Friday, August 24, 2012

For the ladies...

Lately, a huge theme in my life has been women. The coming together of women, women's rights, women as leaders and women as support groups. Women's issues also seem to be prevalent in the news lately with so much to-do about Akin's latest comment as well as women's healthcare via the new Obama plan.

Recently, my friend Lindsey borrowed me the documentary, "Miss Representation." The film talked about so many interesting issues involving women; the lack of women in high leadership positions and politics, the way women are quickly criticized for their looks rather than their policies, intelligence, leadership, etc., and even the fact that women tend to be the first criticize other women (see any article about recent Olympic gold medalist, Gabrielle Douglas, and her hair. ) Really? She just won a gold medal and was the first black woman to win gold in all-around for gymnastics and all we can focus on is her hair? I get that there are some cultural issues surrounding this but WOMEN, let's build each other UP and not tear each other DOWN!

Okay...not seriously. I thought it was kinda funny though! :)

Not only did this make me ponder all of these social issues that are taking place right now, but I also thought about myself and my own position as a woman who owns a business in a male-dominated sector. In the US, according to the last US Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners, only 28.8% of businesses were owned by women, compared to the 51.5% owned by men. Not only that, but I work in a male dominated sector - biking. Now, I can really only think of a few bike-oriented businesses owned by women in Minneapolis, but this article from Portland, Oregon gives a glimpse into female bike business ownership. Many times when giving a tour, people act with shock or awe when they ask about who owns the business and I respond, "I do." Many times I get the reaction, "Good for you!" I am not offended, people want to be supportive. I just can't help but wonder if a man would get the same response? When I started my business last year, I also went into a coffee shop to see if the owner would give discount coupons I could give to my riders. I would mention his shop as we passed during the tour. The owner begrudgingly gave them to me but also told me that, "Most people don't know how hard it is to start a business and most businesses don't survive." He looked at me like I had no clue what was involved in running a business and that I would inevitably fail. I don't hand out his coupons and I don't go buy coffee from his shop - nor mention it on my tour.

Source: via Thom on Pinterest

Along with all of this, I also had a recent conversation with my sister about our upbringing. My sister and I discussed how we grew up in a home that didn't treat boys and girls differently. We were all encouraged to pursue our interests and to learn - no matter what the subject and no matter boy or girl (we have a brother in the middle of us). We were continuously told that we could succeed in anything if we worked hard enough, put our minds to it and were willing to sacrifice. Ah, sacrifice - like the tiny place that I live in now to save money so I can spend it on my business rather than rent. It's not always been fun, but it's been worth it to be able to work in the field I want and pursue my passion.

Studies show that when girls and boys grow up, at a young age, girls and boys tend to be equal on aspiring to have leadership positions; positions in politics, news, business, science, etc. Only a few years later, they show that girls' aspirations to be in these positions drop drastically. What is it in those years that makes girls change? I've read this in a few different articles suggesting this as well as it was noted in "Miss Representation."

This makes me think about my own nieces and their experiences as well as their future. While I know their parents tell them that they all can be whatever they put their minds to, my own experience makes me want to reiterate this point. Additionally, I want to remind women to reinforce this to THEIR daughters, granddaughters and nieces.  Tell your young ladies that they are more than a face and a body. They have more to give this world. They are heart, intelligence, soul and strength. They will achieve whatever they truly put their minds to. Remind them to not let ANYONE tell them any differently. To my lovely young ladies - if you ever need a reminder of this, call your Auntie. She will be happy to remind you!

All of this reminds me of the success I want to have in my own business. It's not just for me, it's for other women. Women who want to work in the bike industry. Women who doubt themselves. Fellow female entrepreneurs. For my nieces. For my family who has always told me that I can do anything I put my mind to. For my late grandmother, an entrepreneur herself, who understood when I sacrificed time away from her and my family for my business. The grandmother that told me that my business was more important - and it wasn't - but she wanted me to succeed and supported my dreams.

This brings me to my final thought. Women - let us support one another. Let us not be jealous and critical. Let us build women up for their successes and not tear them down for their inadequacies, for we all have them. Let us focus on our words, our minds, our strength, our talents and not our appearance. We are more than our shells. Let us all be confident in ourselves and work towards our ambitions. Don't ever doubt your own dreams. Walk towards the mission you feel that is in your heart and when things get difficult, know that the women in your lives will be there to support you. Women, be the support other women need.

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