Rethinking Competition: A Feminist Approach to Small Business

In honour of International Women's Day, the Boss Ladies take a small business tip from feminist icon Germaine Greer.

germaine greer
Germaine Greer’s ideas for improving women’s roles in society can be parlayed into small business.

In honour of International Women’s Day, the Boss Ladies take a small business tip from feminist icon Germaine Greer.

In Germaine Greer’s recent interview on CBC’s Q, the feminist icon and author identified teamwork as an issue that women need to address to improve their role in society. She noted that overworked women need to stop competing with each other and begin sharing resources. “Behind front doors women are doing identical tasks, and if they just decided they were going to become cooperative and actually work as a collective, the whole quality of their lives would be changed,” said Greer.

She referenced the exhaustion brought on by the expectation of women to run the domestic sphere while working outside of the home as well. Until women join forces, they will be spread too thin to do the work required to advance their roles in society. I whole-heartedly agree with this theory, and I think it can also be applied to the business world.

One of the exciting ways that I see women changing the traditional business model is through reshaping and reframing the idea of competition.

There’s a tendency in business to play one’s cards close to the chest. We keep challenges and struggles quiet, and often keep our secrets to success just as hushed. Entrepreneurs are rarely eager to share formulas for success or business solutions, protecting this knowledge as if they were trade secrets. And frankly, it’s not doing any of us much good.

I’m not saying you need to give away the farm – there is intellectual property and honest-to-goodness copyright that you need to hold on to. But, just as Greer was advocating for women sharing domestic tasks, some business tasks can be shared to improve efficiency and save money. And when you share, it will come back to you in spades.

Pooling resources and sharing information can look like anything from passing referrals to sharing a half-time assistant. Rather than thinking of your materials suppliers as guarded secrets, consider reaching out to others to join forces and bulk order to lower your cost of goods. I’ve seen small businesses with similar target markets purchase joint ad space, giving them access to publications and audiences they could otherwise not afford.

In my experience, the more open and willing I’ve been to sharing my so-called tricks of the trade, the more tips and resources I’ve had flowing back in my direction.

In honour of Greer and International Women’s Day, I invite all small businesses (women owned or not) to reframe how they think about competition. Let’s see if we can move the small business community forward through cooperation.