The Celebration of Women: Working with Female Founders – Part 3

Posted Tuesday 11th July 2023

Shortly after Part 1 of The Celebration of Women was published, I read an unrelated article which quoted a female founder I had written about. The founder expressed her frustration at being referred to as a ‘female founder’ – just ‘founder’ would suffice.

While I was still reflecting on having written an entire article referring to female founders, I read an essay[1] which specifically criticised celebrating individual women. The view was that such behaviour cements the underlying inequality women face because it leads us to act as though ‘success is at the tip of our fingers’ and believe a false scenario where ‘the glass ceiling and structural inequalities no longer exist’. The topic of the essay was minority women, so I naturally drew parallels to the blogs I have written. I questioned whether I had inadvertently contributed to tempting women into ‘the false belief that now everyone can make it because “they did”, and if you can’t – it is not down to the structure and the process, it is down to individual action.’

I found relief in a different essay[2] written by a female engineer about her experience working on an oil and gas rig, a notoriously male-dominated workplace. The author quoted research which shows that some women choose to project a ‘gender neutral’ version of themselves to cope with working in a male-dominated workplace. The research also found that when women embraced ‘gender ownership’ they managed to cope by owning their gender and projecting positive aspects of being a female engineer. The author’s time on the oil rig made her realise that she had never considered her ‘gender as an inherent advantage’.

After reading this essay, I understood that this is precisely what I have been celebrating. It is the very fact that inequality, the glass ceiling and the structural inequalities continue to exist and yet – despite these challenges, I am seeing gender ownership thrive in the face of it all. A great example of when I saw this demonstrated was when working with Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie, the founder of Mallow & Marsh. Throughout the transaction it was so interesting to experience the way Harriot made decisions, how she communicated with the various teams of professionals, prioritised competing demands and dealt with adversity. I valued the openness of her approach. I was also struck by the kindness that ran through this deal – her focus on recognising the work of her team and the general support she had in both her shareholders and her network set a new standard in my mind.

Mallow & Marsh logo

I am very proud to have worked with all these women. Someone who I am persistently inspired by once told me that they thought I could run my own business. To exist in their mind as capable of achieving what female founders are achieving was an incredible compliment. I wish I had asked Harriot “How does it feel looking at the success of the company you have built?” – because I’ve caught myself smiling at the Mallow & Marsh bars in the supermarket for far longer than is socially acceptable and they’re not even my products.

I continue to be fascinated by how differently female-led businesses are run and I am so excited for them – I am so excited for women. So, tell me the stories, share the podcasts with me, invite me to the events, send me the book recommendations and introduce me to the female founders so I can celebrate their success and continue to learn from them. I am eager to hear all their stories, to help, to be part of what they are building. Most of all – I’m eager for them to know that they have my full support, to know that I am rooting for them and that I am willing them to overcome the unduly, challenging hurdles that many women face.

The Managing Partners at Joelson have clearly already heard my enthusiasm because I now receive emails saying: “We’ve got a new sale in – it’s a female founder so I thought of you to work on it” and “You should go to this AllBright event on Wednesday – female founders are pitching”. I am immeasurably grateful that I can do this work at a firm with a culture that not only encourages exploring interests but is also enriching this journey with opportunity. It is with a great sense of excitement that I continue on this path of working with pioneering women.

[1] On the Representation of Muslims written by Nafisa Bakkar

[2] Life Was Easier Before I was Woke written by Yassmin Midhat Abdel-Magied

This article is for reference purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Specific legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be sought separately before taking or deciding not to take any action.

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Mallow & Marsh

“Thank you so much to Joelson for helping Mallow & Marsh on its sale to Serious Sweets. We had received multiple recommendations to instruct Joelson and we were not disappointed. Their legal knowledge and expertise is second to none, along with their sector knowledge in the food & drink/consumer space. Their dedication and relentless support throughout the transaction was remarkable and I am hugely grateful.”

Harriot Pleydell-Bouverie, Founder of Mallow & Marsh
Certified B Corporation