Is building "for women" too controversial?
Yes, we are going there.
Dear reader, this one’s been brewing for a long time.
When I think about my experience building a technology company “for women” so far, I’m grateful for the many people who immediately understand why we’re designing a technology platform specifically for women. But, of course, there have also been many moments of skepticism along the way, and a shared sense of confusion from friends, investors, peers, and strangers who “just don’t get” the need for a platform like Diem to exist.
Frankly, I’m confused as to why they’re confused. So I keep asking myself—is building a product for women too controversial at this point? I don’t think so, but I do think a lot of this has to do with power. Power is valued because it provides access to tangible and intangible benefits in our society. When something is built intentionally to create more equality across power structures, it can feel like a threat to those who already hold power in our society (you know the type). Fear of losing power creates responses that are aimed at holding onto that power (and its benefits) at all costs.
Maybe it’s actually the word “woman” that’s at fault for all the controversy. Serious debate follows “woman” around, with many organizations rushing to adopt inclusive language and phrases like “bodies with vaginas” or “people with cervixes,” which then gets debated more. If you mention that you’re building for this specific group of people—also known as, a demographic—do you immediately put a target on your back? Any good marketer knows that defining a demographic is key to a product’s early success, and building “for women” is just that. Half of the population is not niche, and it’s absurd that we don’t acknowledge that more widely.
Ok, could the Girlboss era be to blame for ruining women-centric products? When women were Girlbosses, they were allowed to “rise” as business people until they were torn back down again a few years later. Was this a major reckoning in capitalism or was it just a large moment where we returned to seriously questioning the legitimacy of women in leadership positions? Of course, I wholeheartedly believe that we should be calling out abusive and inappropriate behavior, but it’s clear that we haven’t called out the abusive and inappropriate behavior that men in startup-land exhibit in equal measure. Instead, we now look at women in leadership positions more critically than ever, making it more common to critique and question any products they set out to build.
Ok, while we’re at it, here’s another thing I’ve observed. Women sometimes find it controversial to build for other women. We know that women can exhibit internalized misogyny, typically when they’ve gained status by dissociating with their gender. For example, research on “Queen Bee” behavior illustrates how women can act sexist as a way of responding to the sexism they feel. This plays out in many spaces, from women in leadership positions safeguarding their executive roles to female investors being more critical of female founders (yes, it happens). It makes sense—women are constantly operating with a scarcity mindset due to the historical tokenization of their roles in organizations. But I think this is all the more reason we need to build products that empower women to be completely themselves. If we don’t, who will?
If you’re a person in a position of power, and therefore privilege, there is literally no excuse to not bring people up with you. As my friend Melanie reminded me the other day, “a rising tide lifts all boats.” The subconscious bias we all hold detracts from the most important point of all–we fundamentally need products designed differently. Why? We live in a world where women die 32% more after surgery than men, over 1 billion women are still unbanked, only 2% of VC funding goes to founders that are women (with Black women receiving just 0.3% of this), and 60% of women report sexual harassment on social or dating platforms.
With all of that said, I also don’t believe that building products “for women” is an altruistic endeavor, which is a narrative people are all too willing to assume. It’s a massive business opportunity. So if you catch yourself having a biased (sexist) reaction to companies building in this space (a space targeting half the population), I suggest you ask yourself what I now ask instead—“What can I do to help?”
What we’re reading…
👏 The NFT artists making Web3 equitable. The NFT world has a gender problem. Surprise! NFT marketplaces are dominated by men, both as makers and buyers, which is particularly crazy since NFT projects make tens of millions of dollars. This piece digs into why women are underrepresented in NFTs, what’s being done to change that, and how YOU can get involved. (Morning Brew)
👀 When ‘toxic masculinity’ is used against women. What happens when women, non-binary and trans folks are accused of toxic masculinity? Can non-cis men even have toxic masculinity? Writer Sara Youngblood Gregory digs in. (The Power Outlet)
🤯 Happy birthday Roe v. Wade. January 22, 2022, marked Roe v. Wade’s 49th year, but it’s unlikely the landmark legal decision will reach its 50th birthday in any recognizable form. “Roe’s demise will be shattering, and there is much work to do in preparing for it,” writes Ilana Panich-Linsman and Lauren Kelley. “One important part of that work is studying what came before.” The New York Times photographed and profiled women who had abortions before Roe v. Wade was passed to do just that. The results are powerful. (New York Times)
🤑 Give new parents all the cash. A new study suggests that regular cash payments to parents can speed up brain activity in infants. The study gave a group of hundreds of low-income mothers $20 per month for several years and has been giving another group $333 per month over that same period. The study ultimately found babies in houses getting more money show more high-frequency or “fast” brain activity than babies in houses getting less money. This is HUGE. (Vox)
One of our partners, Ladies Get Paid, has a special offer for the Diem community! Their Money Bootcamp is coming up and it’s a prime opportunity to get your money in order. Because you’re special, you can use LADIESGETMONEY20 at check out.
Who we’re Dieming with this week…
To “Diem with” someone means to candidly exchange knowledge. Here’s a handful of the people we are learning from (in the Diem app) this week.
How to align your brand with your customer needs at 1PM PST | 4PM EST today, Brand Strategist Megan Raynor will be sharing knowledge on how to connect with your customers. Listen live in Diem here.
How TF do I raise money? Mady Maio will be asking Emma all of the questions about how to raise capital for her company, Emma will be sharing knowledge on tips to set yourself up for success before pitching begins. Listen live in Diem here.
Embracing self-love & building self-confidence in partnership with Hustle Crew, Jaz Broughton will be sharing wisdom on how to delve into celebrating your power within at 11AM PST | 2PM EST. Listen live in Diem here.
Couples Therapy & Interracial Marriage Varuna Srinivasan will be sharing experiences of interracial marriage and how harnessing couples therapy helped challenge white supremacist structures in their relationship, in conversation with Taylor Majewski at 11.30AM PST | 2.30PM EST. Listen live in Diem here.
Going Global Jordan & Anouk Rondel, founders of The Caker, will be sharing the ups & downs from expanding their business globally at 3PM PST | 6PM EST. Listen live in Diem here.
Imposter Syndrome, Burnout & Side Hustles Amy Fraser will be getting super candid with Jaz on building your career, embracing your side hustle and overcoming imposter syndrome at 1PM PST | 4PM EST. Listen live in Diem here.
Eating Disorder Awareness, let’s talk about it Gloria Lucas and Amy Fraser will be in conversation about disordered eating & body liberation at 2.30PM PST | 5.30PM EST. Listen live in Diem here.
ICYMI, we sent the first edition of The Briefing last Friday. The Briefing is our Friday round-up sent to all people in the Diem app, to receive your weekly digest (and listen to all the above wisdom!) download and join the Diem app via App Store or Google Play.
See you next week,