The choice of language is an important part of communication.
The context of the situation and the intention behind the words also play an impact on how others receive the message.
While I consider myself a feminist, and celebrate the successes women have in the business world, I hadn’t before thought much about the term “businesswoman”. That was until Naomi Simson, founder of RedBalloon and Shark Tank judge, pulled me up on it.
It was a standard interview setting and I was asking her about her thoughts on giving back to the startup community with her new workshop on Lynda.com, LinkedIn’s educational platform.
Before she answered she corrected me, saying she preferred the term “businessperson” and said she’d didn’t want to make the conversation about gender.
This piqued my interest. I asked her to elaborate.
“People do ask me for my opinion, or my experience, but that’s doing a sample size of one,” she said.
“A lot of people have experienced all sorts of different things. I think what’s the most important thing is that when we hear a bias that we stand up to it. I have become increasing alert of not working past those sort of comment.
“Unless in that moment we stand up to it, then it just (continues to happen).
“Our role as leaders is to be increasingly aware of it and stand up to it. If we don’t call it when we see it… then we haven’t done our job as a leader.”
Simson is an advocate for women in business, and many see her as a champion on the issue and leadership example to follow.
But in doing so she says, it’s just as important that men are still involved in that conversation too.
“I am involved with the Chief Executive of Women because it’s effectively what leadership for business can look like… on the whole I have to be where business people are, whether they be male or female.
“We need men involved in the conversation otherwise it will be women talking to women and we’ll never change anything.”
Simson has recently launched a training program on LinkedIn’s learning platform Lynda.com called “Managing Your Small Business.”
She is the first Australian author to be commissioned on the platform, and has covered topics such as finding your purpose, and promoting your business effectively.
“After doing it for across two decades it makes sense that I would share what I have learned,” she says about the partnership with Linkedin.
“Lynda… offers me a broader reach to literally millions of people around the world, and I also think that’s a great thing for Australians to have a voice in the global business community.
“If we do know one thing about small business owners… it’s that they’re time poor, which is why the bite-sized workshops which you can ‘dive in and out’ are a great resource”.
It’s so good that she wonders if it had been around when she was in the early stages of RedBalloon whether she would have got anything done.
“It’s such rich content on so many topic, I wonder if I would have got lost in there and never come out the other side to do some work because I am a curious person,” she said, adding that its a wonderful resource and she is “a bit envious of the startups now [because] they’ve got so much”.
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