GRANDSTAND – On the occasion of March 8, Tatiana Jama, co-founder of the Sista collective, returns in an exclusive forum for Madame Figaro on this episode which marked her career. And which reflects the terrible suspicion of lack of ambition that still weighs on women.
Since its creation 5 years ago, the Sista collective has been fighting for more parity in entrepreneurship and in tech. Shock campaigns, creation of an investment fund dedicated to projects led by women,… On March 8, Sista launched the #AMaPlace operation on LinkedIn. The opportunity for its co-founder, Tatiana Jama, to question this received idea that still weighs on women, and slows them down: the presumption of lack of ambition.
Grandstand.- ” We need to talk. “. We need to talk. Jake has just concluded our brief telephone conversation with this kind of pithy formula that ties up your throat. It’s 2011, 48 hours from the closing of our company’s sale and our buyers want to chat. With my partner, we are about to sell our company, less than two years after its creation, to a subsidiary ofAmazon. A race against time: we have one month left of cash flow, we have ruled out all avenues of fundraising, we have 120 employees to pay. So we hang up and fly off to Washington DC. The objective: to understand the end of the story. We are welcomed by our 3 buyers.
Jake, Eric and Rob: three men.
— So, girls, do you want to build an empire?
(So girls, do you want to build an empire?)
I watch him, shaking my head.
– OUI bien sur. What is the agenda for today?
(Sure. What’s the agenda?)
“Do you want to build an empire?”
(Do you want to build an empire?)
He articulates exaggeratedly as if I hadn’t understood the question the first time. I smile politely.
— Yes, we do, and we would love to build it together.
(Yes, that’s what we want, and we’d love to build it with you.)
— No, no, repeat after me: I want to build an empire.
(No, no, you’re not there, repeat after me: I want to build an empire.)
I am uncomfortable. I repeat, a little embarrassed.
— We want to build an empire.
(We want to build an empire)
He goes further:
— Louder, I can’t hear you: I WANT TO BUILD AN EMPIRE!
(Louder, I can’t hear you: I want to build an empire!)
— WE WANT TO BUILD AN EMPIRE!
(We want to build an empire!)
“Are you sure, girls?” he raises ..
(Are you sure, girls?)
We scream with one voice.
— WE WANT TO BUILD AN EMPIRE!!
(We want to build an empire!!)
We are both banned. Facing us, the three men look at each other in turn, looking satisfied, before turning to us.
– OK. Let’s do it! Thanks for coming! concludes Jake.
(Okay, we can sign the deal. Thanks for coming)
They get up and slip away after a hug ritual. The meeting has just ended. An hour later, 25 million dollars are transferred to our company’s bank account. We are knocked out. Stunned and saved.
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A Paris-Washington for ten minutes of conversation
What happened ? It took me a long time to understand this scene. To put into words the problem we have been confronted with: that of the presumption of a lack of ambition among women entrepreneurs. We were young, everything was on track, we had a solid business plan to develop the company, but: we were women. We had a Paris-Washington for ten minutes of conversation, because we had to reassure about our desire to build an empire. Would our buyers have had the same doubts, and would they have acted like this in front of two men? No, obviously.
If we look at the latest study by the McKinsey firm on the subject, tech is sick of its lack of female representation in the most senior positions. In 2023, the differences in treatment between men and women extend – again – to all areas of the private and professional sphere. Is it the women’s fault? No. Is it the men’s fault? Neither. I believe the responsibility lies with the system. In other words, to society as a whole.
There is no “ambition chromosome”
Pushing back one’s own limits, shaking up certainties, broadening one’s own horizons: we are all capable of it, men and women, because we are entrepreneurs. And objectively, no one spends their day banging their fists on the table: “I WANT TO BUILD AN EMPIRE!”. So why this presumption of a lack of ambition among women in particular?
Even though to create their business, they upset the status quo, measure the risks twice rather than once. They too have, deep in their hearts and bodies, the passion to succeed. They too are demanding of themselves. Probably even more than their male colleagues, because they have been aware since day one of the additional obstacles they will have to overcome to break the glass ceiling. And they overcome these obstacles, one after the other. Resilient design. So, is this presumption of lack of ambition due to a form of discretion in the affirmation of their success?
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Rather, I believe that we have a hard time collectively thinking about the fact that, like angels, ambitions have no gender. Let’s not leave out half a generation when it comes to inventing tomorrow’s solutions. No, women entrepreneurs do not need to assert their ambition. Because they do not suffer from a lack of ambition. But a lack of support. They don’t need to be shown the way, nor told how to move forward. Just, that we give them the resources and the means.