It stinks: The pressure on women entrepreneurs to be pretty on Instagram


“I call bullshit on the fact that male founders are allowed to wear branded effing hoodies or tshirts on stage or in photos while I had to get a flipping stylist so that my wardrobe would allow me to be taken seriously,” she said. “Women entrepreneurs are only held up as successful if they play by the rules in terms of the way they look. It stinks.”

Cyan Ta'eed is the co-founder of Envato and Hey Tiger.

Cyan Ta’eed is the co-founder of Envato and Hey Tiger.

Morris’ comments, which were prompted by a Fast Company article ‘The Instagram Trap‘ , have attracted support from other female entrepreneurs with Cyan Ta’eed, co-founder of tech startup Envato and chocolate business Hey Tiger, describing the pressure on women as “infuriating”.

Ta’eed was recently featured in an article about the most successful women in Australia where almost all the other women on the list had backgrounds as actresses, models or influencers.

Ta’eed said she then made the mistake of reading the comments on the article.

“The first type said effectively ‘Cyan is the only one who deserves to be there – all the others just made money from their looks and aren’t very bright’,” she said. “The second type said that I wasn’t attractive enough to be on that list. There was absolutely nothing in between. There is absolutely no winning.”


A growing number of women are starting and leading businesses with the latest Australian Taxation Office figures showing around 45 per cent of Australia’s small business operators are women, a number that continues to grow.

However women often struggle to grow their business beyond the small business stage and have to fight to attract funding for their businesses with global figures showing women received 2.2 per cent of venture capital funding in 2018.

Social media has proved to be a powerful way for women to attract attention to their businesses with entrepreneurs like Business Chick’s founder Emma Isaacs amassing 37,000 followers for her posts like “36 hours in New York and I plan on making every one of them count! #newyork #flexingthehustlemuscle”.

Other founders like Jessica Sepel (who has 238,000 followers at her account) and Sarah Holloway of Matcha Maiden (with 58,000 followers) have built their businesses almost entirely through Instagram.

While there are expectations on women to look the part if they do run a successful business while posting pretty Instagram pictures this can be used against them as well.

Ta’eed said she was sick of people thinking influencers were not entrepreneurial.

“If you think all it takes to be an influencer on Instagram is to be pretty then you’ve probably go some unconscious bias you need to look at ASAP,” she said.

Cara is the small business editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne

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