What you may well ask, can startup founders learn from the second-wave feminist icon?
Plenty, as it turns out. For today’s tips for women seeking funding, I’d like to tell you what I learned from Gloria Steinem recently, because that may help. Her perspective on feminism, and why she is a self-proclaimed hope-aholic, will help women founders everywhere – indeed, of any gender. So guys, listen up too.
First, power is most effective when it is shared. No matter what you might think, none of us is able to accomplish all we want to alone. Like most things in life, your influence goes farther when you share it with others. At its core, this is a fundamental principle of mentoring, sponsoring and networking. More important, this is the fundamental principle of parity: if you have a platform, or influence, power, or a voice of your own you will benefit from sharing it with others who don’t, while you you give them a leg up to equal access.
Don’t have a voice yet? Gloria Steinem used to power of sharing to find hers. By her own admission, she was terrified of public speaking as she started out, even though she was determined to speak for women who needed it. So she invited other outspoken women to share their voices on stage. In doing so she advanced her own agenda of gender equality, a brilliant strategy that amplified her message and theirs.
“Don’t look up, look out at each other and find shared power.” (From “Gloria, a Life” by Emily Mann)
Now late in her life and secure in her role as a leader, she graciously shares her power with others, including credit for advances she has led, and generously, too.
Tip #1-, if you are starting out and have not found your voice or an audience that takes you seriously, find someone who has both and invite them to present with you. Do you fear others will overrun your platform and drown you out? Well, that’s a possibility, but more likely the power of activating your community will serve you far better than going it alone.
Second, we are not alone. "We have each other and that makes us strong. There is no need to toil in isolation. “Think of us all as linked, instead of ranked,” she says.
Tip #2 - Find your group, your cohort, who share your vision. Startups can be lonely. Avoid going into those woods alone. Your group may be other entrepreneurs; every community has such groups. Or it may be a group of trusted advisors, or your board whom you have selected carefully for the expertise you need.
Third, maintain laser focus on what you aim to accomplish. Assignments for a woman emerging in the 1950’s were limited to writing about ‘women’s interests’ such as reviewing a new trend toward textured stockings. Or recipes. Or decorating. However, writing these did pay her rent as she persisted in speaking up for more serious assignments for interviews and politics, and the growing movement for women's rights . The first question she asked me was about gender equity in my own life. Remain vigilant to advance your mission.
Tip #3- Keep your vision and mission clear in your mind always and work with what you’ve got until you get where you want. Gloria Steinem had to start where women were mid-century. She worked from there, and the rest – as they say, “is history".
*For those of you who need a refresher;
Gloria Steinem is a writer, lecturer, political activist, and feminist organizer. Co-founder of Ms. Magazine and New York Magazine, and numerous action organizations, she travels in this and other countries as an organizer and lecturer and is a frequent media spokeswoman on issues of equality. She is particularly interested in the shared origins of sex and race caste systems, gender roles and child abuse as roots of violence, non-violent conflict resolution, the cultures of indigenous peoples, and organizing across boundaries for peace and justice. She lives in New York City, and has published numerous books, and two memoirs.
Full Bio here http://www.gloriasteinem.com/about