280: How to Claim Your Power as a Woman Business Owner

17 Minutes Read

Few things are as upsetting as being excluded or blocked based on something you didn't choose—like your gender.

The temptation is to ignore it, accept it, or just get angry about it. But there's a way to confront this kind of bias head on that empowers you and others, whether you're the one affected or not.

In this episode of the Superabound podcast, we share ways to claim your power when people's words or actions threaten to slow you down.

You will discover:

  • How to spot the signs that you're giving away your power and what to do instead
  • How to support someone else who is being excluded without trying to "save the day" for them [HINT: they don't need saving]
  • The most important ingredient in your business—and life—that will help you take the right next step


If you want the vision and values for your company to be clear and strong enough to help you claim your power, Grow Smooth for Lean Businesses will help you craft them and move forward. Learn more and sign up here.

Listen to it on Spotify here

Full Transcript

Erin Aquin  0:01  
Welcome to the Superabound podcast with master coaches Erin Aquin and Steve Haase, where business owners like you learn tools that help you clarify vision, clear up static and overcome challenges, you are listening to Episode 280: How to claim your power as a woman business owner. Hello, I you know, we debated about the title of this one, I will be honest, I think the phrase claiming your power, and is a little bit overused in a lot of cases. And it sort of conjures up like an image of someone power posing at the top of a mountain or something like that. But the deal is, if you are a woman business owner, or you know a woman business owner, there is some serious shit that comes our way that most of my male counterparts have never ever had to deal with. And so, while you might think, Oh, this is gonna be an episode, just with Erin, I actually invited my very favorite male counterpart Steve Haase, Z to join me on this episode, because being in a woman owned business, I think he actually gets to see a lot of the inside craziness that gets thrown my way. So welcome, Steve, how excited are you to talk about claiming your power as a woman business owner,

Steve Haase  1:28  
Erin, I am pumped, because it's bullshit, all the messed up stuff that happens and the opportunities that people miss, because of unconscious bias, you know, we're gonna share some of the recent examples. But that word is exactly what it is. People just have a view of the world that says, Well, if there's a woman and a man, the man is going to be the one who's in charge, and the woman's going to be kind of in the backseat, because that's just how it goes. No one's gonna say that intentionally. But they will do small things that will reveal that that's what's going on in their mind. So in our case, we've been working with a partner. And like five little things all happened, where I was the main point person, I was the, you know, first person on the list, they sent the special welcome thing to me, for no particular reason, right, we made it clear that you are the CEO, you are cutting the checks, you are the leader of this business. And that's an opportunity for them to actually celebrate that there's a woman owned business as part of their client base, to elevate you to make sure that that you are feeling the love from them, as you know, their client. And they whiffed. And so it makes sense that, not only would we be upset, you know, you'd be upset, I'd be supporting you in that. But also, it just highlights in this world of unconscious bias training, most of us do still fall prey to it. And it's something that we can always do better with. And so yeah, let's let's talk about some of the ways that that manifests and what to do in response to it.

Erin Aquin  3:07  
So I think before we talk about how to claim your power, as a woman, business owner art, like really anyone who has been othered. So I like I know that there are plenty of people who who are going to have a similar story to this woman or not. But in order to talk about claiming your power, you have to first know, when you are feeling power less. Now, I tend not to ever want to dwell on these things. So actually the situation that you were talking about Steve, where we were working with another business, and I just started to sort of notice, like, yeah, you got the welcome gift was addressed only to you twice, there were two gifts that came and they were both only addressed to you, including a handwritten card with only your name on it. The contract had your name on the contract first as though you were the client and I was like, the side person even though I do write the checks. I am the CEO and these people were very aware of that. There's part of me even as a coach, even though I teach other business owners that over communication is the best strategy for dealing with issues. I really at first was just like, oh, it was just a flub, oh, it might just be in their system wrong. It really didn't kind of bother me until something very important to the project came through that I was not see seed on I was not addressed on and then I kind of lost it. Then I you know, not in an unprofessional way. But I decided I am the client here. At the end of the day. I am the client and I do have a good working relationship with our account coordinator. So I reached out to her and expressed my my feedback about what I have noticed about the repeated times that Steve has been addressed. And I was not included on some pretty major pieces of this particular project. I also, you know, I didn't out and out say, Hey, I think this, your company is sexist. But I did say, I'm not sure what to do with this, because the team that is supporting us is largely comprised of other women. And I think we've been pretty clear in saying that we are a woman owned business, this is a really important part of our identity at Superabound, you know, how are you going to make this right? I'm not sure how a team of women can't see that this is happening over and over again. And luckily, the person who was working this very professional got back to me right away, is implementing what I think will end up being a positive outcome for us as clients and hopefully for future people. But unfortunately, this is not the first time that this has happened, either in an unconscious way. Or overtly, you know, I have been sitting in rooms of high priced masterminds, and been heckled by grown men about my approach to business, who, by the way, my business is more successful than some of those men. And it is really wild to me that people can, consciously and unconsciously still look at a 40 year old business owner. But because I happen to be a woman, they assume that my husband must be in charge. First of all, they assume I have a husband, and they assume he must be in charge or that he must have some other job that pays him well, so that I can dabble in my cute little business. So these are the things that enraged me. I know other women who have had the same things happen to them, I know that this is not a new story or an original story. But it's unfortunately one that a lot of us share. And those moments can just make you feel so powerless. Also, just like what do I have to do, to be seen, on the same playing field, as in this case, men.

Steve Haase  7:25  
So what I hear from that is the first step to claiming your power is recognizing when you're feeling powerless. In your case, it's that feeling of rage, that anger, feeling othered feeling pushed to the side, or overlooked in some way. Or even as subtle as people asking questions of you that they wouldn't ask of a man, which in a kind of cultural context, at first, the question seems fine things that you've shared this where people will ask, who's taking care of the kids? Oh, you're here, the How wonderful, who's taking care of the kids? I've never had the question who's looking after the kids. And what what that does for me, is actually just, there's this assumption that I have inside, that I have a right to be here, but I'm supposed to be here, that I'm the person who belongs in this business conversation in this room in this situation. And that kind of gives me an unquestioned sense of uplift there's an updraft there for Yes, I belong Yes, I can contribute Yes, I can succeed because I don't have to fight through any of that headwind or cultural assumption about well, really, it's someone else who should be here. So the fact that you know one of the things that inspired me to do this episode with you is the fact that you don't take that shit I mean, you will you will sometimes take it on you know, you don't like fight it in every case, but it will it will get under your skin you'll you'll talk to me about it sometimes you will address it in the moment but but you don't let that get you down. You fight it you fight for your right to be there. And I find that very inspiring. And and why I'm I'm glad we're doing this episode. I want to know what what lens you use to sniff out that unconscious bias because the thing that's so insidious about it is that we all kind of have it in a way unless we're doing something to surface it. So what do you do to to question the bullshit when it comes your way?

Erin Aquin  9:46  
Okay, you make me sound like I'm very tough. But, you know, I actually really agree with the statement that we all have unconscious bias. It's funny because when another mother asks me Who's with the kids? I'm not offended by that. They because I know it's like it is tricky. Sometimes, depending on where you're at with your kids and how your kids are, sometimes it can be like, that you don't always love when mommy leaves. Now our kids will cry no matter who leaves. So it's never easy. And I think when somebody who is in that situation, who understands like just the emotional energy that sometimes it takes to, to travel, to own a business to have your focus in many directions and have this very tough job of raising a child, or two or more. I am not upset or offended because it doesn't feel I think this is the thing is it doesn't feel condescending difference between that and some dude, I don't know, saying with a smarmy look, well, that must be nice for you to get some time away. For work. Who's with your kids? Like it's it's more a, a tone and an assumption. Or like, I know that this has upset you like, when people will say, Oh, is it is it daddy daycare week, or, you know, Is your husband babysitting? It's so offensive. So this isn't like on a little bit of a tangent. But if you have ever called another parent, a babysitter, I want you to know that that is like one of the most offensive things you can ever do a totally diminishes the role of the other parents. So I'm just gonna give you a tip. If you ever hear someone say that lovingly, you can do it lovingly don't have to be a jerk about it, but correct them. And if someone says that to you correct them. So I do, quote unquote, fight back, it's tempered with understanding that while there are snarky people out there, who are definitely trying to make me feel small. And notice I'm the only woman in the room and want to point that out. More often than not, I think it is unconscious, and I don't think it's necessarily meaning to be harmful. And what I've started to do is take a page out of our own communication book at Superabound and give feedback. So writing emails, when I noticed a discrepancy in treatment that I'm pretty sure would never happen to a male on the same project. I sent that feedback, and I'm giving those other people an opportunity to make it right. I think I'm very generous, in fact, but it also keeps me from being enraged at all times. Because if, if I actually let myself go down the rabbit hole of every single sexist comment I've ever gotten, every time someone has asked what my partner does for a living, or is it daddy daycare week? Well, I'm, well, I'm on a business trip. I would never get anything done. So the lens is, I actually go back to what my Superabound vision is. I think about wanting to be more fully in these spaces in my business and not not getting caught up in like trying to catch people being rude or catch people in their unconscious bias. I don't focus on it as much. Instead, I try to focus on I don't try to focus on that at all, I try to focus on the bigger vision for why I'm here and why I'm doing this. We've talked about this before, but the way that we teach vision to our clients, and the way we use it in our business, is that your vision should be so big that it can hold you through any storm. So when whether someone says something or does something that is just a little careless, that they would never say or do to a man or whether someone is actually targeting me and trying to make me feel small, I have a vision that is so much bigger than that person. And I know that the more I show up and the more successful I am and that we are and that our business is the better it's going to be for people coming up the mountain after I want more women to see lanterns lit by other women on their own path. And so that is what I tried to do and I you know what? I've we've talked about this before, but I love to turn my anger into create creativity. So I will create content when I'm pissed. Best content Hey, I this this episode actually came from a situation we had. And first it was a Facebook post that everybody kind of piled on to. And now we're recording this episode because I want other people to hear this and to be seen. And if you're a woman, you are not alone. And if you're not a woman business owner, and you see this shit, please use your voice. Everybody's

Steve Haase  15:25  
welcome at this party. And not in the sense of, Well, if you happen to be a white man, then you can, you can save the day. We're not asking anybody to save any days. But we are asking you to be up for the conversation, to ask questions. When Erin was responding really strongly to the situation earlier in the week, I wasn't aware of it at all, I was focusing on other things entirely. But when I heard her, I let in her response. And notice how true it was. And I supported her in that. I didn't try to say no, you're wrong. This isn't this isn't the main event we actually collaborated on? Where? Where are you kind of letting your power slip away? And where can this actually be in service of your growth as a business owner? How is this an opportunity here for you? And so I didn't come in and write the email in response, I didn't draft Erin's ideas, I didn't get incensed for her. I was empathetic to her rage, and anger. I made space for it. And I asked how I can support her in it? And the answer was, let me write the damn email. And then let's do a podcast. So before you think, Okay, I'm getting time to save the day put on my Superman cape, and I'll zip right in and you know, help out my woman business owner, friend. That's not what we're talking about at all. It's about asking, Where does she need support? Where can your voice be most powerful? How can you actually help her claim her power, rather than, you know, be the knight in shining armor, which is basically just a way to reinforce the stereotypes that are causing the problem in the first place? Yeah,

Erin Aquin  17:22  
and I think that's such an important point. You don't have to know what to do. You, you can ask someone, how can I support you here? It's a beautiful question to ask. And it got like far beyond just this topic. Like anytime you see any injustice done? I think it's always a good question to ask. And you know, this is not a podcast about like, how men are bad. I have encountered some ones that could use a little reeducation, for sure. But there was one instance where I was in a room and someone just said something that was very inappropriate towards me. Another man came up afterwards and just acknowledged that, hey, you know, I thought what that guy said was not okay, I didn't agree with him. And I told him, so. But I also just wanted to tell you, that I support you. You know, he didn't have to do that. And he wasn't doing it to come in and save the day. But I really appreciated hearing, even you know, I posted this whole thread on on social media. And so many men have reached out and said, Yeah, I've seen I've seen this, and it isn't okay, and I'm sorry, you're dealing with it. And, you know, just offering kindness and humanity without saying, Here's the 10 point plan to solve the problem. But just knowing that there's people out there, if you don't have a way of solving the problem. I know it's a sensitive thing. And I know people have a lot of opinions about how to support properly and do right and claim power and how you should fight. I just want to stress that we're sharing our opinion here and our approach. But the way I think that I have decided to claim my power as a female business as a woman business owner, is I am talking about it with people from sometimes from anger, but always with a very clear line to my big vision. Anger is really powerful. And it can be a really creative, beautiful force when diverted appropriately. But I think something I have learned as a coach is it's really hard or to change someone's mind when you come at them. Like, I don't like feeling attacked by other people, and no one's going to convince me, I'm wrong if they come at me with an attack. So for instance, just think about a time when you have had a strong position and someone said to you, hey, you're wrong, or someone got really mad at you about something you didn't even know you did that was wrong. It's very hard to change people's minds. And like we are seeing in the world, so much division. And so many topics. Having a having a battle of who's right and who's wrong, is not often very productive. I have, you know, I coached before we were business coaches, we still talk a lot about various relationships. But I almost exclusively before we moved into more business coaching, was a relationship coach, I've seen so many people who are very sure that they are correct in their position, hold on to that for dear life, and not budge when confronted. So as much as I give feedback into voice, what I'm noticing, it's not in order to shame people or make people feel like they are wrong. It's to say this is a been, you know, for the company that we were working with, it was more of this is a really unfortunate experience I'm having as a woman business owner, here are the factual things that your company has done, that has led to me feeling unhappy with the service that we are getting, and I want to give you an opportunity to acknowledge it, and to make it right. So I'm not putting it in someone else's hands or waiting for anyone else to change. I am saying this, I'm giving it to them, I'm giving them the opportunity to change. But I have also withdrawn my investment from companies, I have also chosen not to hire people people have lost out on deals with us in our company, because they chose not to act on the feedback and the facts of what I I offered them what and

Steve Haase  22:08  
what I'm hearing there is that even if you feel resentment or anger or some kind of upset, you don't leave it there, you don't leave the power in somebody else's hands. You either give feedback, you take action. And that's how you're claiming your power. Claiming your power does not mean other people do the right thing. If you're waiting for someone else to treat you the way that you want to be treated, you might be waiting for a long time. But if you take action, even if that action is expressing yourself sharing, you're upset any of those things, then what I'm hearing, and what I see from you, is that it puts you in a powerful place. So that and if those people are paying attention, then they won't do that shit anymore. They'll realize, oh, we messed up. Let's make it right. Thank you for telling us ideally, and let's move on. And so you open the door for that, but you don't require that in order to have actually claimed your power. Right. And I think that's what's so powerful about what you shared and about our approach to this about your approach to it is it doesn't require other people to do it right? You are willing to claim your power, regardless of what's happening around you, even if it means you get really mad, and then you write a great social media post about it or you, you know, take other actions that you have with your business. You. You don't just stuff it down, or just get mad about

Erin Aquin  23:41  
it. Yeah. Because the immediate that because I think what happens is people just say, well, the world's just really fucked up. And there's nothing I can do about it. So why bother? I have seen that attitude lead to people closing their businesses. Like just quitting. And that's not what we want. We want it to be like, I want to make it awkward for someone to be in a room and say that shit to a woman. I want to see 20 women in the room go. Wait, do you know what you just said to her? I want 20 men to say wait, do you know what you just said to her? I want to make it uncomfortable and and not. In a mean take down like let's cancel that person way but in a way where respect and thoughtfulness is the language that more of us are speaking in our businesses and with each other. Imagine if there was more decorum in the world, kindness. Imagine if you were willing to tell someone when what they said sounded condescending to you. Imagine if you gave yourself the power to point it out. When something didn't compute for you. That is what I have been doing lately. It's a really A simple thing. But it also on the other hand, it also helps me to not assume that I have the full story. It helps me not assume that someone was unconscious or was just downright mean. It helps me to, and it helps me sleep at night to give people the opportunity to correct something in the moment. So that I don't go away from a situation feeling like shit. Lucky them, I'm giving them the opportunity to not contribute to me feeling like shit. Not that it's up to them. But I know that if I don't say something, it feels like I missed an opportunity. Yeah, so I love what you said about not expecting other people to change just based on the feedback that you give them. That is actually the greatest part of this topic is when you are a woman business owner, Money talks. I know it may not be so sophisticated to say it. But I know I've shared the story ages ago, but I was having a sales conversation with a coach, I was thinking of hiring who'd come to me very highly recommended by someone I really trust. And on that conversation, she talked at me for the whole time, asked me very few questions. And then at the end, when she told me what the investment was going to be, she said, I know you probably have to ask your husband first. So I'll, I can send you an email for it so that you can share all the details with him. And you can get back to me on Friday, as though I worked for her. And PS, she did not know what my relationship status was. She did not ask me if I had a partner of any gender. Total assumption totally sexist, came from a woman. And you know what I did, didn't spend a penny with her or her business. So remember, by being a woman business owner, you're already powerful. And if something that someone says or does feels off to you, and it's a relationship that you want to spend time, money, resources on, you don't know that person anything. But you should check in and ask if you owe yourself the opportunity to let that person know that what they did was not okay with you. Sometimes people will surprise you and they'll make it right. And sometimes you'll find out that your assumption was correct. And you'll be very happy that you didn't go any further down that that path. If something feels off to you intuitively. Listen to it, question the other person on it. That is one way of claiming your power. Don't deny those hunches, investigate them.

Steve Haase  28:06  
And that goes for everyone. Sometimes it's tempting to just go with the flow and let other people dominate the conversation or the moment. But we always have an opportunity to claim our power, whoever we are, whatever situation we're in. So we encourage you to do that. Erin, thank you for sharing your experience and claiming your power with this podcast. Sometimes it is just sharing your story. Making Sense of your experience, which is what we tried to do

Erin Aquin  28:41  
here. Oh, you're so welcome. I think it's an I think it's an important one and I will stress one more time that you have to have a vision for your business that is bigger than all the bullshit. It's the only way you will be able to handle the inevitable stuff that comes up again, regardless of who you are. There will be bullshit sorry, tout works. So if you feel like you don't have that really clearly articulated, it's not living right now in your business. I really hope you will come and check out our business building program grow smooth for Lean businesses. This is an incredible program that you can work through over a complete year you will get a lot of coaching support will help you through every each and every one of the modules as you articulate and bring to life your vision and values in your business and then move through what we call the success spiral the main the six main areas that every single business needs in order to grow as smoothly as possible. Hope you will Check that out over at besuperabound.com/grow and get started today. Thanks everybody. Take care