It’s well established that female entrepreneurs have a harder time raising money than men. But the biggest challenge is what happens once a company does make it off the ground with a woman at the top, Rent the Runway CEO Jennifer Hyman says.
“Building followership and inspiration around female leadership is quite difficult to do,” Hyman said on the latest episode of Recode Decode, hosted by Kara Swisher. “As women and men, we’re not primed and taught to feel that women are as inspirational as men.”
It’s not simply a problem of some workers deciding they don’t like working for a woman, Hyman said. Rather, it’s that people of all genders are taught from a young age that leadership requires “a certain type of voice, a certain type of posturing,” in ways that favor men.
“We learn about MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech,” she said. “Take that same speech and put it in the voice of a woman. Would it be as inspirational? Would it have as much gravitas to it?”
To combat these instincts, Hyman said she has to be hyperconscious of the assumptions people make about female leaders and tries to actively counteract those stereotypes.
“For a woman to achieve this level of leadership, it must mean she’s a bitch, right?” she said. “It must mean that she’s tough or that she’s mean. The way I inspire loyalty in my team is for them to see me more casually, to have lunch with members of my team, for them to see me with my family, my fiancé, to see the real me.”
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For more on diversity of all types in tech and business, check out this episode of Recode Decode from November, in which we rounded up the wisdom of several of our past podcast guests:
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This article originally appeared on Recode.net.