Philosophical Girl – a New Platform Portraying Female Entrepreneurs Internationally

Approximately one-third of all the entrepreneurs worldwide are female. However, business and particularly entrepreneurship are still very much accosted with something that only men should do. Entrepreneurship is about taking risks. In order to be able to take these risks, one must have courage. Women around the world have this courage, they take initiative and run successful business. We just don’t hear much about it. “Philosophical girl” is going to put a spotlight on this issue and give these women a chance to tell their stories.

Text: Marina Borovaya

It’s about the freedom to be who you are.

This project is about portraying women entrepreneurs, creators and philosophers, women, who are not afraid to take initiative and step out of the system and structure – says the initiator of the new online journal, “Philosophical girl” Elin Merethe Oftedal. – This idea is something that was forming within me for quite some time. It emerged, especially after the shocking tragedy that has happen in the French newspaper “Charlie Hebdo» on 7th of January 2015. Everyone, including me,  was posting “I am Charlie” and that got me thinking about what are we actually doing in order to support the freedom of speech, and moreover, the freedom to be who you are. Another strong example is Malala Yousafzai – a young aktivist for female education and the recent Nobel prize laureate.  However, there are many unsung heroines which unfortunately don’t get as much attention and that is something we want to change. I decided to form this website around the freedoms, which correspond with human rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom to learn, freedom to move and freedom to organize. We do however want to be more playful about it and let the large political issues rest. While we do want it to balance between philosophy and entrepreneurship, we want to portray small changes as much as we do the larger issues.  For example, there is this woman in France, Tanya Heath, who makes shoes, which are unusual in a way that it is possible to exchange the heel. So that you can have multiple heals to the same pair of shoes. We interviewed her and put her in a category “freedom to move”. It certainly makes it easier for women that travel often, to pack such a multifunctional pair of shoes! I want to bring up these examples of female entrepreneurship, most of which are current, and also remind of some great historical females who had a lot of impact on where we are today. For the first issue, I’ve brought the story of  both Simone de Beauvoir and Coco Chanel to your attention. The story about Simone de Beaviour is incorporating the very idea behind Philosophical Girl, in that “passive acceptance of roles assigned by society” and embrace the individual freedom of women as human beings rather than as confined by gender. The story of Coco Chanel sorts under the “freedom to move”, since she was the one who removed the corset from female clothes and made us wear pants. Even though, she was a radical, disruptive innovator in many ways, she is mostly looked upon as a fashion girl, style queen. We often forget about this radical, brave entrepreneurial, innovative side of her. The last story of the coming month is a local example and you must just wait until its published to read it.

Illustration: Anna Sæbjørnsen
Illustration: Anna Sæbjørnsen

Blowing away stereotypes and creating role models.

We want a global profile thus bringing examples from different parts of the world. Many countries have exciting entrepreneurial scenes where women are contributing. For instance, there is a lot of interesting things going on in Nigeria. We rather think about frauds and the bad side of entrepreneurship, when we hear about Nigeria, while there is a lot of interesting projects, that we are ignorant about. In Thailand, where there are strong perceived gender roles, the female entrepreneurship scene has been strong for a long time.  By bringing up these stories, we hope to blow away some stereotypes and inspire women worldwide. Another issue is that there are few role models for women, when it comes to business. We always hear that entrepreneurship is such a boys sport and it is hard for women to succeed. We want to show, that apart from men, there are a lot of women in business that are doing different things and each of them has their own philosophy about it. We want to emphasize, that their motivations and area of entrepreneurship are different. For example, male entrepreneurs often focus on technology, but there is a lot of great business that are not tech. The Chanel example is one of them. Women’s areas of interest, such as cooking, design, fashion and culture, are often looked upon as a minor. There are many national programs to stimulate female entrepreneurship, which want women to go into tech. I support fully women that are interested in technology and I myself am one of them, but I think it’s necessary to see this as only part of the picture.  In this project, we want to shed some light on the areas of entrepreneurship that women go into, which are not necessarily tech, and see what their contribution there is.

Me and the girls from the second year BCE program, has distributed this work between us. We are launching on 7th of October and from then on, we are going to post a new story every week. We hope that it will not only encourage women entrepreneurs, but also help them. We also hope that we find new interesting stories that will engage and inspire the reader.  There has always been a fight for being in the spotlight, and often women are often timid to take space. We are trying to create an arena where it would be easier for women to be seen. Our hope is that portraying those women will also help their businesses.