I just read an article by Australian feminist Jane Caro about how tired she is of being asked to be a free mentor over and over and over again, and it epitomises for me something I’ve been thinking about all week as I’ve been launching the School of Visibility curriculum.
It’s a low level of anxiety I feel about charging for anything I offer. There’s a deeply ingrained expectation within me that I should give things to people for free – bonuses, additional content, something/anything – not because I think the program is too expensive. It’s not. (If anything it needs to be reviewed in light of the depth and significance of the transformation women experience. And to honour what it takes to really hold people deeply in a space of transformation for months at a time.)
No, the anxiety isn’t about the value of the offering. It comes from a different place. From the conditioning I’ve received – as all women have – which encourages me to see my value as separate to money. As unrelated to money.
It’s a story that says, ‘Money is over here and women are over there and you can’t ever put a monetary value on a woman’s worth because her primary value lies in what she gives to her family, her children, her husband, and their home. A woman’s value has nothing to do with the economy. It has to do with love.’
A man’s value on the other hand, has always had a financial component to it (at least for as long as capitalism has existed). He not only can, but is expected to negotiate the monetary value of his worth, and as a society we’re happy to pay him accordingly.
Which leaves women in an uncomfortable position. Because at some point, we enter the world of commerce and have to find a way to participate in a system which expects us to act in a fundamentally different manner to the way we’ve been raised. We’re asked to fend for ourselves, claim our value, negotiate our financial worth, set clear boundaries, and receive as much as we give.
These two competing forces – the conditioning of women and the conditions established for success in the workforce – are putting women in conflict. Both within themselves and against each other.
The conflict is particularly stark in the entrepreneurial space, because when you run your own business, you can’t fly under the radar. You have to step forward and be seen to claim your space, and make offerings, and expect to be paid for them.
If you’re also in a position of being a woman selling products and services to other women, you’re in a particularly uncomfortable double bind because;
(i) you have your own internalised stories that make you feel uncomfortable asking for the sale or declaring the value of your offering, and
(ii) if you’re able to overcome those stories and actually and make an offer, you’re placing it in a world filled with other women’s internalised stories. Stories that make them feel uncomfortable when they see a woman selling or charging anything more than a pittance for her services.
I’m not saying all of these beliefs are conscious beliefs. They’re not. Many of them are deeply unconscious. And that’s the problem. Until you’re aware they’re there, you can’t change them.
What I do know is that until we’re willing to see this double bind for what it is, and take the necessary action to clear the conditioning we’ve internalised about where a woman’s value lies, we will never, ever break through that glass ceiling.
That’s why we spend so much time inside the School of Visibility uncovering and releasing unconscious beliefs. Beliefs you carry around about yourself. About other women. And about how much we’re all worth. Without this women simply cannot thrive and the sisterhood as a whole will continue to be less powerful than it could be.