Shifted Attention

Published July 07, 2019

My long term vision for Jupiter is not to remain in the beauty vertical. This is where we started for reasons which you’ll understand shortly, but suffice to say, it was unexpected. My hobbies are bodybuilding, video games, thru-hiking, and reptiles. Not exactly anyone’s idea of traditional femininity.

When I started I was worried people would get an inaccurate impression of me. I imagined someone saying, “of course she would do something related to beauty. She’s a woman!” I flinched when someone said, “you’re doing that make-up thing, right?” and I would quickly follow up with, “No, I’m creating software and it just happens to be used by mostly women.”

I’ve been wondering where this comes from and I believe it’s because of these two defensive strategies women in STEM have a tendency to employ:

You can argue both these strategies are mostly the same: you center the conversation around men in both. I’ve realized over the past couple of years there is another option: shift the attention off them entirely.

Cindy and Madam Walker

Story #1

Cindy Eckert created the first “female Viagara” called Addyi. She notes how difficult it was to get funding; investors, mostly men, simply don’t believe women have trouble with low libido too. After the drug was approved by the FDA she sells her company, Sprout Pharmaceuticals, to Valeant for $1 billion in 2015. Not only that, she specifies that if Valeant isn’t able to market the drug properly, she gets to buy the company back. She does. For “almost nothing.”

Story #2

Madam C.J. Walker created a product line for African-American hair which didn’t include lye and other harmful chemicals present in other products at the time. African-American beauty products were not an interesting market to most people so over fourteen years, from 1905 to 1919 she worked on expanding her business. The company reportedly trained 20,000 female employees over its lifespan and she died the richest self-made woman in America at the time.

So What?

These are just two stories but they are a couple of my favourites. After hearing so many of them, it occurred to me that this was simple business: they saw an ignored market, went after it, and found massive opportunity with very little competition. They leaned into their “disadvantage.”

I respect these women, so why not afford myself the same?

Very Little Difference

I’m realizing that my biggest hang-up with working in beauty was a learned judgement after years of centering the conversation around men. I thought, for some reason, I would be considered lesser because I was in beauty. Which, I can be, if I continue to allow my attention to be pointed that way.

As it turns out, there’s very little difference between shipping software “for women” and shipping software for the general populace because women are part of the general populace.

They are underserved, throughout history and in the present, in every way worldwide. I happen to be part of that demographic and am in a very rare group of people within it who can execute. It would be absurd for me not to use this to my advantage.

Alright, I’m listening now. What do women need?