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Battles of a Female Business Owner

Susie Kahlich is a storyteller, martial artist and violent crime survivor. And she’s the founder of Pretty Deadly Self Defense. Pretty Deadly is a program designed to empower women to apply the powerful ways their bodies have been protecting them all their lives. She describes a reality where, for women, factors like age and experience have a different effect on negotiations than you’d expect.

Pretty Deadly: self-empowering, self-trust building, self defense program

Having respect for experience

Susie has been running her own business full-time for 4 years now, but a proven track-record is no shield from the challenges women face in the professional world:

“It has been a tough road. At worst, I am dismissed the second I sit down at the table, at best I’m spoken to as though I don’t understand what we’re even negotiating about”.

Carefully crafted business plans find themselves dismissed on the spot by self-assured strangers with little knowledge on the subject-matter. One such preacher warned Susie that featuring a photo of a woman defending herself from a man in her deck would make potential investors very uncomfortable, because “men have all the money”.

While presenting the idea for Pretty Deadly’s mobile app to a group of developers, Susie found herself confronted with similar dismissiveness:

“At our development meetings, the UX designer (a woman) would explain something that I disagreed with, and then the CEO of the company (a man), would explain it to me again in exactly the same language, as though I didn’t understand the UX designer the first time- basically hitting all the sexist points for both the UX designer and myself.”

The “mum” syndrome

“I feel the biggest challenge is my age. People make a lot of assumptions about middle-aged women, especially if you’ve never been married and don’t have kids. If I get stern after several polite warnings, I’m being “difficult”. I’ve been told to my face by men that my voice is “bothering” them, or been treated like my questions–relevant to my business– are a nuisance.

Other times, men seem to think I’m their mum: I’ll praise or encourage their smallest effort, and then they get confused and annoyed when I don’t.” Not quite the same treatment seasoned businessmen get when they are seen as “father figures”.

Older women usually get left out of conversations about starting a business or even being a female business owner, and that’s not the only oddity they seem to face:

“I’ve gotten a lot of excuses from different men, blowing off meetings due to sick daughters and sick cats. The first few times this happened I took it sincerely, but after the 10th time, it became obvious that these guys were offering up lame excuses, apparently based on the assumption that, because I’m a middle-aged single lady with no kids, I have extra sympathy for the children I never had and I love cats. I don’t have kids (or cats) by choice, and with no regrets.”

Restraint is Power

Maintaining restraint and a poker face allows Susie to gracefully exit those situations, leaving the men involved feeling like they (minimally) did their jobs–and avoiding retribution or punishment for more “aggressive” behaviour, which could cost her precious time and money.

“I simply agree and back out of the room, the men none the wiser. These are not my proudest moments, but I’m definitely using the same judgment, situational awareness, and strategic thinking that I use as a woman in public spaces to withdraw my project as safely and intact as possible”.

Susie clarifies that she has also worked and negotiated with men who take her business seriously and respectfully, assume that she knows what she’s talking about, and engage in fair, productive negotiations that have led to long-term business relationships. Her current app developer is one of those guys, “and working with him has been a dream”.

Martial arts and negotiation

There are some remarkable similarities in the methods Susie and I use to teach negotiation and self defense.

“The thing that resonated with me most at my first Negotiatress workshop was the incredibly similar logic in your approach, to what we do at Pretty Deadly: we can take the highly-honed skills we use daily to navigate the world as women, and apply them to business, education, careers. Pretty Deadly walks that idea back to our foundation, meaning: our bodies. When you know how to use the tools your body already has to stay physically safe, you can free up the space in your beautiful mind that has been filled with fear, and fill it with dreams instead”.

To learn basic self defense techniques at your own pace, download Pretty Deadly’s free app (also available for iOS)! Learn more about the philosophy behind Pretty Deadly Self Defense through the Pretty Deadly Podcast or check out Susie’s articles on And of course, you can always follow Pretty Deadly their website, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

See you next post!

Yasmine Guerin

Founder of Negotiatress

Originally posted on August 23, 2020 by Negotiatress


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