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IWD 2024: Who defines you as a woman
Thu, 7th Mar 2024

I have been a leader in the channel for over 20 years. I can tell you, female leaders or founders are like unicorns, a very rare find. It’s tough; many of these women are road warriors in marketing or sales, working to build customer engagement. But how many are executive leaders? 
Let’s be honest: the channel is tough, and if you look at any industry award list, 95% of the honorees will be white males. Another 3% are men of diversity and a meager 2% are women, and of that, maybe 0.5% are diverse women. Go ahead and look through any industry list, and they will all have similar stats. Why? 
Because the channel is tough on women. How many times have I been called assertive, strong minded, difficult to work with, a pit bull, or the doozy — a bully. The funny thing is these comments are all coming from vendors in the channel. People who I don’t really work with, except when it comes to event sponsorships and related activities, or those wanting our company to buy their company’s software. It seems that being honest about outcomes, negotiating competitive rates, and holding organizations accountable is something that “strong male leaders” can do, and for women, these traits simply make us “difficult.” I’m sure it’s not a surprise, but these situations are largely with males — even though there are women who could and should do better, too. It is like high school all over again, and those “boys” could be mean.  
So why do I share this with you? Because for years, what this group of channel people thought about me truly impacted my emotional well-being. I hated going to events, wondering what was being said. People would come to my husband, who is my partner at home and work, to tell him about these tales — like I would cower to him. Once, a facilitator even told my husband to “put a leash on me” before we came to an event. 
First of all, who does this? 
But second, I realized this was their way of trying to undermine me and my authority. And it’s not the first or last time they would try that approach. They were scared. I was shaking things up, and my customers loved me, and I them, and as a result, my voice was becoming louder, and my opinions mattered to clients. We were building a community, and that was worrying. Those people needed to keep me “in my place” so that they could continue with the status quo of how the “boys’ club” worked. 
You see, I am a straight shooter, and what I expect the same from you as I expect from myself. It’s how we built collaborative relationships with our partners; I’ve got their back, and they have mine. Why is this scary? Because I don’t like bullies and will always be honest, and to some other vendors, that’s a problem. They are vying for the same customers, building a boys’ club, and cross-selling to the same groups. And here comes this straightforward, opinionated woman, trying to change the way the channel sells. Wanting us to give back? Who does she think she is? 
For eight years I dealt with these comments and then one day, my mentor said something that truly changed my perspective on how to deal with these individuals. 
People’s opinions of you never define you; YOU DO. Look at the sum of the 5 people closest to you. Are they genuine and supportive? If they are, you must be doing something good if they want to spend time with you. 
Why hadn’t I thought about that earlier? For so long, I allowed those in the channel, especially people in the vendor pavilions, to create perceptions of me that were just not true. My customers knew the truth, and they are some pretty awesome people, so why did these other road warriors’ opinions matter? Well, they shouldn’t. 
The moment that I stopped caring about what these people thought about me was the moment that I truly came into my own as a leader. It’s such a heavy burden that we women carry on our shoulders. This needs to be liked, or to people please. I am genuine, honest, and kind in all of my interactions, and for some, especially those who know how the channel game is played, I was an anomaly. 
So, what did I do? I stopped caring, and it was at this moment that I came into my own. If others wanted to create and believe this persona about me, let them. I’ll hire outside of the channel. I don’t need their validation to help build myself up. I can do that all by myself. 
That year, we launched our very own annual conference, Build IT LIVE. I built an event that was all about giving back to my channel partners, the customers who give me so much love. By doing good and sharing tools and templates to help support their growth, I was being my truly authentic self — someone who genuinely cares and wants to help others grow. 
It was a turning point for our organization and for me, quite honestly. I became a student of learning and how to lead well. I embraced The Collaborative Way principles and began understanding my own unique abilities. I became someone that was confident in who I am but is also open to learning how to be better. 
Now, when I enter a room, I own the room. I don’t worry about what people are saying; I only care about being my own authentic self. If that attracts people to me, they too must be wonderful people. It’s my belief in the beauty inside me that has helped me grow into this unicorn —one of the fiercest and most successful female owners of a Master MSP. That is something I have earned, and no one’s opinion of me will take that away. 
So today, on International Women’s Day, let’s recognize the beauty inside each of us and remember that the only opinions about us that matter are our own. Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t good enough or that your personality is an issue. Practice what I do, take a true accounting of the people around you and if they are wonderful people, keep doing what you are doing. If not, get yourself into a different room. Remember, we are the sum of the five people closest to us, so make sure those individuals are positive for you. 
Once we take off those shackles of caring, we will walk into every room and own it — because, by golly, we don’t care what anyone else thinks. I look forward to the day when I am no longer a unicorn but one in a sea of many female technology channel leaders. Join me, ladies, own your swagger, and let’s shatter this glass ceiling. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. It’s your opinion that matters. Believe in the beauty inside you.