A few months ago I was interviewed for a magazine about Makelight. When they sent back the article for me to check I was really taken aback by how they'd described me:
"Emily Quinton, wife of an entrepreneur."
Yes, this is really what they had written in the draft. I didn't allow that line to be published but it really took me aback! Yes, Stef is my co-founder and husband but Makelight initially grew from my passion and effort. Somehow the "entrepreneur" label only seemed to apply to Stef's work, not mine!
Sometimes we need a knock like that to make us angry and to step back and think about why it's made us feel so angry. Being angry from time to time is important. It makes you care and think about what really matters to you. I don't get angry very often but I am passionate about things that I believe in. And I am very passionate about women being treated equally.
GIRLBOSSES AND MUMPRENEURS
I have been absolutely determined not to label myself as a 'girlboss' while building Makelight. I'm 40 for goodness sake...not a girl!
Or a mumpreneur. Yes, I'm a mother of four but Stef's a father of four and no-one has even suggested that he's a dadpreneur. Not even when he was doing an online project around fatherhood a few years ago! I really can't imagine Stef posting an image of a '#boyboss' sign on his Instagram account.
I wonder if women like using these titles because it doesn't feel as serious as being a boss or an entrepreneur. Perhaps it feels safer to say "I'm a girlboss" than "I'm the CEO".
Or perhaps saying that you're a mumpreneur takes away some of the pressure away from identifying as an entrepreneur because you are clearly saying "I'm doing this at the same time as being a mum". That is indeed amazing. I absolutely know that.
I have written before about being a mum in the start-up world vs being a dad in the start-up world. It's not easy but I do think that we need to take ourselves seriously even if we are juggling our entrepreneur hours with our parenting hours.
I also really understand the importance of having a tribe around you and of women supporting women. Yes, yes. Absolutely so very important. But we need these things because we still have so far to go with equality, so why are we using these titles to describe ourselves when men would never even consider similar titles for themselves? Boyboss? Dadpreneur? Who on earth is going to take a boyboss seriously? So why is girlboss okay....and not just okay but celebrated by women?
Let's take ourselves seriously and call ourselves entrepreneurs. If we want to also talk about juggling family life or motherhood we can. That stuff is important and amazing but so is taking ourselves seriously.
JOB TITLES IF YOU'RE SOLO
When you work for yourself it's often hard to give yourself a title. It's so much easier if you have a clear job title that someone else has given to you when you applied for the job.
My sister is a GP. So, at family events everyone knows what she does. Everyone has a lot of respect for her, not just because she is a GP but because they know what that is! She went to medical school, passed her exams and after some more years of training she became a GP. Everyone gets it.
But my path has not been so clear and I know that a lot of my family and friends really have no idea what I do. Many people think I take pretty pictures for Instagram as my job and think they are way more serious than I am because they have an important job in the city and wear a suit and smart shoes each day. And they have titles. We live in London and I'm sure you can imagine that the school playground is full of a lot of parents with serious sounding titles.
GIVE YOURSELF STRENGTH
It's taken me a while to feel comfortable saying that I'm building a "startup". And because we're using a lot of tech, also quite legitimately calling it a "tech startup"! It's been a big shift, from being a blogger and photographer to being the co-founder of a "tech start-up". Stef and I have tried to divide up our roles into the standards for that world and now refer to ourselves as "CEO" and "CTO".
We are only a team of two at the moment, so that might sound a little ridiculous! But when we're talking to potential investors and networking in the startup world it simplifies things a lot – people get it. I’m the CEO. It also really helps me to take myself seriously and have the confidence to both think big and follow through with this bigger thinking.
For many years Stef has been the entrepreneur, the guy in tech, the one making amazing things happen. "Oh, your husband is so clever/smart/talented/amazing." Yes, he is indeed but he now is working with me on something that I started, so it's not all just about him!
GIVE YOURSELF A TITLE
My ambition and vision for Makelight and our supportive, inspiring community have grown and grown as I've been gradually taking myself and the possibilities more seriously. When you take yourself seriously other people do too. It's a virtuous circle.
It is hard to give yourself a title when you work for yourself, though. I know that. And it's especially easy to fall into the trap of imposter syndrome. I am pretty sure women feel that more than men, but that's one for another post.
For now, put the imposter syndrome to one side. If you were advertising for your own job role what would you call it? Imagine employing yourself. Give yourself that title and celebrate it. Be confident and proud of it. Practise saying it out loud and then when you next meet someone it will roll off your tongue a lot easier.
The more you tell other people what you do, the more you will feel confident about it. You will feel serious, justified and ready to go and make amazing things happen.
If any of this sounds familiar, I'd love to hear how you're approaching this – what's your job title and how have you solved this for yourself?