I have to say that gender bias was not something that I gave much thought to until we started Wicked Good Cupcakes. I mean, think about our company name. It has the word “cupcake” in it. The owners are two women who just happen to be mother and daughter. And we bake.
So with all of that, I want you to try and imagine networking with business men (and some business women) and trying to be taken seriously. It’s not happening.
I thought after Shark Tank and our deal with Kevin O’Leary that the bias might wane but that wasn’t the case. Now people wanted to meet us but only as a means to get to Kevin. The mere fact that we grew 600% that first year, grossed 1.5 million in sales that first year and had some real national recognition didn’t seem to matter. We were still just “girls” baking cupcakes.
My confidence was definitely shaky at best. I envisioned successful business folk picturing Dani and me in pink, polka dot aprons baking with an Easy Bake Oven and not taken seriously at all. Even better, it had gotten to the point where people in one of my networking groups actually referred to me as “Cupcake”. Ugh.
The final blow for me came the evening of the Ernst and Young, Entrepreneur of the Year Gala this past June. I was a finalist for the third year and attended the event with my husband, Scott. During the networking part of the evening, while speaking with a woman I had just met, I overheard a gentleman say to Scott, “But no…You’re really the brains of the operation right?”
I couldn’t believe what I had just heard! Scott answered that we are all equal in our day to day and that we are all the brains behind the success of Wicked. Clearly, he didn’t like Scott’s answer because he asked the same question again. Now Scott was annoyed and gave a short, terse response. The “best” part of all of this was, the gentleman then turned, introduced himself to me and told me how lovely I looked!
I was so angry. The poor woman I was “speaking” with was talking about something…I don’t even know what it was. I truly wasn’t even listening at this point. Here I was, a finalist for this amazing award and yet clearly, that didn’t matter. In that man’s mind, because I am a woman I’m simply not “capable” of running a business. Or having a brain.
To be fair, I can give you many reasons why I have hired above my skill set and brought on people to help steer the ship in the direction we’re headed. But trust me. My being female has nothing to do with those hires at all.
As the night progressed and we were sitting at our table, a professor from a local university introduced himself to me. He was all over me because he wanted an introduction to Kevin. And do you know why? He wanted Kevin to speak to his Women in Business class. He thought Kevin would be inspiring.
Are you kidding me? Hey dude. Why not find an inspiring WOMAN to speak to your Women in Business class? That was it for me. There I was, a woman nominated for a prestigious award, who had grown a business started in her kitchen to a multimillion dollar, national brand and you want to meet my male mentor to speak to your class of young women? Ugh.
The take away here is this. There are going to be people in the business world that we meet who will define us based on what we do, what we look like and what our sex is. And that’s it. You’ll never change their mindset. And that has to be okay.
All I can do is continue to push our business in the direction it’s headed. My greatest revenge will be my tremendous success.
To those who discriminate based on someone’s gender I say, you’re missing out on a large swath of talent and that’s truly a loss for you and your brand. To those struggling to climb the ladder and are feeling the weight of someone’s ignorant foot on their shoulder, I say keep pushing upward.
You have only yourself to bank on and that’s a powerful thing. Know that others are battling the same war as well. You must never stop the climb. Keep going. Surround yourself with articles and photos that showcase successful, inspirational women. Understand that at one point or another, they too had to fight their way along with the weight of ignorance on their backs. If they could do it, so can you.
Me? I bought myself a 1966 Easy Bake Oven. It’s in my office. It stands as a reminder of just how far Wicked Good Cupcakes and more importantly, I have come. It hasn’t been easy but it has certainly been worth the fight.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to put on my pink polka dot apron and get baking. I still have a lot of work to do.
Oh, and please don’t call me Cupcake.
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