Navigating Challenges and Embracing Confidence as a Woman in Business


I think a huge challenge for women is, maybe not as much today as it was when I started 36 years ago, is gaining credibility as a woman in a man’s world. I entered into a male-dominated business, and it still is. There are a lot of women in the business, not a lot of women owners of business. For many years, I think even some of the leaders at Haworth thought I was a designer. I’m not a designer. I’ve learned a lot about design but I’m a business person and that’s where my expertise lies.

Breaking Gender Norms: Shaping Our Paths as Women in Business

Women often find themselves categorized solely based on their gender, which can be both challenging and frustrating. It can be disheartening when others fail to perceive us in the same light as we view ourselves. However, it is important to acknowledge that this is a reality we must face. Instead of trying to change people’s perceptions directly, I have found it more effective to focus on being authentic and true to myself.

The truth is, we cannot control how others perceive us. The key is to remain steadfast in our authenticity and let our actions speak for themselves. Embracing who we are, irrespective of societal expectations, allows us to forge our own path and define success on our own terms. Being true to ourselves builds trust and earns the respect we deserve.

Fortunately, the world today offers more opportunities for women to become business leaders and owners. Nevertheless, women still encounter obstacles when it comes to securing the necessary financial backing for their ventures. When I started 36 years ago, I didn’t have money to start a business. And I intentionally asked a man to help build my business’s credibility. And it worked. He helped me get the funding I needed and he was a great mentor to me, but I ran the business. It was mine. He has four daughters and they run his business now. And fortunately for me, he appreciated and understood and didn’t look down on women. He looked at us as equals, but not all situations are like that. I was extremely lucky that I was able to have him in my life at the right time. He is still a friend of mine today, which I’m very happy to say.

Defining Success on Your Terms: Embracing Authenticity

I think that a lot of it’s how we’re raised as women. Sometimes we’re not always raised to think that we can be our own boss or run a business because we’re women. I can remember as a child with my dad, he would take my brothers with him to the job sites because they were running heavy equipment. That scared me; I didn’t want to run heavy equipment, but I also wanted to be with my dad. He would get up and take the boys and leave me at home with my sister and my mom. And it used to really make me mad because I longed to participate and learn alongside my father.  Having a lot of brothers, three older, and one younger, they were a strong influence in my life. This meant I knew a lot about how men think which became valuable in navigating the male-dominated business world.

I’ve learned that you just have to be confident in yourself though it can be hard. Women who assert themselves confidently and display strength often face unfair labeling and negative judgments. I have personally experienced the hurtful impact of such stereotypes. However, it is crucial to remember that these labels do not define us. I’ve learned that I have to be who I am. Hopefully, I am a strong leader, a person who cares about people. There’s nothing wrong with empathy. I think it’s so important. I can remember years ago, somebody gave me a bit of a hard time about how I was a little more lenient and empathetic in letting my people come into work when they wanted. Just because he felt a certain way, didn’t mean I had to run my business the way he did. And today empathy for your people is an essential leadership skill.  Well, that’s me. I don’t have to change who I am and I think that’s why my employees have been with me so long. I care about them and I’m empathetic to their needs, their wants, and their growth. I’m here for them and they know it.