The Woman Entrepreneur’s Handicap
You are not an entrepreneur. You are a woman entrepreneur.
You are not a programmer. You are a girl who codes.
You will never be able to hold a normal conversation about the code that you write. The instant you begin to talk about programming, a tornado of affirmative action will sweep you off your feet, and you will be involuntarily dragged and shoved into every single “girl who codes” movement and every other tech initiative desperate for an appearance of equality. You are a woman programmer.
No one will ever evaluate you for the quality of your work, your competence, integrity, determination, or ability to execute. You sometimes feel that you are trapped behind a soundproof glass window, screaming and punching the glass until your knuckles are bleeding. You demand to be heard, but as long as it is code or business that exits your mouth, no one listens. You are a woman entrepreneur.
You will not be treated as an individual. You are not entitled to a gender-neutral assessment of your capabilities. They immediately lower their expectations of what you could possibly achieve, and if you dare depart from these low standards–their first impulse is to cast scathing doubts upon you. “You coded this? Cute. Seriously, who did this?” Clearly not you. You are a woman entrepreneur.
They are shocked, not because your determination and skills are rare in this world, no, they are shocked because your actions are “not something you’d expect from a woman”. Your competence is in turn determined by how much you deviate from the insultingly low standards that have been set for you–in turn, any praise cast upon you always feels like ridicule. You are a woman entrepreneur.
You will be liked if you chasten your ambition with characteristics that are associated with femininity. You A/B test how you are perceived, and reluctantly accept that you are loved when you act fragile, empathetic, and vulnerable. But if you dare say that your creativity is your source of self-esteem, that your work is your grandest purpose, and your mind is the motor that fuels it, then you’ll be thrust behind bars for treason of gender expectations. You are a woman entrepreneur.
You will be encouraged to apply to programs geared towards women. You question why they exist when neuroscience has proved that individuals perform worse when labels are reinforced. You wonder if they are simply taking a lazy approach to treating sexism– like a charlatan doctor that treats a deep, fatal infection, by using a bandage to hide the wound from sight. You will turn down the stream of invitations to these groups and events that aim to “empower women” by placing an irrational emphasis on a classification as superficial as a “woman”.
You will wonder why they always shine the spotlight on something as insignificant and meaningless to you as your gender–but never your competence, your ability, the agility with which you learn, your devotion to work. You will begin to wonder if these women in tech initiatives only serve to further demarcate the gap between you–a woman–and the real entrepreneurs. You are a woman entrepreneur.
You will be immediately objectified. You will be told to objectify yourself. To get ahead, you will be instructed to spotlight the fact that you are a woman. All your accomplishments will be bastardized into something symbolic of your gender. As if your vagina, not your brain, built your company for you. You will be asked to objectify yourself until nothing remains of you and your individualism but a label that was burned and branded upon you with a hot iron. You are a woman entrepreneur.
But despite all the setbacks, you will not accept defeat. You cease to see yourself as a woman. In turn, you’ve become human.
You kick, rip, grunt, push, and punch until you manage to tear off the “woman entrepreneur” label that was branded upon you by brute force. Now you are finally free to discover who you are and free to actualize your full potential.
You are an entrepreneur.