#bossbabesATX Turns One: A Reflection on the Last Year

#bossbabesATX bloomed in a seemingly simple way.

In October 2014, I was interviewing women in creative industry for an independent study at the University of Texas at Austin. I asked questions like:

Do you regularly work with other women in your field?
Do you feel connected to other people in your industry?
What's your creative process?
Have you ever felt limited in the workplace? If so, why?

Etcetera.

After weeks of interviews, I heard many of the same answers repeated.

No, I don't know any women in my field. At least not locally.
I feel connected, but I want more. I want to meet more people who think the way I do—who care about the same things I do.
Sometimes, it's difficult to talk about my gender and the experiences I face at work. Sometimes, I feel like I don't know how to negotiate raises. Sometimes, I feel overlooked, unheard... and discouraged.

By the end of the year, I had an idea: I wanted to organize a monthly coffee meet to talk about these questions with all of the women she had interviewed in one space. I thought it'd be beneficial—both professionally and motivationally—to connect these badass women to each other, while drawing attention to broader issues. My friends, Ashlee Pryor and Leslie Lozano, thought it was a good idea, too. The name for the meet-ups? A hashtag (to keep it casual), #bossbabesATX.

Although as a whole we were eager, the concept took about six months to get off of the ground. My vehicle was hit by a drunk driver in early February 2015, we collectively hit transitional stages in our careers and there was, of course, plenty of fear. Striking out to talk about sometimes hairy and uncomfortable topics can be frightening, especially in a city that has a distinct cultural past regarding both race and southern interpretations of gender and femininity.

But in May 2015, thanks to Ashlee and Leslie's persistent encouragement to "get things rolling," I emailed Friends & Neighbors:

Hi! I wanted to reach out about possibly hosting an event at Friends and Neighbors during the first week of May for about two hours. I'm launching an organization called #bossbabesATX to rally local women in the creative industry to work together and collaborate. We're going to begin with a series of coffee meets, and we'd love F+N to serve as our inaugural location. You can check out our website (bossbabes.org) for more info on us and peruse our Insta (@bossbabesatx). Looking forward to hearing from you!

And surprisingly, the team at Friends & Neighbors said yes.

At the first #bossbabesATX meet that May, 250 women filled the backyard of Friends & Neighbors. (We had prepared for twenty.) Since that day, the #bossbabesATX team has been pushing to keep this community alive and sustainably accommodate the attention the group has received, while connecting all of the women who have come through our doors. Over the last 12 months, we've seen more than 5,000 women, hosted seven more meets, three self-care retreats, 12 discussion-based workshops and a handful of pop-up events. We've developed new programming, launched a festival called BABES FEST and watched both community networks and businesses flourish. We've attempted inclusivity, encouragement, community and real discussion. We've succeeded, and we've also failed.

Truthfully, the experience has been one hell of a difficult, but rewarding ride—it's been a testament to the power of connection, the strength of self-identified women in Austin, Texas and ultimately the drive and compassion of this city's creatives, entrepreneurs and doers.

As we reflect on the last year, we realize there is so much work yet to be done... and so much to celebrate. So, we'd like to introduce you to a few people who have spent the last year with us. The following women have become a part of the #bossbabesATX community, and for them we are grateful.

Richelle King: "As a cartoonist, a political organizer, and a queer feminist, it often feels like a game of hide-and-seek trying to track down and network with fellow women and femmes in the community who are invested in the same work I'm involved in. I have to find the holes in the wall, the secret Facebook groups, and the word of mouth gatherings in order to find my people. So, when I attended my first #BossBabesATX meet-up (which happened to be the first one ever), I found myself dumbfounded by the kinetic energy in the room—I could tell others in the space felt the same. I exchanged glances with other women and femmes who were equally as wondrous and curious as I was about the #BossBabesATX meet-up. I attended the meet-up by myself and left with a handful of contacts and a new fire ignited beneath me. The fantasy of conducting business for women and by women became a reality. At my next #BossBabesATX meet-up, I continued to meet more freelance artists and independent publishing labels in Austin that could make my dream of publishing cartoons come true. I began to talk about #BossBabesATX to friends, urging them to witness the magic of this furiously femme space for themselves. As co-chair of Planned Parenthood's Leadership and Advocacy Council in Austin, I even had some of our volunteers table at a #BossBabesATX retreat and teach fellow women and femmes about reproductive health. #BossBabesATX has facilitated the kind of networking gatherings that women and femmes in Austin has desperately needed. I leave the meet-ups feeling revitalized, inspired and more connected to the groups of women I've been seeking out."

Richelle King: "As a cartoonist, a political organizer, and a queer feminist, it often feels like a game of hide-and-seek trying to track down and network with fellow women and femmes in the community who are invested in the same work I'm involved in. I have to find the holes in the wall, the secret Facebook groups, and the word of mouth gatherings in order to find my people. So, when I attended my first #BossBabesATX meet-up (which happened to be the first one ever), I found myself dumbfounded by the kinetic energy in the room—I could tell others in the space felt the same. I exchanged glances with other women and femmes who were equally as wondrous and curious as I was about the #BossBabesATX meet-up. I attended the meet-up by myself and left with a handful of contacts and a new fire ignited beneath me. The fantasy of conducting business for women and by women became a reality. At my next #BossBabesATX meet-up, I continued to meet more freelance artists and independent publishing labels in Austin that could make my dream of publishing cartoons come true. I began to talk about #BossBabesATX to friends, urging them to witness the magic of this furiously femme space for themselves. As co-chair of Planned Parenthood's Leadership and Advocacy Council in Austin, I even had some of our volunteers table at a #BossBabesATX retreat and teach fellow women and femmes about reproductive health.

#BossBabesATX has facilitated the kind of networking gatherings that women and femmes in Austin has desperately needed. I leave the meet-ups feeling revitalized, inspired and more connected to the groups of women I've been seeking out."

Alexandra Wilson: "BossBabesATX has given me the opportunity to connect with passionate, purposeful and powerful women in the community who are going against the grain to conquer their dreams."

Alexandra Wilson: "BossBabesATX has given me the opportunity to connect with passionate, purposeful and powerful women in the community who are going against the grain to conquer their dreams."

Adrienne Dawes: "#bossbabesATX has meant a greater sense of belonging and community among ATX creative women. I've met and learned about so many amazing female-run small businesses, artists, and service/support organizations. You feel like you're not alone in this great hustle we call life! I've seen more and more theater and comedy babes showing up to meets and events. It's really easy to get stuck in your own artistic bubble or circle of friends, but #bossbabesATX offers a really unique opportunity to connect to other amazing women who might become friends or collaborators or supporters. The more connected we are, the stronger this community becomes—there is a wealth of experience, talent, and resources if you just can SHOW UP."

Adrienne Dawes: "#bossbabesATX has meant a greater sense of belonging and community among ATX creative women. I've met and learned about so many amazing female-run small businesses, artists, and service/support organizations. You feel like you're not alone in this great hustle we call life!

I've seen more and more theater and comedy babes showing up to meets and events. It's really easy to get stuck in your own artistic bubble or circle of friends, but #bossbabesATX offers a really unique opportunity to connect to other amazing women who might become friends or collaborators or supporters. The more connected we are, the stronger this community becomes—there is a wealth of experience, talent, and resources if you just can SHOW UP."

Devri Velazquez: "I enjoy going to the #bossbabesATX events—for the platform's representation and diversity in women, as well as getting the opportunity to share my own unique perspective to uplift and inspire" 

Devri Velazquez: "I enjoy going to the #bossbabesATX events—for the platform's representation and diversity in women, as well as getting the opportunity to share my own unique perspective to uplift and inspire" 

Michelle Hartle: "The gals at #BossBabesATX are creating a much-needed community for small business owners like me. I discovered their meet-ups just as we were launching Slow North [Hartle's jewelry company], and I've drawn so much inspiration, motivation and education from the smaller events they host. It's the most welcoming, empowering group, and I'm so thankful to be a part of it!"

Michelle Hartle: "The gals at #BossBabesATX are creating a much-needed community for small business owners like me. I discovered their meet-ups just as we were launching Slow North [Hartle's jewelry company], and I've drawn so much inspiration, motivation and education from the smaller events they host. It's the most welcoming, empowering group, and I'm so thankful to be a part of it!"

Akki Brathwaite: I'm all about female empowerment and helping each other, as women and as people. So, to have a group of women to look up to and read about is inspiring. I've discovered a lot of cool women through the #bossbabesatx Instagram and in-person at events!"

Akki Brathwaite: I'm all about female empowerment and helping each other, as women and as people. So, to have a group of women to look up to and read about is inspiring. I've discovered a lot of cool women through the #bossbabesatx Instagram and in-person at events!"

Cene Hale: "#bossbabesATX was the first time in my life where I personally experienced hundreds of smart, talented, successful women coming together and pimping each other out. Okay, that came out weird, but do you know what I mean? All of these amazing women are not only sharing their experiences and leading by example, they’re actively supporting each other and going out of their way to help each other succeed. Those are the kind of women I want to be around and the kind of woman I hope to be."

Cene Hale: "#bossbabesATX was the first time in my life where I personally experienced hundreds of smart, talented, successful women coming together and pimping each other out. Okay, that came out weird, but do you know what I mean? All of these amazing women are not only sharing their experiences and leading by example, they’re actively supporting each other and going out of their way to help each other succeed. Those are the kind of women I want to be around and the kind of woman I hope to be."

Kristina Modares: Every #bossbabesATX event I have gone to has been significant to my growth and development. This past year I’ve joined a book club, hosted a finance workshop, met amazing new friends, connected women to other amazing women, gained clients the list can go on and on. I remember one #bossbabesATX meet up I went to, I was having a very rough day and really was not feeling social. I went outside to sit alone to try to collect myself. A woman, somebody who I had interacted with a few times but we weren’t the best of friends, approached me. She instantly pepped me up with just a few words and we walked inside and watched the rest of the #bossbabesATX together in silence. She sensed I was upset. She didn’t pry, she didn’t try to “network," she was just there for me. This kind soul barely even knows me! That’s what #bossbabesATX is all about. Women supporting women.

Kristina Modares: Every #bossbabesATX event I have gone to has been significant to my growth and development. This past year I’ve joined a book club, hosted a finance workshop, met amazing new friends, connected women to other amazing women, gained clients the list can go on and on. I remember one #bossbabesATX meet up I went to, I was having a very rough day and really was not feeling social. I went outside to sit alone to try to collect myself. A woman, somebody who I had interacted with a few times but we weren’t the best of friends, approached me. She instantly pepped me up with just a few words and we walked inside and watched the rest of the #bossbabesATX together in silence. She sensed I was upset. She didn’t pry, she didn’t try to “network," she was just there for me. This kind soul barely even knows me! That’s what #bossbabesATX is all about. Women supporting women.

Thank you for one year.

xx,

Jane Claire Hervey + the #bossbabesATX team