She Started It. She’s starting it. She’s gonna start it – Entrepreneurship through a woman’s eyes.
I’ve never been much for the women empowerment movement. For various personal reasons I would say. I’ve always been apprehensive about any event or blog or book that particularly largely emphasized ‘female agenda’ as I described it. Strange I’d say considering I grew up witnessing domestic violence. So when MEST organized a movie screening about female entrepreneurs, I was one of those who said, “Will this be another us versus them kinda thing?!’
‘She started it’ is a movie featuring 3 stories of young female entrepreneurs from countries across the world, and their entrepreneurial journeys across 2 years.
The movie is inspiring and emotionally captivating if you have been through or relate to any of the scenarios highlighted. As was mentioned in the open discussion after the movie, some scenes were not exactly applicable to the African business terrain but this did not take away from the key lessons highlighted by the 1 hour film.
Challenges women face in startups1. Most people in the world due to years of traditions have formed an image of what a woman should or should not do, and one of the most definite shouldn’ts is engaging in business. Men are brought up knowing that it is their role to provide and earn income. Boys are given legos and games that involve mental stimulation while girls are given dolls and house roleplays.
This from the beginning, as mentioned in the movie, sets the tone for what the child, boy or girl, will end up believing is their role. That’s why even in our universities, there’s a very high number of boys versus girls in engineering & sciences courses while ‘simpler’ courses such as business & social sciences are reserved for ladies. This narrative formed shape in the movie when one of the female entrepreneurs had been looking for funding unsuccessfully and the ‘best thing’ for her to do (according to her parents who were usually quite supportive) was to go back to school but her brother who had been her former cofounder and partner was told to go on pursuing business and entrepreneurship
. 2. We are often our own worst enemies. The world of business is already as harsh as it is and going through it alone can lead to higher failure rates and depression. Every entrepreneur including Steve Jobs or Bill Gates has survived by surrounding themselves with a powerful network. Look at the Paypal Mafia for instance. Coming from a family where none of my relatives has pursued software, I have had many lonely times.
The biggest takeaway/question I got here was, “why is it that when women succeed, they don’t become more supportive of upcoming entrepreneurs? I searched for a mentor for a very long time before finally getting one end of last year!
3. Mindset Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself. — Publilius Syrus. A person’s mind is their strongest or weakest weapon. This is the hardest part about being a female entrepreneur – choosing to ride against the tide, believe in yourself, empower others, and keep moving forward. For once you convince your mind that you can achieve it, then you will indeed achieve it.
Since you can not change the circumstances and opinions of the people around you, then the only factor that can change is you. You have to be your number one supporter & cheerleader because you will face so many hurdles and most of them will be unfair – situations including a male investor soliciting favors from you, being asked to serve tea at board meetings or being expected to work on ‘feminine products’ only. At these times, it’s important to remember to embrace the obstacle and even better turn it to an only.
For me, the movie and listening to the Q&A session was very enlightening. The truth is that there exists a group of women who are unaware of the issues ‘feminist’ groups advocate for. It’s our role then to educate those who are already ‘well off’ to support the marginalized. Furthermore, how can we set up permanent solutions for the gender debate be it in parliament, company policies, recruitment, education policies, family & society, media etc.
The equality agenda is a real one. But both genders have to be careful how we approach the issue and bear in mind that it will take years to uproot some of the beliefs engrained in society.But YES, we women are definitely getting started and I am so excited to be a part of the movement. Want to join us at MEST Africa? Check out our Admissions page.
View some images from the Screening below.