Bullish Life: Towards a Monstrous Regiment of Women

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:

Don’t Solicit Feedback

“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.”


Money Makes You More of Who You Already Are

“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.

Send in your questions to mailto:bullish@thegloss.com or follow on Twitter @jendziura. See a Bullish archive here.

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    • zanbrody

      I have so many thoughts about this article, I don’t think I can even articulate one particularly well.

      More and more I am realizing that my thoughts on feminism and women in business vs. men in business are going to remain ever fluid.

      I feel like instead of forming set opinions, I’m currently most interested in examining the lives of women I admire and trying to dissect what it is about them that I’m drawn to hold in high regard.

      So, thank you–here is another article full of women to appreciate/contemplate!!

    • Susan

      Agreed with everything you said, Jen. My trepidation about all-women MBA programs is the worry that it will reinforce the stereotype that women are not at all interested in making money and instead want to focus on social issues and aren’t interested in competing with men. I worry that this will be the end result even though the thought is a good one.

    • sexist

      You say, this female billionaire is quirky in a way JUST LIKE MALE billionaires are, but that she demonstrates that you don’t have to run your career like a man. You say you don’t think women are morally better, but that effectively women who choose to only interact with women are.
      Don’t get me wrong. I think you are making a good point. I hope it won’t put me in the “dick-typing” category when I point out, that I wouldn’t know of any possibility to have a purely male MBA, which seems oddly unbalanced. But what I’m actually trying to point out is, that even negating clichés, you (or I for that matter) can’t help but remain in the framework of this particular bias. As long as we need to have special female MBAs, we’re not even close to where we should be. “Separate but equal” has never really done the trick, it seems.

      • a woman

        to sexist–
        I think part of the point here is that MBAs started out as degrees for males only. The point of the program Jen mentioned is no different than that of a women’s undergraduate college–part of which is to give young women the opportunity to learn while surrounded by positive female role models. In considering the fact that higher education has a history of excluding women, it becomes apparent that the point of such schools/programs is not to exclude men, rather to encourage women in fields and professions that are historically male-dominated. The hope is that these women will then join the professional world better off for their unique educational experience and be well-situated to succeed at their jobs. When enough time has passed that women holding high positions in these fields is commonplace and inequalities (such as gender-based salary discrepancies) no longer pose a problem, then these programs may no longer be needed. Until then, please do not criticize women’s education programs simply because of the seeming “unbalance” that the boy’s club isn’t still the boy’s club.

    • Tania

      I’m currently in business school, and I do think an all-woman MBA isn’t a bad thing. I think the reason it’s different than an all-man MBA program is that in our culture, unless you live under a rock in the literal sense you still get extremely gendered messages everywhere. On TV, in music, in movies – you’re still getting shades of male dominance. Whereas a dude in an all-male MBA program would be getting all those same messages from media without any female presence at school to mitigate the bro-messages.

      I mean, there is a reason that frat boys have that reputation for being, well, frat boys – the immersion in an all-male culture can bring out the worst in a lot of guys, even those who didn’t start out as wearers of Axe body spray.