#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?
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.
Thank you for one year.
Jane Claire Hervey + the #bossbabesATX team