In a startup economy that describes herself as “bosses,” Ashley Sumner wants to be known in simpler terms.
While jogging near her home in the Venice neighborhood of Los Angeles in early March, Sumner pondered her identity and interesting phrases that female experts use to describe herself online: “girls bosses ”and the like.
“I worry about the negative impact of that,” said 32-year-old Sumner. “I worry that it allows investors to view the founders as women as a class separate from the rest of the founders. I worry it allows investors to write smaller checks for the female founders. I believe women need help inspiring other women, but identity can also be used as a brand to separate us.
Ms. Sumner is the CEO of Quilt, an audio platform for chats on topics of personal care such as workplace health, PTSD, and astrology. (In the days before the pandemic, the company held work meetings and group discussions at people’s homes.)
She felt marginalized in the women’s section of the founders’ circle. “I’ve always been asked to speak on the women’s founders committee,” said Sumner. “I would like to be asked to speak on board.”
Since she is in discussion, she wonders if she can initiate a discussion with a central question. “When is it going to be to be labeled to support and celebrate the more successful promotion of our equality mission and when does it ‘go on’ and damage our one?”
She ran home, sweating at her computer, saying a few words, and pasting them on a photo of herself. “I’m a female founder,” she typed, then significantly crossed out the word “female” and added a caption: “put my gender ahead of what I have and underestimate what I am. achieved”.
Ms. Sumner is not particularly active on Instagram or Twitter. On LinkedIn, she has never done more than republish other people’s articles or meditate. But with that foundation’s focus on professional life, she thinks it’s a sensible place to share her craft work first.
Ms. Sumner’s post drew close to 20,000 comments, from men and women in the US, Australia, Africa, Latin America, India, and more; from executives, construction workers, healthcare workers, professors, and military professionals.
After reading it, Kate Urekew, the founder of Revel Experiences, a marketing firm in Boston, contacted three successful business owners she knew to ask what they thought. It was once said that there was insufficient representation of women in leadership levels to ignore the gender gap. “To change things and really achieve parity, you need to have more visions of other women,” said Urekew, 50.
She added: “I like that she started this discussion, it opened up to me more aspects.”
In a rare occurrence for a viral social media post, especially identity post, the comments reflect a wide range of opinions and are mostly civilian.
“That’s what we all need to hear,” wrote one man. “Too much political identity leads to false confirmation.”
One woman wrote: “I don’t feel we have been there yet. “We’re still at a point where we’re trying to be equal, and that takes awareness, right?”
One man wrote: “Being successful in the business world means you are accomplishing great things and in some cases outperforming men.
More than 150 female founders posted similar pictures of themselves, crossed out the word “female” and then shared what is now credible as a meme on the internet.
One was Antoinetta Mosley, founder of I Follow the Leader, a consulting firm that specializes in strategy, innovation, and inclusive, inclusive and education in Durham, NC. see the word ‘female’ crossed out, ”she said of Ms. Sumner’s post. “I immediately clicked to see what she said, and I thought it was really impressive.”
Ms Mosley, 34, said during the subconscious bias workshops she leads, she asks people to consider how race, gender and other traits influence stories. about people’s career skills and how they can maintain inequality. “When people see me as a black woman leader,” she said, “they are assuming I am Black and as a woman who influences my leadership style.”
She believes that these brands can sometimes prevent women from being seen as equal to men. She says being a black woman is an important part of her identity, but she, like most people, has a lot more dimension. She believes that her professional traits are largely attributed to being an athlete and being the oldest of four parents-oriented children.
Faryl Morse, 55, who owns the footwear company Faryl Robin, was also thrilled to post herself, listing the social jargon “Boss Babe”, “WomEntosystemur”, “Girl Boss” and “Mompreneur”.
“Stop giving these cute names to women who have ambition and persevere in their pursuit of dreams,” she wrote. “It does not empower any women.”
Ms. Morse wants other women to see her success and know that they can also aspire to own and run a thriving business in a male-dominated industry and she believes in becoming women give her a different and valuable perspective. “But I’m not a founding woman,” she said. “I am a founder. End the conversation. Gender shouldn’t be described in the world we live in today. It doesn’t define me professionally. ”
Rayy Babalola, founder of Agile Squad, a consulting and project management firm in Kent, UK, was drawn to feedback on LinkedIn but said that it is not easy for everyone to ignore the label and forget it. the effort and perseverance needed to find professional success.
Ms. Babalola, 30, believes calling herself a black women business founder conveys that she overcame the double obstacles of sexism and racism. And she feels a responsibility to signal to other Black women that they may also have a path to ownership of a business.
“Being a black woman influenced the way I was treated and that motivated me to become a founder,” she said. “And you can’t be selfish,” she said. “Just because you’ve found the way doesn’t mean it’s okay, now you can be quiet.”
She believes that identifying signs like “female founders” and “Black-owned businesses” are still very important. “Until those terms stop confusing the mind,” she says, they need to be used to remind the world that they are still something new and only in the minority.
Nikki Thompson, of Overland Park, Kan., Said she never shared her opinion on social media but when viewing Ms. Sumner’s post, she couldn’t help herself. “Labeling will preserve the differences that we should work on,” she writes.
As a registered nurse, Ms. Thompson’s responsibilities include continuing education training and patient documentation, and various forms of inquiry about race, gender, generation demographics, religion. and people. She understands that it is necessary to collect data when it comes to diagnosis and treatment of illnesses. But she questioned the value of collecting that data in many other aspects of everyday life. (Ms. Thompson is happy to answer a question about her age – she will turn 41 next week – but note that labeling everyone’s age is part of the problem.)
“What if we removed the label, maybe the prejudice will diminish,” she said. “This is an everyday thing in my career, and I think a lot about speech, prejudice and unconscious bias and how we can reduce it.” (She also said that the pendulum can be rocked both ways: She had heard relatives say about her male friends, “I have a male nurse and he’s very good.”)
Surprised by the response to her post, Ms. Sumner admits that many of her experiences have been influenced by being a white woman, “with all the perks required,” she said. “But what do I feel like? How to determine? As the founder and the one who started the discussions. “