Women Empowering Women! Girl Power! Slay Like a Girl!
Bet these are the phrases you were positive you’d read clicking on this blog.
You see, that’s because I’m coming to you from that generation over there, the one forgotten between the Millennials and the Baby Boomers. Yeah, Gen X; meaning I (still) have an allergy to cliches or to anything that feels insincere.
So instead, what I want to talk about are some real takeaways I have about being a part of a women-owned company. And from someone who’s seen a thing or two.
A Little Bit About Me
First a little bit about me. I’ve been a worker bee and a leader at both big corporations and small owner-run companies. I’ve run my own small company and I’ve been a 1099’d freelancer. I’ve worked in thriving industries (software development, intellectual property) and industries forced by changing times to remake themselves (academic and reference publishing). And bosses? I’ve had a few; from the truly inspirational to, well, not so much.
I arrived at Covalent in January 2023 after reconnecting with Covalent’s Founder/CEO Ann Teschendorf. Over the years our paths had crossed as customer and vendor, but now I’m part of the team. So, after six months, what makes this different? What’s the secret sauce that makes me excited to get up in the morning?
Ingredient 1: Shared Reinvention and Learning
No matter how you identify (male, female, nonbinary), we must all reinvent ourselves as we move along in our careers. Industries change, technology changes, our lives change. And we must (continually) figure out where we fit, how we want to fit, and what different skills we need as the world around us evolves. I would dare to say that’s especially true of women who choose to forge their own path as business owners. They find success only by continually taking on roles, challenges, and work they never imagined at the start.
But what does that mean for me? What I’ve seen is that, at a woman-owned small business, reinvention is welcome, even a requirement because you will share in the journey that owner is on. Try, fail, try again, talk about what worked and what didn’t, take on a new role, do something that scares you a little. Just move yourself and the business forward. Keep learning and share that learning with others.
Ingredient 2: Goals (and Not Just for the Business)
Goals? We got ‘em. Key Performance Indicators? You bet. The difference? They create a sense of purpose. Not only do we focus on the business, but we also consider the impact the business can have on every part of our lives and on the community. Serving our customers and generating revenue is crucial, but so is making sure employee career goals are met as part of that. And so is participating in making our community better.
Ingredient 3: Support (Including Tough Love) and Shared Accountability
At Covalent, and other women-owned businesses, there’s support. There’s support for the whole person, support for the risks you want to take and support to go hard at some things and not at others. Now, if needed, that support also comes with a dose of tough love that’s given, taken, and given again no matter what role you may have (best served over a cup of steaming Starbucks).
We all share (often in real time) in the success or failure of the business. And lifting one another up—even if it means respecting each other enough to give good feedback when we need it—is another key ingredient to our success.
Ingredient 4: Diversity, Creativity, and the Space to Make Good Things Happen
At a female-owned business, I’ve found that diversity isn’t a goal, it’s just part of the DNA. Female business owners understand that diversity fuels creativity by bringing together a variety of ideas, approaches, and problem-solving techniques. As a company that focuses on technology and technical solutions, having more than one opinion and more than one perspective (hello, user experience), is crucial. It’s equally important to have a culture where respectful communication is key, and that’s what we have. Our professionals feel passionate about what they do, and even though the team or customer may not go with their idea, they know they’ve been heard.
Ingredient 5: Mentorship
Future marketers, programmers, designers, and even a dentist have passed through Covalent’s internship program. As a woman-owned business, we feel a special responsibility to foster an environment where young professionals can begin unlocking their potential, and where they feel comfortable asking questions, experimenting, and even, sometimes, failing in order to succeed. And, while most don’t stay with us forever, we’re happy for the impact they’ve made on us and to see how they’re carrying forward what they’ve learned with us.
Ingredient 6: Balance (and a Little Fun)
Women business owners know what it means to have children, spouses, aging parents. They have their own. And, let’s face it, while some things are changing, women as a whole still have more responsibilities at home than men, while, hello, we all become the sandwich generation at some point. Working at a woman-owned business, we’re comfortable talking about those challenges and making room in our business lives to take care of ourselves and those around us. We may go hard at the business some weeks so later we can make room for a baseball tournament or a parent’s medical appointment. No silent judgement, no feeling you’re not on top of your work game like you may find at big corporations. Just the acknowledgement that balance makes you a stronger employee and a stronger person.
And, by the way, there’s always time for a little fun, whether it’s checking in with our canine companions during Teams calls, grabbing an overdue team lunch, or running at a charity event.
At the End of the Day…
Being a part of a women-owned company has been, for me, a unique professional experience. It's about more than just slogans or lip-service to gender-based empowerment; it's about real, tangible ingredients that create a supportive, challenging, and inclusive work environment. It’s a reminder that “work” doesn’t have to follow a simple (read corporate) formula to be rewarding or result in success. Like Ann, and so many other female business owners, chart your own unique path (formulate your own secret sauce!) for success.