Monday, April 21, 2008

Ladies, What The Hell Is Up?

You know, I've been in this business of solo-web-practitioner for six years now, and a couple of decades on the agency and enterprise sides before that, and I've had my say about what's frustrating and wrong with the web 1.0 and 2.0 gender divide, and I've stood up and yelled foul when it was not in the best interest of my career to do so, and I've found myself in the middle of some of the biggest Internet dust-ups of all time, but I never thought I'd have to write a post asking what the hell is wrong with you?

Not all of the ladies; of course not.

I'm talking about the ones taking advantage of the other ones. And they are numerous.

I've already done the disinfecting; I'm well aware that I'm biting the hand that feeds me here. So let me continue.

Here goes the general, sweeping observation. You tell me if I'm wrong...

When men -- male CEOs or marketing heads or agency leads -- look for help on social media projects from women-owned businesses and/or consultants who happen to be women, they do not come looking to put us through sixteen hoops, a dozen or more what-SHOULD-HAVE-BEEN-billable hours, months of hemming and hawing, and eight attempts at trying it themselves only to come back and ask 'what do you think?' all before signing the statement of work.

They do not as a rule take the ideas you give them for free in the course of detailed proposal work and run off to implement them with a 'maybe later on we'll work together!' They generally do not expect, ask for, or anticipate freebies or unpaid time on our part simply because their project is the most super-coolest-omgzbbq that you have ever ever seen.

SO WHY THE HELL DO WOMEN expect these things of other women?

Why do women in these same roles -- women who know their female colleagues are trying to make a living -- ask something of them that they would never ask of a male consultant in the same business? The female CEO who expects free help from her sister consultants would not think of asking her brothers in business for those same freebies.

Why is that? Because she would get laughed at? Ignored? Turned away? Not taken seriously?

Really--tell me why?

Did I miss the secret handshake class?

Was I sick the day they taught that women in business should give away free to other women what they wouldn't to a man?

Is there a rule somewhere that says only the men I do business with understand that I need to get paid?

I'm telling you, I find it more infuriating and frustrating than ever in the techmeme world of gangs and bangs and winner take all, we can't depend on the women business owners who seek our services NOT to do us a disservice.


Cross Posted to Allied.


Andrea said...

I just read something related to this phenomenon in a new book by Susan Pinker - The Sexual Paradox. In it she cites research that found "women were much more likely than men to discriminate against female leaders. As with same-sex mentoring, gender bias is more likely to come from other women." Christopher Flett also discusses this a bit in his new book, What Men Don't Tell Women About Business. So - your question is valid and timely. What gives? Women are supposedly so connected and nurturing... when it actually seems we become competitive in odd ways at odd times. I'm studying up on this for my gender in marketing work and have learned so much - mainly about how women may need to take more responsibility for some of the gender biases out there.

Jeneane Sessum said...

Yes, what gives!?!?! Thanks for the book references - off to amazon to take a look.

Lipstick Mystic said...

Huzzah, I just stumbled across your post and loved it!

I think this is a big problem, you're right.

We women historically have to fight cultural program that teaches us to "be nice" and to be subservient to others before recognizing or giving voice to our own needs. We're taught that if we do that we're good girls and will be rewarded accordingly.

And unfortunately we perpetuate these behaviors ourselves - in not standing up and demanding decent wages, real pay for our consulting time, and the like. And we also push this onto our sisters, those women we connect with in a business context. Too often a genuine desire to help gets exploited by one side or another - either the person who gives and helps too much for free and then gets angry afterwards for having sacrificed so much of her valuable time and energy for free without receiving anything back (I did that for years and refuse to do it anymore at risk of appearing to be a total bitch to people).....and the other side is the person who expects way too much help from other women who are kind enough to share their brainpower, skills, and time to help them in some way.

I had a refreshing reversal of this trend recently when I sent dozens of helpful emails to a woman who had asked me some questions and turned out to be an avid, passionate, and grateful learner. After a series of emails she said, "Wait, where's your donation button on your site?" And I realized I'd taken it down long ago after receiving so much crap from site visitors who thought "information should be free" and "why are you mixing sharing information with commerce? That's sacrilege."

This woman GOT it and instinctively sent me a donation for my time - and I realized duh, I had been doing free consulting there, yet again, without setting boundaries or a money value to my time.

She taught me in that small interaction how carefully we women need to proceed on these issues - valuing ourselves more, and valueing our fellow women more.

And since we live in a physical world requiring money to pay the rent, feed and clothe ourselves, value is best expressed in this world by paying someone for their time. Period. We don't live in an agrarian or communal society so this is the way it is - and women need to realize that and stop whining about it or denying it. Just deal with it, girls! And teach your daughters to value themselves and their time, too.


Janet E said...

I'm the fly in the ointment. I think women are more caring of one another, and do give freely of their time, because they care. I think we could teach men a few things about ethical business practices, and not taking advantage of others through over charging and requiring customers to keep paying them, and paying them, and paying them... That is, loans with higher interest rates for women. Cars dealerships that still do not speak honestly to women. Any product by a large company, that when old or broken, the customer is PUSHED to buy again frm that company regardless of their satisfaction.
Women have a difficult time in business because they tend to be more respectful and helpful to their customers. We should not be beating up on one another when we should really be honestly facing men with their business faults.

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Anonymous said...

very true! but we as individuals need to find who we can trust and who we can't! Obviously there are those women who will expect all of the above, but then again there are women mentoring others without asking anything in return! We just need to be a little more careful!

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