Nurture people, not products

The facts:

  • 97% of sewn products businesses are started by women.
  • 98% of sewn products businesses end up being owned by men.

What happened? Why does this happen?

This is one of those idle philosophical topics I discuss with other (female) designers and business owners. My pet theory is that women are too emotionally invested in their products; they see them as children, literally. Women literally interpret “birthing a business” in a biological context. Men are different. They’ll try anything within reason to see what sticks. If a product fails, they’re less likely to see product death akin to death of a child. Women will go to inordinate lengths to ensure the viability of their progeny; investing in a stillborn child that should have miscarried in the first trimester. Products are not children! Time and time again I’ve seen women make foolish choices. They’ll waste boatloads of money to produce an item in quantity in advance of orders because their idea is perfect. The reality is, many products have a face that only a mother could love; the rest of us think it is beyond dog ugly and just as worthless. Why must your image of yourself as the mother of your products be the summation of your worth? No self respecting woman would admit she lives through her children so why must so many women live through their products?

When I first came up with “nurture people, not products”, it was in response to internal moral outrage with a potential client. This man had decided to produce a line of products inspired by his muse which just happened to be the speed boat he’d just bought. No lie, his boat. I couldn’t believe that he thought his boat -a manufactured product– was worthy of worship to the extent that it became his muse and by extension, everyone else should worship the boat too. It’s one thing to make accessories for products but quite another to do what he was doing. I thought him morally bankrupt. He was the original inspiration for the quote.

Since then though, the quotation has greater implication than the initial context in which it was conceived. For me, it’s come to explain this whole biological relationship that women have to the expression of their ideas and that paradoxically, it is the greater nurturing characteristic of women that can be their downfall. While women can be better employers with regard to the welfare of their employees, this is a double edged sword. Your products need to sink or swim, these are not children. If the product dies, your child was not stillborn. You only had your period, not a full term birth. At worst it was a disappointing and depressing first trimester miscarriage worth mourning but for the sake of your other progeny, you have to move on rather than dwelling on your loss. Alternatively, imagine that every single one of your child/ideas survived. Do you have the emotional, physical and psychic energy to nurture every idea you’ve ever conceived -lifelong? There is a limit to how many children or ideas one can sustain and nurture. Men have no problem spilling their seed on infertile ground.

I understand why women do it. Most women start these businesses through passion. What is a consequence of passion? In a biological relationship, passion is (usually) consummated with progeny; a sum to the equation. Likewise, when women love, they can feel vulnerable. In a business, vulnerability is expressed by the insecurity or worry that others won’t buy their products. Women are exposed, unprotected, and left with justifying their passions to a cold heartless market. What if someone else doesn’t love the fruits of their passion? You have to realize that not everyone is going to like you or your child; that’s life, it doesn’t mean that your idea isn’t worth anything just because it doesn’t become the next biggest thing. If it doesn’t stick, let it die, grieve and move on.

Then, there’s the issue of raising the progeny. Women have the tendency to be protective and insular, their way is best. Most women do not identify with their technical and mechanical side and thus fail to see it but regardless, you’ll need to respect and value the need of things you do not understand well. Men are more likely to figure out a need and deal with it by hiring somebody with a needed skill set and having the company learn internally than a woman. Women tend to feel they own the process -they started it- that they know it best (how to sew something correctly for example) than they are to admit they need to hire someone (or buy a book from someone) who’s already figured it out. Women see that as threatening and if they need sewing or pattern help it must mean they’re not any good at being a designer. Somehow it should be like intuition or it’s not natural. Or, because it’s easy enough to be something they can do (an inwardly directed insult), it shouldn’t cost much to learn; the investment should be minimal. That is just pure silliness. Men have fewer problems paying for these things because they don’t equate their lack of knowledge akin to personal failure; they don’t equate this particular skill set as a measure of their intrinsic worth.

Then, there are other women who are self identified infovores who have to know everything before they can ever get under way but that is a trap too. If you had to know everything about being a mother before you ever became one, you’d never do it. You learn as you go, manufacturing is a process toward incremental goals but it’s not a destination unto itself -just like mothering. You can’t look too far in the future, comparing yourself with others who are a lot further down the road than you are. You will make mistakes. You must make mistakes. Mistakes mean progress. Everybody says they know this is true but they never believe it applies to them; they are the one exception to the rule. They more than anyone else can be certain. Somehow, they should be perfect enough, informed and educated enough, that failure won’t happen to them. One of the reasons men are more successful in business is because they fail more often. They try more often. They start something, it flops but they dust themselves off and try something else, learning lessons they’d never get otherwise. As I said before, men have no problem spilling their seed on infertile ground. You have to sow to reap. Men sow a lot more. With practical experience rather than research, they learn to find fertile ground.

Women can get into trouble when it comes to their muses too. Regardless of the boat example, I think men are less likely to attach to a muse. Personally, I think the latter is healthier. Women, particularly those with childrenswear lines, can over identify with their own children and the whole analogy just becomes too literal. I’ve known far too many women who were so inspired by their love for their children, that they tied up too much into the child’s involvement with the company. The biggest faux pas was making the child the fit model and as the child grew, having their stock size change to reflect the growth of their child. A line like this will never get off the ground with endless fit and sizing pattern iterations. The costs alone could be devastating.

I don’t believe we need to make trade offs in the goal of nurturing people vs products. In spite of their successes, I think men have also mis prioritized, mostly to the detriment of women, children, families and communities. I believe women can do a better job, it just boils down to priorities. Are you nurturing your products at the expense of people? If you won’t let an idea die that needed to go a long time ago, you’re guilty. If you don’t listen to people who are trying to help you, you’re guilty. If it’s advice you don’t like so you don’t listen, you’re guilty. It’s easy to make excuses and blame patriarchy for the turn of affairs but I don’t think it’s fair or true. Saying that the lack of women is due to discrimination, less opportunity or differing life choices just doesn’t cut it for me. If there were limited opportunities for women in this business, then how could so many be starting companies? Why aren’t women keeping and growing their companies? If women have always been the innovators, risk takers and entrepreneurs in this business, why do they bail?

In the end, the facts say it all. What say you? Why do men end up with our businesses?

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  1. massa says:

    This is an Interesting post. I know some women in this industry(in Japan though), but I felt they are cold toward their product. I used to be the one more attached to the products. Maybe, they were just employed as patternmakers, not owing the business.

    My decision making is more like woman described above. mmmm, now is the time to change my attitude and to start my own women’s RTW line.

    thanks, kathleen.

  2. Natty says:

    I am a man (I like to think so, at least) and I started doing streetwear with my fiancee(then girlfriend) two years ago. Probably a bad idea seeing as how it could be a strain on the relationship. However, it worked. The roles you describe in this are reversed in our relationship as business owners. I design and she manages the finances and helps manage production when I can’t handle it all. When it comes to product development decisions, she is pretty detached and I am emotionally invested in some of these products. Its hard for me to design 15 things and have to pick 7 or however many. Its way hard for me. She just says, ‘this, this, this, and this all go together and look good. this will sell, and this won’t’. However, I think my emotional involvement in this company and its products make it a lot less likely that someone else, male or female, will end up owning this company. I suppose its because I won’t spend inordinate amounts of money to further my emotional involvement these women have.

  3. Wow, thanks for this insightful article! I read in a book on craftswomen once that craft industries are dominated by men to the same extent that they are technologically oriented – the example given was the leap from hand-weaving to loom-weaving. This is a great view of a different aspect of, ultimately, the same problem.

  4. Alison Cummins says:

    From another angle, many women identify strongly with the product. In the arts you will often see women being something (for instance, fronting a band – the voice is her own, and her personality is the personality of the band) and men doing something (sitting in the back and generating a beat on the drums).

    I’ve often been mystified by a pattern I’ve seen of women complaining that their business isn’t doing any better because they’re such good people and they deserve to do better. They don’t seem to be able to distinguish between who they are (nice! good! deserving!) and what they do (produce a mediocre product and market it poorly).

    Or complaining that their competitors in a saturated market don’t help them. One pattern I’ve seen is the following:
    a) This product is socially/environmentally well-intentioned.
    b) Whether the product is actually socially/environmentally good or not, I am a good and nice person for making/selling it.
    c) I expect everyone else who makes/sells this product to be good and nice and to like me and to help promote my business even at a cost to their own.
    d) (But really, there can never be a cost to anyone for doing whatever I ask them to because I am a good and nice person.)
    e) If a competitor declines to do whatever I ask them to then they are not good and nice and are hypocrites for making/selling this product.

    Somehow many women cling to the belief that having good intentions absolves them of all responsibility for outcomes. I suspect this has more to do with upbringing than anything else. Boys are usually taught quite young to take responsibility for outcomes. A grown man who whines that something wasn’t his fault is immediately perceived as immature. Somehow many girls/women seem to have been allowed to get away without learning these lessons, and it handicaps them in business.

  5. “Somehow many women cling to the belief that having good intentions absolves them of all responsibility for outcomes.”

    I have seen this in the industry more times than I care for. As much as I have generalizing genders, I see this pattern too.

  6. Gidget says:

    This entry hit the nail on the head for me. It’s like an autobiography. Reminds me of the books written by Deborah Tannen. Good job, Kathleen.

  7. J C Sprowls says:

    I typically avoid generalization, especially re: stereoptypes. However, this particular observation is not limited to any specific industry.

    There was a comment about role-reversal, too. And, I will say there is always tension between the creative and business entities in a relationship. The creative side tends toward the clinginess, while the business side has been conditioned away from it. These are simply the nature of the beast.

    As with all things, balance and moderation are key. For the micro business owner, it is important to develop as much balance between the two as possible. Fortunately, there are consultants that can be hired to help us frame our business guidelines (i.e. manage the manager). Meeting with your Accountant or Business Consultant twice a year will help the creative person avoid the far-reaching (and, non-profitable) tangents.

  8. Oxanna says:

    Then, there are other women who are self identified infovores who have to know everything before they can ever get under way but that is a trap too

    Too true! *looks guilty*

    That was a very enlightening piece – thank you, Kathleen! Balance is key, I think, and women can be more attached to their “babies”, as you so aptly put it. The nurturing tendency can be good – sticking with something and seeing it through – but as you pointed out, it can be problematic. Definitely some things to mull over.

  9. Alison Cummins says:

    Another thing: Kathleen, you have pointed out in the past that many women want a business that stays small. They want to be able to make things at home and generate some income with flexible hours. This might be where the 97% of sewn products businesses started by women come in.

    If the business takes more feeding than a mother of young children can give it, it will be abandoned.

    As the children grow, a mother may take the opportunity to return to school or get a job away from home, and abandon her home-based business. This might be were the 98% of sewn products businesses being owned by men come in – the ones started by women were intentionally transient.

    In this light, the statistics might not be about a gender distribution of poor business skills at all. They could be about rational decisions to end a business that no longer meets (a gender distribution of) the needs it was started for.

  10. Kathleen says:

    Re: generalization, specifically stereotypes -I’m glad this is being interpreted in the spirit in which it was intended. Other than some of what Alison said [*ouch*] in her first comment, it doesn’t apply to me either.

    And not to be a pill but the comparison that creative=clingy is a stereotype too :).

    I’d agree JC, that having oversight can only be beneficial but it can only do so much. Maybe it can prevent the biggies. Unfortunately, most of the problems I see aren’t in the big details but the small ones, the daily activities that I can’t see consultants picking up on unless they had factory floor experience and most of them just don’t. I worry when des are too quick to latch on to consultants, unless they’re actively manufacturing or preparing to launch because that can fall in the infovore category trap.

    Most of the consultants out there are useless for DEs. And expensive even if they claim they’re needle trades or work for a specialized consulting group. If any of you are thinking of hiring one, it should be someone who’s had a lot of factory floor, HAND pattern making experience. Being a “consultant” isn’t enough, knowing how to make patterns isn’t enough either. One must have been on the hot seat (which the pattern maker is in the factory) a number of years before you can truly get a perspective on where problems start. Anyway, at the outset, I think DEs need this kind of consultant rather than a big overviews kind of consultant like JC was describing. Or one of those consultants you’d hire out of TC2 or something like that. Hire an experienced pattern maker to consult. This is the only job function in the factory that is core to all other activities, touching all of them. You know, engineering central.

  11. lornajay says:

    Very interesting posting.

    Apparently Steve Jobs (he of Apple fame) said that his philosophy was always ‘ready, fire, aim’, because you didn’t know what you needed to do until you tried!

  12. Alison Cummins says:

    Oh dear Kathleen, I wasn’t thinking of you at all. I was thinking of some other personalities that have come up on your blog, and of some people I have met in my own peripatetic life, but not of you.

    “Why do the bad guys always seem to win?” is a perfectly legitimate question, and smart people should be thinking about it. It would be particularly weird not to think about it when you’re the person trying to do something good and you get stiffed.

    Where the problem comes in is when a business person thinks they don’t need to make any decisions because responsibility belongs entirely to the big bad world.

    Kathleen, you have your ups and downs – we all do. When life has dealt you a cruel blow you crawl into bed and feel sorry for yourself for a while – which is exactly what people do when bad things happen. But then you get bored with feeling sorry for yourself, you make a decision and you cast around for support. That is what makes you a good business person.

    I would never categorise you as a person who thinks that good intentions absolve one of all responsibility for outcomes. Ever. That is exactly what your blog is about: good intentions are not enough. They’re good, they are necessary, but they aren’t enough.

    Many apologies, and please accept my hugs and mushy kisses.

  13. J C Sprowls says:

    Touche! LOL… you’re right I did stereotype the creative business partner. Generalizations are so hard! :-)

    And, I do owe you clarification re: Consultants. The Small Business Administration offers a program called SCORE, which is comprised of retired executives.

    While I agree that a seasoned Patternmaker is the best operations consultant (and, maybe more). A seasoned executive can help the business owner think about strategy, growth, and direction. As you suggest, to get up-and-running, an operations consultant is the more frugal investment – it goes further. Since Operations supports the Directive, details matter. It’s far more effective to get your Tasks organized and managed before engaging Oversight – otherwise it’s the infavore trap.

    To LornaJay’s comment re: ‘ready, fire, aim’. She hit the nail on the head. Finding one’s way in the market takes exposure, which means: mistakes & recovery. Over time, you develop foresight; but, will always have a few misses. The process you describe in your book for style development includes a market checkpoint (or, focus group) to review the style, if you will. Following that process will reduce the number of misses, significantly – though, there will still be some.

    To Allison’s comment re: deliberately staying small. This is another observation that holds water, too. Single parents tend to think about ways in which they can accumulate enough trade offs to be closer with their children, and then wrap a business concept around that. Although I am not a parent, yet, that’s what I’m doing, personally.

    But, it shouldn’t be an impetous to become risk-averse (i.e. fear success, sabotage oneself, or abandon the prospect). Instead, there is an inherent structure that should make things easier. Children are in school for at least 6 hrs per day. There’s a lot that can be accomplished in that time. In fact, that’s more ‘alone time’ than I get in an office. To manage risk, start by delegating the tasks that consume time (i.e. cleaning house) and reclaim that time for more profitable tasks. Set yourself up to become an entrepreneur: if a task or product won’t prove itself to be profit-bearing in the short term, don’t begin it (circle back around to LornaJay’s comment).

  14. nadine says:

    One of the reason’s I moved from California to NYC to work in Fashion was exactly because I felt I could get no objective support or guidance in Fashion living in Northern Calif. Upon moving to NYC, I discovered that the garment industry here is very professionalized and people don’t have that emotional attachment to designs and that includes women who work in the industry. They have an emotional attachment to their paycheck or yearly bonus. East coast Fashion businesses are modeled at their root based on Ateliers with designer, assistants, sales and showrooms. It is far different from the West coast Fashion businesses which are often DE’s with roots based on cooperative craft groups but may have branched out into more commercial ventures. The result is that there are different philosophies and mental decisions made about the product. In NYC a company has a design and edit meeting to review samples and toss out what isn’t a good commercial offering. DE’s in New York often have their commercial showrooms get involved in this edit process or ask their friends to come over for a meeting to do this.

    In Calif I had to flee the friends asking me if I was sad to sell my babies. !!!! What!!! No WAY!

    In NYC when we see DE’s wearing too many of their own items we wonder if they have an inventory problem. Especially jewelery DE’s. I’ve met a few working in semi-precious or gold/silver who just melt down what isn’t selling or if the gold/silver price has gone up. They don’t keep inventory on that stuff if they don’t have too. Talk about not being attached after hand hammering some piece for 20 hours.

    I have a fellow Californian that I met in school in NYC who fled for the same reason. Sometimes I proudly show her something I really liked and she takes a look and says – Go back to the drawing board. A friend like that is PRICELESS! Just yesterday we were chatting in our studio over our humming sewing machines that we should make a scrapbook of all the greatest worst ideas we had of all time. We laughed so hard at remembering them and even some of the customer’s who actually bought one or two.

    If you can’t be objective you must get a group together who will be objective. If you can’t sell your “Babies” then just save yourself an ulcer and start a craft group which would be more fun and enjoyable than running a fashion collection and probably profitable.

  15. jinjer says:


    Jeez, I hope I don’t end up fleeing to NYC. I like Northern Clifornia–and I’d like to stay, but I’m totally annoyed by the attitudes you described. If you’d stayed here, I’d be that friend who tells you you need to start over no matter how much you love something. I’ve done it for friends & as a result, I have a reputation for being “harsh.” I’m not mean about it, but everyone is so used to being “supported” that simple honesty causes a disproprotionately emotional reaction out here. (Most of the time.)

    Hey, all you other people here in the Bay Area, if anyone wants to join me for frank peer review sessions, I’m aboard!

  16. Diane says:

    The mentality on the east coast is totally different than the west. Not better or worse, just different. As a California native now transplanted in Colorado I’m compelled to defend the west coasties on all fronts. The bay area rocks! California has always enjoyed the reputation for being progressive but also more casual and laid back. The lifestyle certainly doesn’t fit everybody and if you don’t dig it, then adios.
    As women, we love our products but we love making a profit even more. Many successful businesses started from one good idea that was nurtured with passion and to knock their humble craft beginnings seems utterly snobbish.

    Play poker. Know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.

  17. jocole says:

    oh wow, what a great post kathleen. i worked as a patternmaker for a company and i thought the ideas were horrible (as did the others who saw them) yet the DE went ahead and produced the line. needless to say her business flunked. i chalked it up to experience and have always tried to remember that. it’s nice to be reminded to take a step back every once in awhile.

  18. glennis says:

    female here…a little offtopic but this post reminded me of something i used to say about items in my product line. if i liked it too much, it was sure to be a dog sales-wise. the items we liked the least, often were the better sellers. what you like and what sells are often not the same. in fact, for our own amusement, we’d put some crazy piece in the line and wouldn’t you know, it got ordered right at the top of the show.
    filling orders on the more mundane parts of the line allowed us to make a few personal pieces here and there.
    a girl still has gotta have fun!

  19. Kathleen Lewis says:

    I really could relate to your article Kathleen. I have had a contracting business for 15 years and I was given the choice at the 5 year place to pick whatever business I wanted to do and that it could be successful. (“Could” is the important word here) Well, I thought about a product line but was afraid of rejection, so I continued with my contracting business of manufacturing other people’s products “babies”. It has worked and been a lot of hard knocks and blessings. There were times I WANTED my business consultant be take the head of the business. Now, I am glad he faded away into the sunset. He was taking this business to a place where I had lost control and I was in a very fear based place. I take full responsibility for giving him the power. I made a mistake. When he got interested in other things and I got control again I took it to a place where it is now. I enjoy going to work again and love my customers. My days are fun now. The people I have attracted into my life are people with integrity and very professional and great to work with. If I were to have totally placed this business in his hands to be his, I would be long gone. I did however learn some amazing lessons from the situation and would have never changed it for anything. I learned a lot about myself. On the other hand, I would love for someone who is more business oriented to take the helm. If I knew I could trust that person to be responsible for the life of my business. “YEA RIGHT” Then if it failed I would have to take responsibility of its failure for letting someone else be in charge. I would like to do some design (which I do get when new customers come to me to develope their product)I don’t know if it is a (baby)thing or an ego thing. I really have to watch that about myself. My husband is very good with decisions. Sometimes I freeze in decisions and still try to over think them. He says “just do this” and I will and it will be fine. That does not always work however. When he makes a suggestion that I just do not feel (gut wise) is the answer, I go and do what I think. But it does get me out of being paralyzed. Personally, I think I would just like to continue to keep coming up with ideas that I could act on, but don’t, because my business is priority to pay the bills and it is what I know. I have been doing it for so long that I can’t afford to lose interest in it and move on to other interests. I think it is now that it is actully making money. I might try and add something new as long as I am still giving enough attention to my core business to keep it alive. Do I sound like my business is my whole life and my whole being is determined by it? I don’t know if I can be objective. I don’t think it is my baby but if I didn’t have it to go to, tomorrow……..what would my world be like then? This is my first post. I am new and I have been mostly reading for the past month. This is a very good group of people.

  20. I agree with many observations on this post and have a few of my own to add. I come from the Lean consulting world rather than the fashion world but I see a lot of commonalities around women business owners. These are all generalizations, I’ve certainly met exceptions.

    –The women I meet in my field (management consulting) seem to want to create jobs for themselves rather than create companies. This is the difference between settling for $60,000/yr of annual service income vs. leveraging expertise to create a company with $6 million in annual sales of both products and services. They tend to think in terms of what they can do personally rather than how they can increase their capacity to go beyond what they can deliver on their own.

    –Work/life balance issues do seem to play a role since it takes a lot more work to build a company than it does to just create a job. It’s not something easily done with small children underfoot.

    –Women entrepreneurs whose spouses work will usually also assume complete responsibility for the household “since their schedules are more flexible.” This is a trap I fell into myself until my business coach asked how much time I spent on it per week. In reality, the entrepreneur of either gender is the one who should get the lighter load since the financial future of the marriage is at stake.

    –There are also real issues about access to the capital needed to grow a company from $60K to $6mil – less so in the consulting world but much more in an industry like fashion. Women seem to have more difficulties asking – and they face a more discouraging climate when they do ask – which sets up a vicious circle that seriously impacts women entrepreneurs.

    –I also agree that men are more likely to abandon unpromising projects even if they feel passionately about them. I’ve seen a lot of women “entrepreneurs” (in quotes because they barely make a living for themselves) who continue in a business that’s not working long after it’s time to turn out the lights. I don’t see that as often with men. The antidote to this is a clear line in the sand about what the return on investment needs to be to continue.

    I don’t think passion or attachment to “babies” is really the problem. I’ve seen many a male entrepreneur get attached to his ideas, with disastrous results. Both men and women need both driving passion and the ability to receive objective feedback. As a man is more likely to bring in outside expertise, he is more likely to receive this feedback and be comfortable with it. He knows it’s not personal – it’s just business.

  21. sahara says:

    Kathleen, I’m coming in late on this, but is the most truthful piece I have ever read. I’m going to print this out and give it to girlfriends of mine who harass me about not “sharing my honest opinions” and “helping them.”

    Coming from a long background in sweaters and knits–I learned, at the end of the day, it’s just a garment. This attitude sounds shoddy, but It taught me to edit large collections easily, to work with (and not fight) salespeople and shop owners, and to get the help I need. And, it’s paid off.

  22. Connie says:

    I love that you bring up these archival posts.

    Great topic and interesting comments. Actually, when I first read (in your book) your definition of a successful product and how not every design will succeed, I breathed a sigh of relief because I always thought I would never design again if I ever went to market and my products didn’t succeed. Your assurance, Kathleen, that this is the nature of the beast was invaluable. I take criticism of my designs very differently now.

    My daughter received compliments on a bag I sewed using the leftover fabric from my son’s cut-off pants. I had only intended it as a shopping bag for grocieries but she thought it was a great fashion item. You never know.

  23. Mary says:

    I love your writing Kathleen.

    May I offer my own theory? Could it be that some right-brained women are conceptualizing the business concepts? Somewhere along the way, left-brained men are running the companies.

    I don’t think all women are right-brained and I don’t think all men are left. But I’m wondering if that’s how it is shaking out in this business? (And I’m not in the business – I’m not even sure how I started following your writing Kathleen – I just know that you fascinate me and I enjoy reading your work very much.)

    Someone who didn’t fit this mold is Sara Blakely – the creator and owner of Spanx. She was a Georgia Tech student when she came up with the idea of footless hose and Georgia Tech is most definitely a left-brained institute!

  24. Kathleen says:

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “some right-brained women are conceptualizing the business concepts?” I also do not agree that “all women are right-brained and I don’t think all men are left.”

    In this rant, I didn’t step into my other pet theory, values. I do think there is a greater tendency among women to value the self-applied sticky label of “artist” (caveats abound). Culturally, it meshes with the over riding perception of women’s abstract softer edges. It’s a label that’s rewarded socially.

    I think the core conflict is cognitive dissonance and resultant defensiveness. If a woman sews as many entrepreneurs in this field do, the woman is -by definition- one with mechanical aptitude. However, the cognitive dissonance develops because she chooses to interpret her skills and aptitude to be a soft as her medium (“artist”). It is not possible to be good at sewing if you lack mechanical aptitude. Lacking such, you’re not even drawn to the endeavor. I think women need to recognize their inherent concrete orderliness to validate and embrace it. Embracing their natural abilities should not threaten their identity as nurturers and care givers. It is rare that women are either or.

    At the same time, men are more often socialized to value linear concrete thinking so it only makes sense these practices are more common amongst them. The cognitive dissonance that arises among men are those who consider mechanical aptitude a birth right but should never be permitted to handle so much as a screwdriver (if that) without adult supervision. :)

  25. A paper about testosterone differences in business. People who were exposed to more testosterone in utero grow their businesses faster but also run less profitable businesses. I don’t have the ability to evaluate the validity of the paper, but it’s not unintuiutive.

    “We collect information on prenatal testosterone in a large sample of entrepreneurs by measuring the length of their 2nd to 4th fingers in face to face interviews.

    Entrepreneurs with higher exposure to prenatal testosterone (lower second to fourth digit ratio) manage larger firms, are matched with larger firms when acquire control and experience faster average growth over the years they manage the firm.

    We also find that prenatal testosterone is correlated with elicited measures of entrepreneurial skills such as ability to stand work, and the latter are correlated with firm size.

    However, firms run by high-testosterone entrepreneurs have lower profitability as measured by return on assets. We offer evidence that this is because the same biological factor that enhances entrepreneurial skills also induces empire building preferences, which leads high-testosterone entrepreneurs to target a firm size that exceeds the profit maximizing value.”

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