It was the day after Boxing Day of 2019 when Forbes put up an article chronicling how popular American celebrity chef and entrepreneur, Ayesha Curry, is helping women turn their passion into a livelihood.
Sounds great, doesn’t it? Sure does, it’s great stuff really. At least, that’s what one finds out if they are not too pissed to read through the whole thing after it registers that the article is titled: Ayesha Curry Is Helping Female Entrepreneurs Build Their ‘Fempire’.
Like, what’s that word? Fempire? Really? We’re doing this again, seriously? Those are the sorts of reactions that have trailed the piece since it was published.
Sadly, that article is not even a one-off. The Ayesha Curry feature was the first episode of a whole new Forbes Women series curiously titled Fempire. Here we go again! Cue the groans.
As the article reads: “In the first season of Fempire, which premiered on ellentube last month, Curry provides up-and-coming female entrepreneurs with the advice and tools they need to build their businesses.”
“Each episode sees her meet with different founders — among them a 10-year-old running a kid-friendly hygiene brand and a single mom leading a teen-focused nonprofit — determining their greatest weaknesses before sharing the guidance and resources they need to get their companies off the ground.”
See? Great stuff. So, why taint all that good work by tethering it to such a corny and cringe-worthy slang word like Fempire? Someone really thought that cool? Wow!
Frankly, that word is utterly distasteful, disrespectful, demeaning, and disgusting. It’s an Empire, people! It can’t be anything else. Using the weird Fempire term just makes it seem as though the idea of a woman building an empire is an alien concept, or worse, something that has no right to happen.
The Fempire term is anything but an empowering word. It’s not a word designed to build women up or praise them for their accomplishments. It’s a word designed to segregate at best and denigrate at worst.
These buzzwords do nothing more than trivialize not only the ability of women to run businesses but immediately put them on the backfoot when it comes to getting ahead in a business world that already seems rigged against women.
Why widen an already troubling gap?
Gender discrimination in business is a real problem, and it extends beyond tech. The African Development Bank (AfDB) estimates the funding gap for women entrepreneurs across business value chains in Africa to be USD 42 Bn.
On the African tech startup scene, gender disparity manifests in different ways. In South Africa, one of Africa’s largest tech hubs, it’s estimated that since 2018, the percentage of angel and VC funding that has gone to South African tech startups founded by women is as little as 4.5 percent.
In 2019, out of 98 African startups that raised over USD 1 Mn, only 13 were co-founded by women. Of the 13, only four had women-led teams. Of the USD 725.6 Mn in venture capital (VC) funding that was poured into African tech startups in 2018, per the Venture Capital Report by WeeTracker, only 2 percent of that sum reached female-owned or female-led businesses.
This financing gap has major consequences on the ability of female tech entrepreneurs to grow and scale their businesses, as access to sufficient financing is one of the most critical factors for a growing company.
From the survey carried out by The ONE Campaign and CGD on Nigerian tech firms in 2019, it was communicated that “women who own or manage tech firms often face discrimination, especially in financial markets where lenders are reluctant to do business with them.”
An excerpt from the said report reads thus: “One owner of a fintech company decided to stop attending investment meetings, as she believed that investors related better to men. A founder of a leading tech organisation told us that negative stereotypes associated with female programmers are also an impediment to women entering the tech sector.”
This, yet again, highlights the unpleasant trend of women entrepreneurs being neglected by a system that is unfairly biased towards male entrepreneurs and seemingly rigged against anyone who isn’t of the menfolk. So, why perpetuate this problem by popularising corny buzzwords that come off as patronizing appropriation?
Obviously, Fempire isn’t even the worst of the lot, and thankfully, it hasn’t caught on like many other fundamentally derogatory slang words that are common in the entrepreneurship universe. And with some effort, like the one being into this piece, it may never catch on.
However, for those other unsavoury slang words that have somehow, unfortunately, become part of everyday lingo, a significant day like today, when the world commemorates International Women’s Day 2021 (#IWD2021), serves up the chance to say good riddance to bad rubbish.
Now, here’s a list of all those infantilizing and patronizing women-focused entrepreneurship slang words that should be trashed.
Entrepreneurship is entrepreneurship. A business owner is a business owner. And this whole idea of trying to infuse sex and gender into the mix should stay in the same place as yesterday — in the past.
Like, whoever came up with the idea that running a successful business while being a mom is something of an extraterrestrial feat that needs to be represented by such an annoying term as ‘Mompreneur’?
This kind of stereotyping, which reeks of male chauvinism and patriarchy, is just plain insane and it needs to stop. Especially as the term ‘dadpreneur’ doesn’t virtually sees no usage.
It can’t be okay to ask questions like: “How do you cope with being a mom and running a successful business?’ That just implies that being a mom somehow automatically disqualifies one from succeeding in business.
It’s like saying it’s abnormal for people to be successful just because they are mothers, or worse still, female. How myopic!
Whoever coined this slang word must have thought they had stumbled upon something really cool and the fact that it somewhat caught on means that many people did too. But now it needs to go.
It’s common to find the word Shero/Sheroes in pro-women entrepreneurship conversations in today’s world. But at its core, that term is mostly belittling and insulting.
A hero is a hero, regardless of sex. And it must be distinguished, the proper term is ‘heroine’ — just be sure to spell and enunciate properly.
This is probably the worst of the bunch. The term ‘She-E-O’ is just starting to catch on as the slang word for company CEOs who are female and this one has to be shot down with urgency. Like, it really is insulting and absolutely nobody wants to be addressed in that manner.
- Girl Boss/Boss Lady/She-Boss
The problem with trying to sound ‘cool’ these days is not knowing where to draw the line. And it hardly helps that there’s a thin, barely-visible line between cool and ‘uncool’.
Girl Boss, Boss Lady, and She-Boss are anything but cool these days and this has nothing to do with being ‘woke’. It’s just proper that anyone who is a boss should be referred to as such — no more, no less.
This slang word was popularised by the celebrity mother of a celebrity family, so it might be hard to get her adoring fans to see it as anything but pure gold. But since we’re taking no prisoners here, it has to be stated that Momager is a terrible buzzword for women in business.
Kris Jenner, the mother of the famous for being famous Kardashians, may have made Momager seem like a cool word with which to refer to women who are running big things but that term is inherently mortifying and should not only be trashed but also incinerated.
Others terms that should be considered for the bin: Terms like female founder and female entrepreneur, unless absolutely necessary for making a relevant distinction, ought to be abandoned.
A “founder” is just that; a founder. An “entrepreneur is an entrepreneur.” Those words are gender-neutral. Whether a founder/entrepreneur is male or female is secondary, irrelevant, unnecessary, unimportant, and, in most cases, besides the point.
Of course, “male founder” and “male entrepreneur” aren’t exactly a thing, are they? So why not bin these terms? And what better time to do this than #IWD2021?
Featured Image Courtesy: iStock