Op/Ed Fridays: “Do Women-Only Initiatives Really Help Women?”

January 10, 2014 by Joshua
in Awareness, Entrepreneurship

The article “Do Women-Only Initiatives Really Help Women?” began

Recently I’ve noticed an uptick in “women-focused” pitches in my inbox. It seems in the last year there has been a lot of momentum in the “women-focused” space. Women accelerators, women incubators, women crowdfunding sites, women angel funds.

We’ve covered some of those initiatives here and here at Nibletz, but I have to admit I’ve been a little ambivalent about doing so. Take this line from a recent pitch:

Women need all the help they can get.

Wait. What? I need all the help I can get just because I’m a woman? That’s news to me.

I’ve been told all my life that I can do anything I want to do, that nothing can hold me back except myself. I’ve been told that I’m smart and creative and most likely to succeed. And no one ever felt the need to add, “for a girl.”

Because here’s the thing, y’all:

Women in 21st century American cities are the privileged of the privileged.

We are more educated than we’ve ever been in history and more so than many of our male counterparts.


I responded, getting a bunch of upvotes,

When Nixon went to China people said it took Nixon to go to China, implying only someone obviously anti-communist could go there without being labeled a communist.

Likewise, no man could say “Women in 21st century American cities are the privileged of the privileged,” as the woman who wrote that article wrote, without being lambasted.

I don’t know if I would say it so strongly, but the once-standard view that men succeed at women’s expense seems to be crumbling as people recognize the glass cellar as powerful as the glass ceiling; that as much as men occupy the top echelons of business and politics, so do they occupy the bottom of homelessness; that as they dominate lucrative fields like engineering, so do they dominate fields that dominate workplace deaths like mining, construction, trash disposal, long-haul trucking, soldiers, etc; that as much as women have trouble entering STEM fields, so do men have trouble entering teaching, nursing, etc. Women are successful in the West — more of them get college degrees, they live longer, no law forces them to register for the military (in the U.S. at least), the law doesn’t imprison them nearly as much, the government has many programs to help them, and so on.

It seems that decades ago both men and women had to follow gender roles. Women’s roles have since opened up, giving them more options. Men’s roles have opened somewhat, but less so. I know a lot of fathers and I’ve never met one who didn’t want to spend more time with his children, but they tend to have fewer options to.

Many of the initiatives the author of the article questioned could probably help more if they defined need around issues other than sex.

I’ve been reading but not yet writing about this topic for a while. Sadly, most of the discussion I see about seems to miss how mental models influence perception. I grew up with a mental model for sexism that blinded me to information that didn’t fit that model. Recently I’ve started opening up to such information and find myself shocked by what I’ve found.

I’ve come to find talking about sexism without understanding how mental models works nearly always results in people talking past each other. I don’t like such discussions.

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