It’s an incredibly exciting time for female entrepreneurs. Each year as our annual Businesswomen of the Year Awards loom (get nominating!), we’re reminded of the amazing women breaking glass ceilings in the world of business. And such a task is inevitably harder, without even going into potential pitfalls, because you happen to be a woman. All things are not considered equal: you have to shout louder, work harder and get paid less while doing it to achieve your goals. Businesswomen in the public eye inevitably face more scrutiny, especially if they are successful women. They can often be viewed with suspicion, harsher criticism. The manager must conform to a stereotype; the female ballbreaker, the Anna Wintour, pulling the ladder up behind her and not giving anyone else in her team a chance, and so it goes on. It’s all ludicrous of course, but it doesn’t stop the notions.
And when it comes to embracing the pitfalls that come with the highs, women tend to get called out for it more. Hillary Clinton has been called out, prior to her new memoir getting published, for not getting angry enough when it counted, for not admitting there was a decent chance she would lose the election (she says she never expected to in the first place). But she has taken the criticism head on in her new book, something that never gets easier. It’s never easy to accept a critique in the office, to step back and realise that in each one there is a lesson you can learn to become a better person – hey, Hillary Clinton finds it tough.
Another hugely successful businesswomen that has managed to overcome criticism is actress and entrepreneur Jessica Alba. She rode a wave of success; ensuring her company, Honest, earned a profit of $1 billion – it focus is selling nontoxic, eco-friendly products to parents – but criticism came in thick and fast over some of its wares. Their sunscreen products came under fire after users reported the product “ineffective, and they were forced to recall their baby wipes. Alba then proceeded to completely restructure her team, including the hire of a new CEO.
“Every business faces its challenges,” Alba told HarpersBazaarUK. “It’s not realistic to think otherwise. If nothing else, it brings out the best in the team. It’s important at that point to be open with the consumer and educate them around the realities of creating a product in bulk.”
“If I’m hitting a wall with someone, I don’t look at them as the issue,” she explained. “I think, ‘How can I communicate it differently? How can we both come to a solution together?’ There are always better ways to communicate.”
Her response to taking the criticism head-on is graceful and eloquent. “When someone gives you feedback about your work or behaviour, it takes humility to deal with it,” she said. “You have to be conscious that you can always be better. [You have to] appreciate that you can’t know it all.”
How do you handle criticism at work? Tell all in the comments!