There are many reasons I decided to start my own small business two years ago. These reasons are still compelling to me even though I have been working full-time on top of my business, and started the business in a niche I did not yet fully understand. I am a queer woman and the professional world wanted to wipe that off of me.
Like many young professional women, I don’t necessarily fit in many work settings. I have worked for small businesses, fast food, county government, local nonprofits, national nonprofits, retail, and a variety of temping opportunities, first as an admin and now as a professional. I fit in maybe one of those work environments, and that organization no longer exists.
A little over two years ago, the female editor in chief of the NY Times was fired for daring to ask why she was being paid less than the male editor who occupied the role before you. Fired for asking why.
Work environments were not designed with women in mind because sexism said they didn’t have to be.
Most women I know contort themselves to fit in to work environments. We ignore the subtle and not-so-subtle sexism. We ignore clients hitting on us when we are not free to leave their vicinity. We ignore that desks are built with the average-sized man in mind, and are not comfortable for our bodies. We beg to have office buildings not burn us in winter and freeze us in summer since we are more likely dressed for the actual weather and not insistent (conditioned into) on wearing a three-piece suit regardless of the appropriateness to the season.
We read the articles telling us that we are considered harsh if we act confidently. We read the articles that bemoan our poor negotiating skills right next to the articles that say we are not appropriately ladylike when we negotiate well.
We are chided for our very voices with new concepts like vocal fry and commanded to talk in masculine normative methods of expression. EVEN when it is proven that women’s general style is more collaborative and more effective.
We contort ourselves. Many of us have extra things to contort. Our colleagues ask about boyfriends we aren’t interested in having. Our preferred styles of dressing can be read as unprofessional on a body read as femme, but would be fine on a body read as masculine. Our bodies themselves are not read as belonging in public due to disability. Our relationship styles may not value marriage or monogamy the way the government and dominant culture would prefer.
We can contort all of these things and still not succeed. We can still be fired for daring to simply ask about our pay rate.
I opened my own small business to avoid these controls on my personality and dress-code.
Two years ago, I was fed up with my gig-centered work-life and my inability to get hired for a career-based job in my profession. I had applied for so many things. I had contorted. I was not getting what I wanted.
So I decided to create it.
I am creating a space that focuses on a niche in my profession and allows me to serve my community through it. I am creating a space where I own the keys to the door, and set the dress code. I am still a professional, but my fantastic dyke hair is fine with my supervisor as she is me. She still makes me wear the pearls when it is required, but she never tells me to grow my hair out. She never requires me to wear heals. She never tells me to dress like a lady. She knows that I am a human and that being a good human is the true goal.
I am creating a space where I do not have to say yes to potential clients that I find distasteful to work with. I can focus on serving the LGBT community. I can serve my community competently, because I know from personal experience some of what they are facing and I know where to research the specific problems that impact us.
I am creating an environment where I do not have to punch in. Eventually, I will not have to be there to “get my 40,” but rather must get the work done in a timely manner for my clients. I work better after 10 am, and can set most appointments after that. I adapt my work life to me. Should I decide to have a family in the future, I can schedule my life and career together far more easily. I am creating this because I am dissatisfied with the work environments available to me.
I don’t want to just show up. I want my work to reflect my values. I am creating that work.
What made you start your own business?