The Other "F" Word
by Cristina R, Brooklyn, NY
The word I'm thinking of isn't feminism. Or that other F word you are all thinking. I'm talking about fear! Fear is a dreaded emotion that lives inside of us all and takes over our decisions, our careers, our relationships. It keeps us from voicing our opinions, it keeps us from standing up for what's right. I believe that even the most confident woman has fears she has to overcome.
I was thinking about fear the other day while reading an article about unequal pay in the workplace and how women are "afraid" to ask for better compensation. Can you believe it? Studies show that men show less fear in asking for a raise and this may be attributing to the unequal wages of both genders.
Women (as noted in this article) have a tendency to have something called "Tiara Syndrome." They feel if they work harder and longer hours, silently putting in all that extra work, someone will notice and magically reward them, or "place a tiara" on their head. But what happens if you hard work goes unrewarded? What are the next steps?
This made me think of two women I know that had a similar experience. Although this might not be for everyone, they overcame their fears by deciding to screw the system and work for themselves! And now they are doing what they have always loved. In order to give other ladies who may have been experiencing fear of working for themselves some encouragement and advice, I interviewed both Jenn from FattyCakes NY and Gina Tron, freelance writer. Check out my interview with Jennifer of FattyCakes NY, a baker based in Brooklyn, below.
What did you think you were going to be when you grew up?
This is a two parter - up until I was about 15 I wanted to be an architect. I was guided away from that field by a chauvinistic drafting teacher in high school. I was the only girl in the class and I already knew AutoCad because my dad had taught it to me for fun (he's a Civil Engineer). Still the guy wouldn't stop with his terrible comments about the lone girl in class. I turned my focus on photography and the art world at that point and stuck with it through my mid-twenties.
What was the first real job you had, that you realized was the first step for your career? What did you do? Was baking a hobby at the point?
My first real job was as a design assistant at an accessories company. I hated it. I was labeling samples, shipping samples, etc... I was lucky enough to have a boss (now my good friend) who would pass off design work to me, like recoloring or patterning. I learned a lot from her and was able to take that on to my next job, at a Children's Media company. Again I was doing assistant work, but I was also able to get a ton of design projects there and worked my way up to Manager within a few years. I started my business and got all my certifications and whatnot in 2009, but I'd have to say I ran the business like it was a hobby until last March. That's when I quit my job.
Tell us about the job you held right before you decided to go out on your own. Did you walk into this job knowing you were eventually going to work for yourself?
I did not walk into my last job thinking I'd be my own boss someday. I fully intended to work in children's media for a long, long time. My goal was to become Creative Director, but when I realized that would never happen under the CEO I was working for, I just took the leap. It took about 4 years to realize which dream was more likely to come true.
What were the advantages or disadvantages of being a woman in a corporate environment? Did you ever feel like you hit a glass ceiling or work with others who did?
I absolutely hit a glass ceiling. Without going into detail, I ended my career working under a man who was younger than me, with less experience. I will never be credited publicly for the work I did to make him look good.
When did you first realize that working for yourself may be a good idea, and was there a certain event that made you finally take the plunge?
Well, working for yourself is great because you'll never lose out on a promotion. There is a ton of risk, especially if you're using your own money. I took the plunge so that I could make my own hours and raise my child. The scariest thing I deal with is having a child while basically not paying myself for running a company.
Do you feel that women who own their own businesses are faced with the same women-related issues as those in the corporate environment? If so how do you overcome it?
Nope! I think we get a lot of credit for being strong women who take risks. I know so many amazing women who are running their own businesses. In the food industry, which is where I am, I feel there is a great respect for others who work in the business, regardless of gender.
What advice do you have for those who want to start their own business?
Have a plan, then have a backup plan. Only put in what you are willing to lose. Keep a schedule. The whole thing about working in your pajamas is only fun for a while, then you've got to get out and start selling yourself. Running a business is about not only selling a product or service, but also selling yourself.