Last week, I was having coffee with a new business contact (what else is new, right?), a woman who is also in the marketing field and who started her own business three years ago. She was open, and honest and helpful in sharing what has worked for her, and suggestions on ways I could build my credibility with my clients.
I enjoy meeting all people in my industry - other marketing professionals, strategists, and creatives - but I especially enjoy meeting women who, like me, took a chance, left a stable career to pursue something more. Decided that life was too short. That a side hustle we were passionate about needed to be the bread and butter we lived on.
She and I had similar stories, and feelings, of what it's like to be a woman who runs her own business. I shared what it felt like to be one of five women at a marketing breakfast with fifty other men (powerful). She shared what it felt like when she first began and was asked if her father was financially supporting her (gross). And then she said something that made me pause: "Why do we have to be female entrepreneurs? Why aren't we just entrepreneurs? There's no such thing as a male entrepreneur." Huh. She was right. I was labeled as a female entrepreneur, and I furthered that story by promoting myself proudly as a "female owned and operated agency."
I've chewed on her words over the last week. Do I want to draw attention to the fact that this is a "female empowered" agency - whatever that term means. Is that too political? Is that too alienating? Are there people (men or women) who come across my agency and think (even unconsciously), "Oh. Hm. I'm not sure I want to work with a woman."
Where I see my gender as a strength, I recognize that not everyone shares that mindset. We all have negative biases towards genders, age groups, even certain industries. If we are met with one strong, negative experience - it is human for us to allow that to shape our decisions going forward.
It took me a long time to become a confident woman, and to build a support system around me of people who encouraged me to use that confidence, and not be ashamed for it. It's this confidence that gave me the platform to start my own business - and know in my bones it was the right decision. Finding my strength as a woman is an important part of my story. In turn, I want to share that story and support other women in finding and using their voices in ways that make them feel equally confident and happy. I want to share whatever I can with whoever I can - in the same way other women have done for me.
Do I want the word "female" to be attached to my identity? I think so. It's more than just an adjective. It's an important part of my story. It tells you about my strength. And it's a badge of honor.