Our grandfather recently shared a story with us. It was the 50s (yep, the 1950s) and the small women’s lingerie boutique he was working with was thriving. He wanted to expand it, but he was told it wouldn’t be possible, as they didn’t have enough men on staff to manage multiple stores. So? He replied. Let’s have the women we employ manage the stores. Women? Manage stores? Impossible, he was told.
He pushed back, having seen first hand that women were just as intelligent as men (“more intelligent!” may have been how he put it), and they went onto grow a successful business, you guessed it, with women front and centre.
We were lucky to grow up in a family where powerful women were all around us; entrepreneurs, leaders, changemakers. Women’s opinions were valued, our bossiness was simply labelled bossness, and we were always taught that we could go out into the world and do anything we wanted.
We went into business together when we were in our late teens & early 20s. We sat through multiple meetings being talked about rather than talked to, referred to as “the girls”, when we were right there in the room. Business deals that wouldn’t be taken seriously unless we had a man negotiating for us. Being told we needed to appeal to men too as they were the ones who were choosing whether their wives could spend the money. Yep, that really happened.
It didn’t stop us, but it shocked us.
In our first year in business, we joined a startup accelerator program. Of the 10 businesses that were selected to participate, we were the only women in the group. When we enquired about why there weren’t more women, they said they had been hoping to have gender equality amongst participants, but most of the applications they received were from men.
Growing up the way we did, it had never occurred to us to question our abilities because we were women. But we quickly realised that this wasn’t the norm.
Most of us have grown up in a world where society is telling us to dream of being nurses and teachers, rather than doctors and CEOs. Where the men in our families teach the boys how to manage finances, while the women clean up after dinner. Where a woman who works hard is neglecting her family, or she’s so successful that no man would want to be with her. Where companies and countries and schools and institutions are all run by men.
And so a big part of our mission has become to encourage more women to get into business. To not just take the top spots from men, but to show them how it’s done. To chase big dreams, and collaborate with rather than crush others. To lead gently but negotiate fiercely, to recognise their worth and recognise the worth of others too. To do business that allows them and their teams to flourish, while allowing the planet to flourish even more.
Because as we step into the great unknown of this next phase of the world and of the planet, it wouldn’t just be nice to have some women take the reins, weneedwomen to take the reins. Because men doing things the way men have always done them has led to inequality and suffering and wars and a dying ecosystem. Because a new way of doing things is so desperately needed, to steer us towards a future where womankind* not only survives, but one where we thrive.
We were lucky to grow up in the family we did. One where the men around us fought to have the women recognised for how intelligent and capable they were, even in a time when people thought that seemed crazy. And in the same way that the idea that women wouldn’t be competent enough to manage a store now sounds silly to us, we hope that in the near future the idea that women don’t deserve equal pay sounds completely absurd. We hope that boards filled with as many Paulinas and Poppys as they are Peters and Pauls are the norm. And we hope that when a woman decides to go into a business, everyone around her cheers, knowing that we are one step closer to living in a kind, compassionate, prosperous world.Jess & Stef Dadon, TWOOBS founders
*We’ve rebranded. This of course includes men and people of all genders too. If it bothers you, prob best to take it up with whoever invented the word mankind.