These millennials are redefining success for women in the workplace
2016 was one helluvuh year; January 1st, 2017 was met with a collective sigh of relief, followed by a groan of despair at what lay ahead. As a woman, I tenderly protected a storm of feelings; defeat and rage activated a motivation I hadn’t felt before. In this motivation, I sought community – in my peers, in women, in a nation of young people who shared my sentiments. This newfound community of activated, compassionate, driven women was and is inspiring culture around a defiance to be belittled and marginalized. La Femme Collective (@lafemmecollective) was born out that culture. Founded in March 2016 by 24-year old Nora Henick, and led by a team of super creative twenty-somethings, LFC became an online community for women in the workforce to share their stories. It has since then grown into a virtual space uniting businesswomen, politicians, creatives and women of all backgrounds, sharing stories of success, failure, empathy and calls to action. We sat down with the founder to talk inspiration, growth, and what’s ahead for the LFC community. It’s 2017, people; this is what women want.
COOLS: Tell us how you got started? What influenced you to create LFC?
Nora Henick: I grew up in a really liberal household, surrounded by a lot of very accepting friends. I was blissfully naïve to the realities of the world; I knew gender inequality existed, but I was privileged enough to never experience it firsthand. After graduating from college, I started my career journey by joining a newly formed marketing team at a recruiting agency. We specialized in the fin-tech industry, which is notoriously misogynistic and sexist. I was working on a blog post about the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing. For every article I read about a woman’s success, I read a dozen more about the rampant sexual assault, discrediting, and wage gap discrepancies in STEM industries. I was so [offended] by everything that I was reading that I realized if I didn’t get involved in the conversation, I was turning a blind eye to the problem, which would, in my mind, make me just as guilty as those being written about in these articles.
“For every article I read about a woman’s success, I read a dozen more about the rampant sexual assault, discrediting, and wage gap discrepancies in STEM industries.”
So, I believe LFC’s inception was a combination of passion and timing. I knew these problems existed before. But now, what had changed? I was at a point in my life where I was growing, which meant assessing what actions I could take as I entered adulthood. I realized that gender equality really mattered to me. I think it’s important for me to note that while this may resonate louder with me because I am a woman, or because I am also a white woman from an upper-middle class family who has been offered a great deal of privilege in my life, I care about this because I am a human. Equality and human rights have and always will matter to me, period.
COOLS: What is LFC? How do you hope for it to resonate with your audience?
NH: LFC is an open platform for women to discuss their career journeys, in order to further the career development of current and future generations of women. We interview different women in a variety of industries and give them a space to share their wins, their losses, their complaints, their questions. If anything, I hope our readers walk away with a sense of empowerment and strength. I want any self-identifying woman, no matter socio-economic standing or race, to know that she can be whatever she wants to be, with a community full of women supporting her.
COOLS: New media is making many shifts towards inclusivity; how has this helped to shape the LFC community?
NH: Inclusivity is a huge aspect of intersectional feminism; in fact, it is the basis for it. We welcome any and all self-identifying women on our site and we think that has helped build a community of the kind of women we would want to surround ourselves with. We do not tolerate bigotry, homophobia, or sexism. Our goal is built around the idea that anyone is and should be welcomed on our website and in the real world.
COOLS: Though print and digital spheres are in a constant state of flux, that hasn’t stopped publishing from being an oversaturated market. What have been the challenges in creating a unique space for content?
NH: It’s definitely harder to stand out. With everyone doing a little bit of everything online, making your voice unique is one thing, but also [breaking] through the clutter and making your unique voice reach a large audience can be difficult. There are constantly changing algorithms, app updates, [and] a plethora of already-shared content it’s definitely a job in itself keeping up with it all. However, specifically in terms of LFC, I believe Roxane Gay summed up the challenges but the benefits best [when she said], “Feminism is flawed, but it offers, at its best, a way to navigate this shifting cultural climate. Feminism has certainly helped me find my voice. Feminism has helped me believe my voice matters, even in this world where there are so many voices demanding to be heard.”
COOLS: What has been the most rewarding aspect of LFC?
NH: The network of women I now have. I am so fortunate to have created relationships with many of the women we feature, and beyond that, many of the women that make up the #LFCommunity. I love playing professional matchmaker; when I see a connection between two women I’ve worked with, I’ll try and set up something because that’s how we’re going to help make changes. If a woman is just as qualified, if not more, than a man, let’s get her in that role. Let’s be the bridge there. I get to do that on a daily basis to some degree and I would say that’s what makes the day-to-day work worth it.
“I love playing professional matchmaker; when I see a connection between two women I’ve worked with, I’ll try and set up something because that’s how we’re going to help make changes. If a woman is just as qualified, if not more, than a man, let’s get her in that role.”
COOLS: How has today’s American (and worldwide, for that matter) political climate affected what you do?
NH: While it has obviously been difficult, as it feels like we’ve set the clocks back 100 years in the past year, it has acted as a reminder of all of the unbelievable women out there who are fighting each and every day to make sure gender inequality is a thing of the past. We’re fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, for those who may not realize they need to fight, for future generations of young women who are going to go on to be the first female President of the United States, CEO of the next Google, or anything else they want to be.
COOLS: LFC is growing everyday. How do you hope to continue?
NH: I hope to develop more facets of LFC beyond the traditional interview and submission format we have now. I think there’s a lot of room to build out aspects like a mentorship program, job board, or even a resume service, so we’ll see where the future takes us. I also hope to continue to build the amazing community we’ve already fostered. The women that participate in the #LFCommunity have been nothing short of amazing, hardworking, and willing to support each other. It is their energy and dedication that make me want to keep doing what I do.