Sent: December 12, 2:10 p.m.
From: Savannah, CEO
To: James, Partner, Private Equity Investments of North America
Subject: Dinner? Holiday cocktail?
We met at a recent WPO conference. I hope you remember me. I am the founder and CEO of Pouty & Pretty Cosmetics.
I really enjoyed our conversation! You gave me such great advice about growing my business, and it left me energized and ambitious about the future. You have such amazing experience growing businesses like mine.
I was also really flattered that you think it has such potential. I’d love, love, love to meet up with you again sometime soon. Let me know if you’re ever in town, or if I come out your way, I’ll let you know. Either way, let’s find a way to keep in touch.
All my very best, Savannah
Sent: December 12, 3:22 p.m.
From: James, Partner, Private Equity Investments of North America
To: Savannah, CEO, Pouty & Pretty Cosmetics
Subject: RE: Dinner? Holiday cocktail?
Well, hello there. How nice to hear from you, Savannah. Of course, I remember you. How could I not? I’d also love, love, love to get together and hear more about your business. Not only does your business have great potential, YOU have great potential.
Aligning with PPEI North America would be a very smart move for you. In fact, if I do say so myself, I could make you a rock star in the cosmetics industry.
Text me. Jim
All right! You snagged one! Great job, Savannah. You’ve got your first big potential investor on the hook. Now all you have to do is work it, girl. Work. It. Jim’s no dummy—he’s been around the block a few times—and he knows the best way to get a smokin’-hot deal on a budding business is to flatter the daylights out of the unsuspecting founder and make her feel like she’s the most brilliant woman in the world. Not only are you going to have a wealthy benefactor on your side, but you’re also going to be hanging with the dealmakers, the “PE guys.” As they say, now you’re peeing in the grass with the big dogs.
So, make your appointment now for a full spa day before you see Jim next, because he’s your golden ticket. Pretty soon the cash will be flowing in, and you’ll be on a press blitz like no other, announcing to the world your big, new business deal. Look at you go! Way to break the glass ceiling!
LET’S GET REAL
We’d like to think a scenario like this is a thing of the past, but it’s not. It’s very real, and it happens every day. So, this is our chance to speak directly to women like Savannah in the business world and say one thing: Show some self-respect and self-awareness and knock it off.
Look, it’s true: the big-money world is still a man’s game. Look around the private equity and banking world and tell us that’s not true. It’s true, and it’s going to remain true until we get more women in positions of power—in government and in the private sector. Across the board, we are still in the minority. Hell, we still have to work the equivalent of three additional months a year on average to even make equal pay to what most men are paid.
So, Savannah—and women like Savannah—why do you have to make it harder for the rest of us by believing that you have to charm your way into the big-money game? Or into any business game, for that matter? Most of us who have bought or sold businesses have been the only female in the boardroom before. It can be intimidating and throw you off your best game. But we are counting on you to step it up and show up with your strategic thinking and your personal power, not a demure-and-fawning-high-school-girl act.
Sound rough? It’s meant to. But listen up, we’re not done. Charming your way to the top, or into the big-money game, is only going to achieve one thing: getting taken to the cleaners— and it will be your fault.
If you show up with a flirty, forward attitude, you will have a giant sign over your head that says, “I got lucky and started this business, and I have no f$*#ing idea what I’m doing, so please flatter me and give me a 2x multiple and make me feel great about it!” Then you can go brag to your business friends and other female CEOs about how brilliant you are now that you are on the inside of the private-equity world. Please.