Magazines and Women

I'm a big fan of magazines. While I usually stick with fashion magazines, lately I've been reading some other more business oriented titles. This year, Anthony and I started our own company for our personal pursuits and I felt really lost throughout the process. So when I got the opportunity to redeem some points for magazine subscriptions, I decided to go with a few titles that would help me wrap my head around our business needs. I subscribed to Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur and Fast Company.

I've really enjoyed my subscription to Inc Magazine. I find their articles to be super informative and their interviews, like recent ones with execs from Tumblr and Kid Robot, to be truly inspiring. And, for what it's worth, I appreciate the attention to detail in the graphic layout of the pages themselves. I love that it's a happy marriage of helpful content and creative design. I also like that the magazine is not written for a particular gender. Women and men alike can pick it up and get something out of it. This is not to say that every magazine should do this, but it's nice that a magazine marketing towards small business owners does not discriminate.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Entrepreneur. Now, working in technology in various industries, I've realized it's a boy's club — not that that's entirely a bad thing! I've worked with some pretty talented men and learned a lot from them (most notably that the lack of women in their midst is mostly an oversight, not intentional). I also happen to like a lot of things men typically like more than most women (sports, fried foods, gadgets) so it doesn't really bother me to spend time in the company of dudes.

That said, there are definite differences between me and my male colleagues. For example, it is probably not socially acceptable for them to wear dresses, or bare their legs at all at work. Though, if I were to wear baggy jeans and oversized t-shirts as they do, I would probably have some difficulty being taken seriously (I don't say this to be contrary; I say this because it actually happened to me).

And this point precisely brings me back to Entrepreneur magazine. Their September issue, which just arrived in my mailbox today, included an article about over-dressing vs under-dressing; the cover simply reads "Exclusive. How to Dress: The Taxonomy of Casual." I was really excited to read that piece because I struggle with this point when dressing myself for work. I don't want to dress too formally (or too trendy, per the industry I'm currently in…) and risk ostracizing myself from my colleagues but I still want to dress in a way that will gain respect (the whole "dress for the job you want" thing).

I read the article and was really disappointed to see it was written for a target audience of 100% men. The graphic associated with the article showed ONLY cartoon-y male characters wearing different types of dress. The depiction of only men didn't stop me from reading the article though, as there as no indication that this article was merely discussing menswear. I think that's probably what surprised me the most; though the article in question was written by an editor at Esquire, it wasn't explicitly stated that this was a "man's guide" to dressing. They had just inferred that only men would be reading it.

This unfortunately begs the question: are women not considered entrepreneurial? I think we all know what the answer to that is and I'm sure it is backed up by data that suggests that most of their subscribers are men or that more men start companies or get VC funding. Despite the data, whatever it may be, why isolate your female readers? Would it have been that difficult to provide a more balanced piece? Considering they hit up Esquire to write about work appropriate clothes, how about consulting an editor of woman's magazine to briefly touch on women's wear? Surprisingly, it is not for lack of women on the cutting room floor; the editor in chief of the magazine is indeed a woman.

I brought this up to the network of women I know and many agreed with my sentiments. In fact, one commented that she has seen technology magazines in airports under the "Men's interests" section. Why is technology only a man's interest? While I acknowledge that there is a dearth of women in tech, that doesn't automatically exclude women from possibly being interested in such publications.

And this is the fundamental flaw – the imposition of gender roles that deny the existence of quite a few people. By writing that article for an audience of men, you are further impressing the position that entrepreneurs are exclusively men. A more balanced article, including women even in small part, would at least acknowledge that there are indeed female entrepreneurs (Yes, really. They exist! And highlighting only those who start cupcakes businesses is not at all representative of the majority of women who own businesses!).

Perhaps I'm more sensitive to these issues being that I'm both a woman and an underrepresented minority, but I'm willing to imagine that I'm not the only woman who picked up the magazine and was just plain bummed to see that she was excluded from participating in that feature.