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The shine theory: We need to debunk the myth only a certain number of top jobs for women

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Sharon Threlfall

February 16, 2021

A few years ago, I discovered the term “shine theory” while reading Dr Kirstin Ferguson and Catherine Fox’s amazing book Women Kind.

The book is all about women supporting women, which is the essence of shine theory. While this concept works for all aspects of our lives, it is particularly suitable in terms of women in business. 

The shine theory was first coined by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman. In fact, Ann’s personal motto is “I don’t shine unless you shine”.

We are conditioned to compete

There is a long-held belief that there are only a certain number of top jobs for women. You hear about ‘quotas’ of women that need to be filled in managerial positions and on boards.

If you have ever been the only woman in a meeting or in a boardroom, then you might have felt empowered. Or maybe just intimidated or ignored.

And so we feel like we have to compete for all the top jobs and for the positions of power and respect in society.

This mindset then follows us into our entrepreneurial endeavours.

We are finally carving out something of our own, but then we find other women doing the same thing. There are others offering the same product or service. We can feel threatened, we often compare ourselves to them and may inevitably end up thinking that they are doing it better or are more successful.

Ultimately, we can lose sight of our own vision and our own unique reason for starting a business. Our own version of success becomes morphed, as we start wanting to emulate the same success as others.

Collaboration is key

But you can change this toxic and competitive mindset. One of the central themes to the shine theory is to ask other women for help, as well as offer it in return. Even if they sell the exact same product as you, somewhere in their business they will be doing something different to you.

Condition your mind to look for opportunities, instead of threats. Study what other women in your industry are doing and see what you can learn from them in order to help your business grow.

If you are stuck on something, ask for help. Then think of something you could offer in return.

Maybe their website is amazing and you want to know who created it. In return, maybe you see that their social media posting is a bit of a shambles and you are skilled at creating content, so you offer some pointers.

Simply pass on whatever knowledge you can and be happy about the success of other women in business.

While the women you admire may seem amazing and successful, they will have different strengths and weaknesses than you do.

Work together to help your businesses, as well as your industry, thrive.

Share experiences

No matter what challenge you are facing in the world of entrepreneurship, there is certainly a woman who has been there before.

No matter how unique your product or service is, you are (most likely) not the first to offer it. You are also hopefully not the only women in your industry.

The shine theory encourages you to look for women who have come before you. Ask them about their experiences and share your struggles. Gain insights from them so you can get through the challenging times quicker and avoid making the same mistakes.

Then do the same for the women coming up after you.

Never forget where you came from or the challenges you faced in starting your business and the people who helped you. Remember how much you appreciated the support from other women, or if you didn’t have it, think about how much you wish you did.

Provide other women with opportunities to shine. If you see newcomers in your industry, or you read posts on Facebook about women who are struggling to get their business out there, use your voice.

Use whatever influence you currently have to put a spotlight on their businesses. Whether that be through an Instagram post or a blog.

You can be sure that this will give them a confidence boost to keep going. And it might even lead to some new customers for them.

It’s simple: seek out women who you can help and support.

You are the company you keep

Surround yourself with women who are happy, confident and successful. Emotions such as jealousy and anger actually change the DNA in our bodies and lead to stress-induced diseases.

If we are feeling these emotions, then we must look deeper, as clearly we are not happy with our own lives or businesses.

The shine theory suggests that you shine more because of the people you surround yourself with. If they are supportive, confident and genuinely want you to be happy and successful, they will be an excellent source of strength and advice. Not only will you learn from them, but you will also share a wide network of other women who share the same values.

Nobody leads a rich and fulfilling life by hoarding their knowledge, money and power.

Instead of feeling intimidated, seek out women who are more confident than you. Seek out women who have the qualities you wish you had.

It challenges you to be a better version of yourself and to become better at what you do.

Use the success of other women in business to motivate you. Who doesn’t love reading stories about other entrepreneurial women and how they have overcome the same challenges that you are facing? Apart from learning from them, it shows you that we are really all in this together.

As Ann Friedman says: “Surrounding yourself with the best people doesn’t make you look worse by comparison. It makes you look better.”

Embed compassion into your business model

Look at how you can develop a business model that supports women and is based on the shine theory. Perhaps you can provide job opportunities to other women. That could include the people you hire or the services that you seek, such as accountants or lawyers.

You can also look for ways you can use your business profits to support women who are doing it tough in the local community. It could be through monetary donations to charitable organisations or maybe you could use your skills to hold workshops or networking events.

A lot of businesses may seem the same on the outside, but on the inside, it is a different story.

You have different reasons for becoming a founder. You have different motivations, different experiences, different ways of handling situations.

Unfortunately, the current economic model isn’t wired for the success of women.

We need to be lifting each other up in any way that we can. Big or small, it all makes a difference.

Remember: success is not finite, there is enough for every woman.

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