Today marks 6 months of me opening my doors. And what a coincidental date, International Womens Day! These last 6 months have opened my eyes tremendously on being a business woman in a very male dominating industry.
I came across a few articles about #PressforProgress and how there has been growing awareness for gender parity. Personally, I’ve been put in situations that hold me back because I’m female that now looking back on, did not realize at the time. It wasn’t until I opened my shop that it started to become more apparent, in where I'm currently at in life but also where I have been.
Upholstery has female representation and there are those of out here, doing it! But I would say 7 times out of 10, folks coming in my store for the first time, as passer by’s who know what upholstery is - are very skeptical when they see me. And it’s always the same interaction and the same conversation - they look me up and down ( literally, they are “sizing me up” ) and completely confused for a moment. They see I’m not big and strong, I’m young, I have small hands … ( one man pointed this out to me ) as if there is no way I actually do this work, let alone…be the owner of an upholstery shop?
How long have you been sewing?
Do you have “people” to do your upholstery work?
You do all the hard work yourself?
Are you afraid to take this on?
In the back of my mind, this would continue to bother me. That these strangers are putting judgement of not just that I’m a young woman but of my capabilities. Purely from a glance of 5 seconds.
And in the back of my mine, this would also continue to bother me.
"I’m a stereotype."
I took it upon myself to learn this trade from just a spark of curiosity. I put in hours, which turned into months which turned into frustrations, that turned into investing my full-time job money towards tools and a sewing machine to help my skills improve, that turned those frustrations into seeing old, soiled, disgusting pieces be made into beautiful things to sit on. That I proudly tore apart, cleaned, and re-built with my own two tiny hands.
While the Debbie and David Downers out there are the ones that push me to keep proving my seat at this table, the others who have graced my shop with enthusiasm, encouraging words and overall kudos, are the ones who reassure me that sure - I’m a gal, and sure I have tiny hands, but god damn I am fully capable of doing what a 65 year old man can do.
I don’t wish to complain, and I’m not trying to rise up on my soap box. I just feel the need to put this out in the world from one tiny-handed lady doing what she loves to connect with other tiny handed or large handed ladies who might have had their own stereotypical situations happen to them.
I never give opinions whenever sensitive topics come up, for the most part I steer clear of political conversations, religious conversations and honestly keep quite when anyone says negative racial, sexist or gender remarks. It’s something that I want to put more of an effort behind, sticking up for others who aren’t even aware that I’m sticking up for them.
So when I came across #pressforprogress - I chose to “Influence others’ beliefs / actions.” Most of my working career, I have been in male driven industries and have experienced stereotypes, misogyny, inappropriate behavior and jokes, etc. I’ve been vocal about the major issues, but just shut my mouth to those side jokes or comments so I didn’t cause any issues or be looked at as someone who was just “sensitive” ( because that is exactly how I was being perceived ). When in actuality, there were that many issues and behaviors that were just “accepted” that needed to be addressed and changed.
After experiencing first hand those ignorant mindsets upon me, It motivates me to take a step forward and put effort in doing what I can, In my own little ways to help others feel they are capable and equal, not just women but anyone. I am blessed to have amazing men and women in my life who's got my back and who have also been my biggest cheerleaders pushing me to my dreams and believing in me. Even in the smallest ways, you know who you are, and for all your support, I can't begin to thank you enough.
I want to lead by example and show my future daughter, or son to know what is right and that no matter who they come across, to be a good human.
So I challenge anyone reading this to read and submit how you will #PressforProgress.
Now, to celebrate International Woman's Day even more, please enjoy these ladies in history who have inspired, and motivated me - I hope I can introduce you to them and hopefully they inspire you -
I discovered Rose in the San Francisco public library in 2009 while I was learning traditional Bookbinding Letterpress printing. I found this mystery woman in the rare books, upstairs on the 6th floor and fell in love with her.
Shirley wrote the short story "The Lottery" which many of us may have read in middle school. I was tutored from the age of 6 up through high school and had a very difficult time with "reading comprehension". Reading was never really encouraged to me so I always dreaded it, mostly because it was very difficult for me. "The Lottery" was the first story that sparked my interest in reading.
I listened to an amazing interview with Eileen Fisher, and where she started. Her graphic design back ground, trips to Japan, and love of the simplistic style sparked an idea in her that one day she would make clothes. And here she is, making lots. Her interview was one of the most authentic and genuine and I couldn't help but feel connected to her story.
For obvious reasons I so wish that I could have known her. Ray adored found objects of all kinds, and she lovingly collected items for display, arranging them in a room or an exhibition in such a way that they created a special visual effect. ( Sounds familiar )
While she was apart of a very famous and influential duo her attention to detail and design helped guide their namesake.
The famous wrap - this woman took some thought into the figure of a woman and created something killer. If I could wear a wrap everyday, trust me I would. I hate wearing pants.
Inkers & Painters
Women were not allowed to be in the creative department to be animators at Disney because they would just get married and have children so there was no point in training them. They were behind the scenes, inking and painting tedeous and streanuous work the animators of Disney put on their stations.
One of the first females in American car design. While she was a refugee with a 9 year old daughter, she would eventually earn three times the average male at GM. Her accomplishments were sadly downplayed because a woman's success was considered to be radical. Many women that were "showcased" in the old advertisements were often depicted and illustrated doting on their families, but this power house single mama was behind the scenes, opening doors for more females to enter the industry. Cheers to you Helene!
Today was an enlightening day - xox Swede