Last night I had the pleasure of attending Design Sponge‘s In the Company of Women book tour at Dock5 at Union Market. The evening consisted of a room FULL of women, listening to 5 women business owners answer a Q&A by Design Sponge CEO & In the Company of Women author, Grace Bonney.

It was, to say the least, downright inspiring. We heard from 5 different women (which included DC locals, the 2 owners of Gordy’s Pickle Jar & the founder of Salt & Sundry) from different backgrounds, all hustling as the owners of their own businesses. They talked about the meaning of success (and how none of them actually felt wholly successful), the trials and tribulations of being not only a business owner – but a WOMAN business owner (yes it’s different), and how they find time for themselves. It’s always refreshing to witness women at different levels of businesses (either by size of business or years in business) mention feeling the same way I do – that there’s ALWAYS work to be done, that you never feel like you’re fully on top of things, that you struggle to be SO MANY things all at once …. and the list goes on.

There were two parts of the night that REALLY stuck with me (well, other than thinking that panelist & author, Ashley Ford deserves her own TV show). The first came when the panelists were talking about the barriers they face purely because they are women business owners – and Grace explained that it often results from the fact that women are expected to be SO MANY THINGS at the same damn time. We need to be nice, but commanding, we have to direct but not be bossy, we need to smile (always) but not too much, and so on and so forth. At my day job recently I was on a call with my team and things were not going well. The men on my team were not listening to me, and after 40 minutes of back and forth, we ended up finally agreeing on the direction I put forth within the first 5 minutes of the call. Besides the fact that I was irritated that no one seemed to listen to me and the 40 minutes seemed wasted because had they just listened at first, we could have had that time back … a male colleague in my workspace commented, “wow, I’ve never heard you yell at your team before”.

I was slightly taken back – I am a loud person by nature, but nothing I thought I was doing on the phone call constituted “yelling”. I was firm (because I believed my direction was the right one) and I was persistent (because the others on the call kept pushing back) and yes I was loud (because I always am), but it sort of bothered me that that equated to “yelling”. I’ve heard men in my office use commanding voices before and no one tells them they are yelling at their team ….

So yeah, the never ending cycle of contradictions that women are expected to be as leaders and business owners, is very real to me and it was comforting to hear the panelists last night that us talking about it, is what will help effect the change.

The second part of the evening that continues to swim in my head, was when Grace shared that she is not actually a creative person – though her blog features the work of talented creatives & makers – she is not one of them. And because of that, she sometimes feels less than, when she is in a room or in the company of creatives & makers.

This is how I feel – ALL THE TIME. I’ve had the privilege of meeting SO MANY amazing business owners in DC (men & women) that are creating and making the things they sell in their businesses. I am in awe of their talent and I wish I had the skills some of them do, to be able to MAKE or CREATE products. I am not a coder, a graphic designer, a leather maker, or really a creator AT ALL and that often leaves me feeling somewhat inferior to the DC makers I meet.

When I got my book signed, I told Grace that her quote really resonated with me, and she told me straight up that though we might not be makers or creators, we have skills (like bringing people together) that are just as awesome and we are all still better together as a community with the different skills we bring to the group.

What an evening, I won’t be forgetting any time soon and I cannot wait to dive into the book. Happy Wednesday Romancers.

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