I’m strangely fascinated by Blakely’s story because 1) she made her money entirely from women, and surrounded by women, 2) she’s not an entertainer (entertainment has always been an exception, in some ways, to rules that kept women and minorities shut out of opportunity, and 3) she’s weird, in the same sorts of ways that male billionaires are. (She snuck into stores and placed her product in racks near the register; she went on a reality show to promote her product and ended up setting a world record in “climbing a rope ladder the equivalent of a 17-story building.”)
Here are my favorite pieces of Blakely advice from all the press that’s surrounded news that she’s joined the billionaire list:
“My family knew that ‘Sara’s working on some idea’ but I never told them what it was,” she says. “Don’t solicit feedback on your product, idea or your business just for validation purposes. You want to tell the people who can help move your idea forward, but if you’re just looking to your friend, co-worker, husband or wife for validation, be careful. It can stop a lot of multimillion-dollar ideas in their tracks in the beginning.”
“Blakely has strong views about her wealth. ‘I feel like money makes you more of who you already are,’ she says from behind a mirrored desk in her plush Atlanta office, stirring a bowl of take-out soup and exhausted from a sleepless, flu-ridden night. ‘If you’re an asshole, you become a bigger asshole. If you’re nice, you become nicer. Money is fun to make, fun to spend and fun to give away.’
(In Bullish: How to Use Your Career to Make the World a Better Place, I wrote a whole subsection entitled, “Money isn’t evil; it simply magnifies the desires of whoever holds it.”)
I write for women and give seminars for women. I teach test prep and write educational books, but I feel that I have a certain specialty in teaching math to women who are terrified of math. (Note: There is no gender gap in math performance in Asia because no one told girls they were supposed to be bad at it, and because math is viewed as the result of hard work rather than as the product of inherent talent.) When I tutor high school kids, it’s almost always moms I talk to about it.
If I wanted to run a career in which I sold my services to women and women only, I could.
I’m not saying that I have any desire to do this. Why cut out whole market segments, and exempt yourself from the camaraderie and mentorship of men who are excellent at what they do? And plenty of men need math help, too. (And, for the record, in Bullish: How to Run Your Career Like a Gentlewoman, I was very clear that “with great power comes great responsibility”, that “some women are bad people,” and that using any newfound power to sexually harass or discriminate against men is wrong.)
But I’m saying – and here’s my point, if you’ve been patiently waiting for it (thank you) – that the reality of being able to run an all-women career in a variety of fields casts new light on the typical advice that we all have to man up and run our careers like dudes.
As you may know from my columns here and on TheGrindstone. I have written extensively about asking for money, talking more about money, marketing yourself, speaking up, pitching, neutralizing jerks, and helming your own future.
So, yes to all of that. But did you know that women-in-business books from the ‘90s and before recommended studying sports metaphors so you could talk more like a dude? (“We’re in the bottom of the ninth on this quarter’s sales figures.”) Fucking bullshit.
Dude culture no longer has a place in the workplace. Or at least it shouldn’t.
As John Knox wrote, regarding the Monstrvovs Regiment of Women, “For no man ever saw the lion make obedience, and stoop before the lioness.”
If our society was based on EATING GAZELLES, yes, I think feminism probably wouldn’t have happened. Fortunately, the gazelle-predation stage of our society has ended.