In preparation for this particular article an internal note was circulated within the company asking my team members what questions they would like me to answer in our blog. Then, for International Women’s Day earlier this month, we did some polling during our team call. I will qualify this “research” by disclosing that only 70% (7 out of 10 team members) of the company was on the call. And so, admittedly, the results could have shifted dramatically based on the perspectives of those other three. So please accept my disclaimer that this is not empirical data from a random sample; rather, these are the perspectives of Carlson Integrated, LLC alone. And that is more than enough for me to sit up and take notice. I hope you do too.
One of the questions I was asked is if I have had challenges being a minority owned business. (If you are not aware, we are a women-owned, all-female company.) The honest answer? I don’t think of myself that way. I love who we are and what we do, and one of the two purposes of starting this company was to provide well-paid, flexible work options for women, often those with children or significant household and real-life situations that exclude them from the traditional full-time business world. This is not always the case with our team as we grow and discover that the desire for flexibility and purpose extends to other women as well, but that was the genesis of our model. The other side of our purpose, and the one that retains the vast majority of my focus, is to deliver outstanding marketing services to our clients.
I have been very fortunate to encounter very little sexism as a business owner, thus far. Owning and directing the business, which is high-touch and customized to the client, affords us the opportunity to select clients that we legitimately like, or at the very least believe the relationship and purpose extends beyond a challenging personality. Many of our clients are male. Many are female. We are blessed to have a diverse group of clients, from many different races, ethnicities, and walks of life. My most cherished hope is that our internal team will reflect that diversity over time.
The data from our subjective poll tells me a lot about our team. We have many similarities and many differences. I love that! For instance, almost all of us have pets. Only one person doesn’t have any – and she is not opposed to them other than the fact that she has four kiddos e-learning and doesn’t need to add any more responsibilities right now. The vast majority of my team likes to be in flip flops or sandals or slides. Not a single other person prefers high heels like I do, and one brave soul actually prefers no shoes at all. We all like dessert, though pie was the winning option out of a list that included cake, cookies, ice cream and candy. We represent every birth order option there is, we wake up ranging from happy to hateful, we do our best work differently (though one person’s only requirement is QUIET!).
The most important things I learned about my team from our poll aren’t funny, though. They’re real. And as my team had asked me to list the positive attributes of running an all-women team, it occurs to me that the best part of all is my direct window into the real lives of some incredible human beings who happen to be female.
- When I asked if they had a clone who could take over one element of their lives, what would they pick, the top answers were Household Chores and Doing/Helping with Homework. (One honest person answered Work, by the way!)
- When I asked what was the best way to unwind, not a single person selected Pampering. We’d rather Read, Game, Watch TV or a Movie, or Talk to a Friend.
- When I asked what the top challenge is for women today, the top two answers were Work/Life Balance and Exhaustion.
Whether my team members live alone or with roommates, with spouses or with children, the work it takes to keep everything running is voluminous. And we don’t like all of it. But we do it anyway. Sometimes even with a smile on our faces. That amount of work doesn’t give us the time or the access or the aptitude for pampering. Rather, our challenge is a constant quest to maintain work/life balance while not depleting our energy to the point of exhaustion.
I never thought about these things in my corporate role. I didn’t think it was professional for personal life to interfere with work life and I kept them as separate as possible. I think about them all the time in my own company, now. There are challenges to running a business this way. But just like my team does every day, as the theme to International Women’s Day reminds us, I Choose to Challenge.