… But first you have to learn it!
As women we’re taught not to celebrate our achievements. If we do we’re arrogant, show-off idiots.
We’re also taught not to speak out about injustices, toxicity, bullying or harassment. If we do “we’re not cut for it!“, “we don’t have what it takes to make it”.
Invisible keeps you safe
As Romanian women we are also brought up to care deeply about what others think of us. Image, status and how others perceive you is very important to a country that is barely 3 decades out of communism. Memories of Securitate and its octopus-like infiltrators that tainted families, neighbours and communities are still raw. Too many innocents were thrown into prison branded as traitors. Your family could be next. Your next door neighbours could have been a collaborator and the tiniest comment against the system, the smallest sign of revolt could have earned you a place under surveillance.
You trusted no one.
Your image was staunchly preserved as neutral. Inconspicuous. Invisible was good. It kept you safe.
That’s why becoming a female entrepreneur in a secular society, where females are empowered to want more, to achieve more and to shout it from the rooftops… Well, that’s something we’re still learning. It doesn’t come easy.
How the bias keeps you stuck
I realised this when we had to come up with our very own content strategy on LinkedIn.
We had to go through the content coaching session that we use on our clients. Not because we didn’t have the expertise to create content.
But because sitting down to create this content, we each started off with “I have nothing interesting to talk about”, “what could I possibly say? My life is so boring”, “surely this topic is exhausted”.
Our limiting beliefs spurred from a narrative of “never draw attention to yourself” were holding us back.
“What will others think?”
“Am I professional enough?”
“Am I making the RIGHT impression?”
Being stuck in this mindset does not bring you any closer to breaking any bias. I’m being pretty honest when I say that if every female entrepreneur would have thought this way, the world would have no female role models whatsoever.
Oh and we were on track to being invisible!
We left school. Went to university. Achieved degrees. Started off on the career ladder and honestly, we were so deep in it we couldn’t see that every step of the ladder was filled with sexism, bullying, a toxic workplace and complete disregard for any mental health, personal development or work-life balance.
We did what we knew best. Kept going. Marching on. We had to prove we were cut for it. And never too divergent. Don’t make too much of a fuss. Never tread too far out of line.
What would others’ say?
I speak for all of us at The Orange Notebook when I say that throughout our journey on the career ladder we experienced panic attacks. We’ve experienced physical sickness out of fear and anxiety. We have been bullied, discriminated against for being Romanians and disregarded for being women.
We discarded it as normal, kept quiet and kept going. Part and parcel of what having a career means.
We couldn’t disappoint family. And we couldn’t risk the security of an income.
Until we quit.
The day we decided to quit and start The Orange Notebook, was the day we went against everything we ever knew.
✅ No one in our families is or has ever been an entrepreneur.
✅ Our parents’ generation holds tight the belief that “you hold on to your job for dear life”.
✅ There has never been a safety net for any of us. No investors, no funding, no plan B. The bills always had to be paid.
✅ We started this business by putting down a symbolic £30 each. The fact we managed to hit £10k months and pay a wage every month is probably the biggest achievement of my life.
Our loved ones were trying to convince us to stick it out. Just as Covid-19 was taking shape and hitting West, the context was the most insecure we’ve ever lived through. Leaving a safe job seemed madness.
“What would people think?”
Taking a stand may well be the most difficult thing I ever did
The day I drafted my leaving email I felt happy. I called out the toxic bullshit I put up with. I thanked mentors and those who taught me something. I also called out the behaviour of those that put me down. And I walked.
Into a world of uncertainty, sleepless nights, stress, frustration and the greatest emotional rollercoaster of my life.
Two years later I can proudly say that…
💞 We took a stand for our values
💞 We created a freedom lifestyle
💞 We beat down toxicity by taking control and saying NO to misogyny, disrespect, or discrimination from any potential or current clients
💞 We were able to work remotely and spend more time with loved ones more than ever before
💞 We were able to prioritise our mental health, self-awareness, learn and grow like never before
And today we cheer for our fellow women entrepreneurs! Because maybe they don’t want to cheer themselves. We know what it’s like. We applaud every single brave woman that’s a full time business owner, or has a side-hustle, working out of your homes, or nomading in a country far away… with kids, with pets, with husbands, or wives or without any of it. KEEP GOING!
Oh and we couldn’t tell you what others said or thought. We were too busy building our future…