From the day we launched our Kickstarter campaign to date, a curious phenomenon has been unfolding. People from all over the world have reached out in support, with services ranging from product design and development to marketing and distribution. Surprisingly though, out of all emails, meetings and offers made, just one has been by a woman.
There are various arguments for and against why this should matter. For each side, the reasoning is likely valid because truth as we understand it is a by-product of individual experiences. Therefore, given my background in terms of where I grew up and the expectations of what women should or should not be, to me it matters.
Where are the women? Could the absence be a consequence of a lower risk-appetite, and start-ups are too risky? Is it a fear of standing out and having other people question whether you are proud or arrogant? Nonchalance? Are there not enough of us who possess a particular skill, thus lowering the ratio of those who will reach out vis a vis the men in that same field? Or, are we not aware of opportunities around us and the world in general, that we do not actively seek them out? Is our brand positioning, product, and mission more interesting and inspiring to men?
The Swahili have a saying “usipoziba ufa utajenga ukuta” which essentially means that if you don’t deal with a crack, you’ll end up rebuilding the whole wall. Another saying “samaki mkunje angali mbichi” means you can only fold (or bend) a fish when it’s still raw. Essentially, it is difficult to change something the longer it sits. A big part of change involves identifying the root causes to a (perceived) problem so that you are better placed to come up with realistic ideas on how to remedy the situation.
In writing this, I understand that not all women follow a traditional career path in business. Some do the wonderful job of nurturing little humans, others are super comfortable with a carefree life (with and without children), others pursue academia, while others choose other careers such as sports, just to name but a few. This article isn’t meant to castigate any woman. Nor does it mean to diminish the value men are adding to this industry. Certainly, we’ve benefited greatly from the help of many generous and talented gentlemen.
This is just me trying to understand why in a world where about half of the population are women, we’re not hearing from them. What do you think? Why have we encountered this imbalance? Also, women in the footwear industry or working with start-ups — designers, distributors, developers, marketers, and saleswomen — I’d love to hear from you.
You will love these shoes we made — the Enda Itens, first ever made in Kenya running shoes.