The problem with “Supporting Women in Business” – Shona Gates

I’ve spent a lot of time curating my Instagram feed to bombard me with women supporting women constantly. Small business education, value giving  Female-led, empowering content day in day out. etc.… I’m all about the #girlboss movement.

However, the flip side of that means that if you look carefully enough, for long enough …. you can see the cracks.

The cracks in that carefully curated brand “supporting women”. Who behind the scenes run their very profitable business by, you guessed it … taking advantage of women.

This comes as a shock to many, sometimes even the business owners, who aren’t aware they are doing anything “ wrong”, simply following in the footsteps of others or allowing the “ that’s just how we’ve always done it” blanket statement to sweep all their problems away.

However, I’ve had enough.

My clients have had enough.

And my blood reached boiling point, to which I posted an Instagram story highlighting this issue. And the response was OVERWHELMING. People from all over the globe shared similar stories. What I had seen behind these cracks was happening EVERYWHERE.

Business on the surface “supporting women” but behind the scenes, leaving unpaid invoices to women-led small businesses, asking for women to “volunteer” hours upon hours, requesting discounts, and requiring PRO BONO services, freebies, etc.

How are we meant to close the wage gap when women businesses don’t pay other women?

How are we supposed to support women if that support only extends to sharing an IG post they made and not paying their invoices on time?

How are we meant to demand respect in the entrepreneurial space if we treat other women with such disrespect?

It just doesn’t work.

The work begins here.  We as women must treat each other better first. Support is more than commenting on a Facebook post or engaging in a poll. Support also involved paying women for their products, services, time that helps you, in turn, grow your business. Instead of shopping for the absolutely cheapest option, often outsourcing overseas, how can you support someone locally, yes it might cost a few dollars more per hour, but your integrity is worth it. What you put out into the world is what is returned to you.

You want to be paid upfront instead of chasing invoices for months. Then pay your invoices straight up.

You want to be paid without people questioning your prices,  asking for discounts etc. Then do the same to them, respect them, pay them.

You want people to refer your business and leave you testimonials, then do the same for other businesses you interact with.

I’m not here to call out specific companies or organisations. I’m here to open up a conversation, call awareness to this issue, that if left unchecked, will keep so many women in business stuck in a cycle of self-doubt, feast and famine with money, undercharging and in survival mode instead of thriving and rising together.

So, what can we do about it ….

If you’re an organisation or company focused on “supporting women”, this is a call to action to check in with your employees, vendors, freelancers, contractors, and people you work with. Do you feel that you are fairly compensating them for their time, services, and products with your whole heart? How can you learn more into this?

As someone on the other side of it, ask yourself how can you set clear and healthy boundaries around the work you do … Do you need to raise your prices? Do you need to let go of a client who has taken advantage of you? Do you need some rules/ boundaries about what type, how much pro bono work you will take on?

Let’s not leave these conversations for another day. They need to happen now.

Ripping down that patriarchy, it begins here,

You support women by paying them. It’s that simple.