Elizabeth Macbride

Welcome to this week’s newsletter, which is celebrating International Women’s Month. I’ve included some of our best new and old stories about women in business.

The question of how to help more women move into positions of leadership is occupying my mind this week, especially because I have just finished the Ad Astra Ventures Bootcamp.

It was a worthwhile six days. I made my first semi-official investor pitch to a carefully chosen small group of mentor-investors. I’m not sure how much money I’ll raise for Times of E, but I wanted to understand better my own strengths as they related to the process of raising money.

I was nervous about it until I remembered the times in my life when I have REALLY felt nervous, like my first day as a managing editor in New York City, my first solo reporting trip to Amman, Jordan, and bringing my oldest daughter home from the hospital. The only thing I knew how to do was pick out a yellow onesie, so Lillie wouldn’t start soaking up pink gender norms.

After I remembered those times, I was much less nervous about pitching. (I was not supposed to reveal that the pitch was my first one, so please don’t share my woeful lack of experience on this front).

The hardest thing about being a woman business leader is that there is no roadmap. That’s why many accelerators and incubators are a waste of time, or even detrimental for women. Because American culture has had so few women leaders, we haven’t yet figured out what makes for one.

Lacking a guidebook, leadership programs fall back on the rules and research for men, which not only don’t work, but can backfire on women. The wise women who run Ad Astra have figured this out, so the bootcamp is designed to help each woman identify a style of leadership that works for her.

Here’s my own simple example of what it feels like to travel an untraveled path. Our image of male leaders includes height. If you’re a short man, you know this and you find ways to adapt. But is a woman leader tall or short? Or somehow – medium-sized? Do you try to make yourself as tall as man, as tall as the nearest woman leader, or do you wear flats and cause most men in the room to develop a crick in their necks as they bend down to listen to you? (That’s usually what I do. So sorry!).

The trick for women business leaders is to confidently establish our own effective norm, of one, and support other people in establishing theirs.

The only attribute that’s absolutely required is courage. Luckily, life gives all of us plenty of chances to practice that.

This story and others on New Builders Dispatch are made possible by a sponsorship from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation is a private, nonpartisan foundation that provides access to opportunities that help people achieve financial stability, upward mobility, and economic prosperity – regardless of race, gender, or geography. The Kansas City, Mo.-based foundation uses its grantmaking, research, programs, and initiatives to support the start and growth of new businesses, a more prepared workforce, and stronger communities. For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect with www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn.

A business journalist for 20 years, am the founder of Times of Entrepreneurship and the co-author of The New Builders.