reply to my emails saying that he is “still waiting”. Waiting for what???? How difficult can it be to put together a quotation? The frustration borders on going there and giving him a few bitch slaps, breaking a few things and putting holes in his desk with my high heeled shoes!
I then started talking to other women who had done the same or were trying to break into the “man’s world” of business. I needed help and I wanted to know! I was shocked and saddened. My whole life I had/have been trying to be financially independent and not have to rely on anyone for my wellbeing and here I was, hearing all these women’s sad, frustrating stories of the same thing happening to them. NO MAN TOOK THEM SERIOUSLY. A very few of the successful women had the financial backing of their partners or husbands. Some, after many years of trying, had eventually got small grants or loans from IDC or DTI, but these were few and far between. Most of the women are still trying to move their businesses forward. Not one of these awesome entrepreneurial women I spoke to could confidently say that they were truly assisted, helped or taken seriously by any male they were working with. It’s as if there is a secret code among men to not further the interests of women, lest they look bad or be seen to be “less-than”. So they will make the women feel “less-than”. I must add here that when I applied for funding, there was a male entrepreneur who was also applying for funding. We got chatting and exchanged contact details and were able to keep in touch with regards to our progress. The amount he needed funding for, was triple what I needed, even though his business did not offer employment or training. Guess what?? He got funding straight up and I was told I had to put up 40% of the equity before I would be granted funding…
My question to both men and women is – what do we as women have to do to be taken seriously? What am I/we doing wrong that I cannot even get a dumb-ass guy to give me a quote on time? Who and what gives men the right to dismiss women, treat them like crap, treat women like objects, mistreat women and children, make them feel invisible and make life as difficult as they can for women to move forward? Do we have to be the ultimate bitch to be listened to and heard? How do we break out of this patriarchal cycle and system? I know without a doubt that I am not the only women feeling this way and thinking this way. In my own situation, unless I am bringing in a whack of money every month, my partner and sons don’t take me seriously. This is a very serious issue people and it needs to end. I for one, feel like the “caged animal”, pacing up and down, waiting for an opportunity for someone to make a mistake and forget to lock the cage. Waiting for all hell to break loose…
Here’s an interesting read – https://www.africa.com/challenges-faced-women-entrepreneurs-africa/