Why do so several female entrepreneurs find it hard to get a date?
Wendi Goldsmith, the CEO of Bioengineering Group, in Salem, Massachusetts, did not get a single bite when she attempted on the internet dating soon after her divorce in 2003. Then she made one change to her profile, and the responses streamed in.
The a single change? She stopped referring to herself as an entrepreneur.
It is standard wisdom that gender stereotypes impede females who are attempting to raise money or tap sector networks. Female entrepreneurs are typically unfairly perceived as significantly less severe, less aggressive, far more most likely to put family members just before business. But in the years I’ve been talking to entrepreneurs, I’ve discovered an opposite and equally insidious stereotype that is battering women’s romantic prospects. The exact same lady who can’t persuade a VC she’s tough sufficient to develop a organization cannot persuade a guy she’s sweet enough to develop a partnership.
I have heard the very same story numerous times from single female CEOs. Generally, women view guys who exhibit the classic entrepreneurial traits of grit, tenacity, strength, and leadership as desirable partners. Males, by contrast, could view girls with those traits as bossy or suspect they will have difficulty compromising or settling into domestic bliss. “I’ve had individuals describe me as a professional shark,” a single female entrepreneur told me. “You can envision how a man doesn’t want to feel that is who he’s climbing into bed with.”
We’ve come a extended way from these Mad Males days when the only “profession gals” have been secretaries and stewardesses who served males in the workplace, then quit for the opportunity to serve them at residence. The genders are approaching parity in a lot of professions, and 21st-century males seem to want equality in their relationships as properly. But sustaining an equal connection with an entrepreneur is tough. Entrepreneurs refuse to conform to expectations, are comfy creating unilateral decisions, and reflexively put their needs–or the requirements of their companies, which amounts to the identical issue–first. Guys have a nose for a possible energy imbalance. If a single does crop up during the partnership, they do not want to be caught on the incorrect side of it.
And simply because archetypes are, by definition, embedded in our psyches and in the culture, some men are nevertheless put off by females who get in touch with the shots. The difficulty is not isolated to the older generation. Females in their 20s have also bemoaned the circumstance. One particular such woman is Heather Saffer, owner of Dollop Gourmet Frosting in Penfield, New York. “Despite the fact that males say they like the thought of a driven, ambitious woman, they don’t necessarily know how to manage her independent nature, intensity, and attentiveness toward her enterprise,” stated Heather, who is 29. “Guys I date like the novelty initially but ultimately inform me they can’t picture a life with an individual like me.”
Of course, there are lots of female entrepreneurs in satisfying relationships and correct-considering men who really like them. (A single or two women told me their profession actually helped by draining the dating pool of all but serious prospects.) Such couples are to be congratulated on their happiness. And I will not be shocked if I receive indignant letters from a couple of in response to this column. But I do suspect that they are the exception rather than the rule.
Wendi Goldsmith’s experience is far more standard of what I’ve been hearing. After striking out with an on-line dating profile that described her as a “geologist and entrepreneur,” she changed the wording to just “geologist,” and her batting typical improved substantially. “Guys want the warm, fuzzy lady and not the one they think wields a hatchet,” Wendi told me. “A lot of males are uncomfortable with, intimidated by, and ill equipped to manage a effective lady. Men and women assume that those with power aren’t necessarily good, and ladies are supposed to be good.”
Wendi didn’t finish up with any of the guys she dated through that internet site. As an alternative, she married Brian Balukonis, whom she’d met by means of an engineering association 15 years earlier. In the course of these years they had rarely discussed enterprise, and Brian had no idea when they started dating how effective and demanding Wendi’s company had become. That ignorance turned out to be fortuitous. “If I had identified she was a successful entrepreneur, I would have been a little intimidated and unsure about pursuing her romantically,” Brian told me.
“Ideally, somebody gets to know you as a person prior to you put on the scarlet letter of an entrepreneur,” Wendi said.
Of course, accomplished ladies in any profession danger a similar response. But female entrepreneurs point out essential differences amongst themselves and their peers in other higher-powered pursuits. For 1 issue, traditionally employed ladies typically have predictable schedules. Even a surgeon or a senator can regularly wrangle free evenings or weekends. Not so the entrepreneur, who is the initial responder to any company crisis and the final to turn off the office lights. In addition, a woman in a corporate environment who answers to a boss may simply be less scary to guys. As a single female CEO put it, “Just the word CEO is far more intimidating than HR manager at XCorp.”
A far more essential distinction is the expectation–in men’s minds, at least–that conventionally employed girlfriends or wives can stroll away from their jobs, or at least reduce back their hours, if the partnership or loved ones life demands it. Ironically, the same concern over women’s priorities that hurts them with investors also hurts them with romantic partners. Investors be concerned that female entrepreneurs will sacrifice their organizations for their personal lives. Potential boyfriends be concerned they will make the opposite option.
Sometimes a man grows impatient with a woman’s preoccupations because he discounts the worth of her business. “When a guy owns a company, individuals feel he’s Mark Zuckerberg,” says Nancy A. Shenker, CEO of theONswitch, a marketing and advertising technique firm in Yonkers, New York. “A woman says she owns her own enterprise, and folks feel she’s stringing beads in her basement.”
So what do they do, these women hunting for really like with that scarlet letter E emblazoned on their chests? Sadly, some feel compelled to act the element they believe a potential partner desires. Feeling guilty that their leisure time is so restricted, they let their dates contact the shots about exactly where to go and what to do. They never arrive at dinner crowing because they nailed an account or buzzing about expansion possibilities. As one particular female CEO place it, “Entrepreneurs can be intimidating, and I never want to intimidate. In order to date, one needs to maintain the accurate self hidden.”
Others refuse to make such compromises. They don’t take into account entrepreneurship to be a preexisting condition, something for which they must be penalized. Rather, it is one thing for which they deserve respect. In these women’s view, their ambitions, their busyness, the magnitude of their challenges, and the number of men and women who rely on them position them to raise their personal romantic requirements. In the dating game, they demand partners who both want to and are able to preserve up. “We have a construct in our culture, that an individual demands to be the boss,” says Carissa Reiniger, founder and CEO of Silver Lining, a software program company based in New York City. “Perhaps in enterprise that’s so, but not in a very good partnership. I want my equal.”
Possibly the greatest guidance for single entrepreneurs is to treat dating like starting a company. Cast a wide net when looking for possibilities. Be willing to negotiate, but never sacrifice your core principles. And hope you discover a consumer who actually appreciates all you have to provide.