Are You a Woman Doing Business Like a Man?
Written by Tabby Biddle
"Is running your business like a man hurting you?" This is a question Alexis Martin Neely asked a roomful of women entrepreneurs last week in Los Angeles. Alexis is the founder and CEO of the Family Wealth Planning Institute, a business strategist and a go-to legal expert for many television news shows. She also was the host of the inaugural "Powerful Feminine Leadership" event held, not in a typical hotel conference room, but rather at a West Los Angeles yoga studio called Hub.
It's no secret that women have had to play a certain game to make it in the business world, i.e. be the bitchy boss, dress down their femininity, or abide by the rules of a hierarchical structure.
Today, however, women are running their own businesses in increasing numbers and are making their own rules. According to the Center for Women's Business Research, women-owned businesses comprise 40 percent of all privately held companies in the U.S. and women entrepreneurs are among the fastest growing groups of business owners. Compare this to our mother's time when, in 1970, women contributed 2-6 percent of the family income. Now the typical working wife brings home 42.2 percent of the income, and four in 10 mothers--many of them single mothers--are the primary breadwinners in their families.
While women are clearly making great strides in the business world, there is a sense of disconnect and lack of satisfaction going on for many women. In other words, even though they may have a huge track record of accomplishments, they don't necessarily feel good inside.
Take Alexis, for example. She is a mother of two and has run several successful, lucrative businesses. In her first business, a law firm, she hit a million bucks of revenue and said the money was great, but ... "I was doing business like a man, and it hurt ... a lot."
It's a provocative statement, and in an interview with me she explained. She ran her law firm "like a man" because everything she learned about business was from men. First through her dad, and then through the mentors at her law firm.
"I was constantly focused on the competition of it all and trying to get ahead -- always trying to be more ... always more," said Alexa. She explained that she was completely disconnected from her body and that all of her decisions were made from her mind and intellect. "I was constantly looking outside myself for the answers," she said. "I never really knew if I moving in the right direction."
Alexis knew she had to examine her life. There was a divorce to contend with and an unsettling numbness in her body that left her feeling disconnected from herself. With the guidance of a coach, she realized she needed to take better care of herself.
One day Alexis went to a yoga class and started feeling again in her body "in a big way," as she put it.
"What I learned is that all of my power is in my body," she said. She then vowed to lead her second business more like a woman. Within 18 months, her business hit the seven-figure mark, she says.
What does leading a business like a woman really mean? What does it look like?
"First and foremost, being a powerful feminine business leader means knowing how to tap into the only divining rod or crystal any of us ever need for all of our answers -- our bodies," said Alexis in our interview.
Wanting to give the Powerful Feminine Leadership attendees an experience of this, Alexis invited renowned Tantrika Charu Morgan to lead the group of us women entrepreneurs in some feminine movement and meditation.
Charu, sensing this group of women was ready to 'drop in' deeply, gave us our first instruction: "Relax your vagina," she said. While there were a few giggles, those passed quickly and the invitation to relax in this way was welcomed by all. We hip swirled, shook our bodies loose, and danced our unique expression.
"If women aren't fully embodied, it is difficult for them to access their true source of power," says Charu.
Feminine leadership, however, is not just about feeling groovy inside. Nor is it just about sitting around in a circle all day talking, sharing ideas and visions. It's about dropping into that deeper part of ourselves, finding a way to communicate our message in a clear, concise way, and connecting with the support systems we need for our business to thrive.
"There is a sweet spot for women in business that allows us to bring the most powerful qualities of the divine feminine to our leadership while maintaining enough masculine energy to move things forward." - Alexis Martin Neely
For a woman in business, the GO, GO, GO attitude of competition and comparison runs the risk of burn out and undernourishment. While these elements are necessary to keep us driven, focused, and moving forward, bringing to business the feminine elements of asking, receiving, intuition, appreciation and collaboration will serve us well. We need both.
So what’s the the key to doing business like a woman?
Women coming together and learning from each other. Women from the corporate culture of ambition and drive can learn to soften and connect with their core truth by interfacing with women who come from body-based, wellness or healing professions. On the flip side, women in the wellness industry and healing professions who have visions of growing their businesses, but don’t know how to get there, can learn from the experience of corporate women.
Alexis admitted that she was a bit nervous about putting on this kind of event. I interpreted that to mean this was because it was more raw and vulnerable than your typical "women in business" event. I think, however, it is this vulnerability and authenticity that makes for a great woman leader.
Tabby Biddle, M.S. Ed. is a women’s leadership coach, strategist, writer and consultant. Her life’s work is devoted to elevating women’s voices. To learn more about using your voice, making an impact, and being a leader of change in this world, visit tabbybiddle.com.
This article was first published on The Huffington Post.