We all have our battles…A journey towards my personal empowerment.

Melissa Alam
Nov 7, 2015 · 4 min read
Photo thanks to Cheyenne Gil

My life is somewhat of a walking conundrum. I’m a symbol of female empowerment during the day, but I tend to give men too many chances, especially when it comes to dating. I recently starting seeing a guy who after a month of foolish abandon, decided to tell me that he didn’t believe in my business. The business I’ve put my blood, sweat and many tears into for the past year. (Also the same business I’ve been nationally-acclaimed for, but who’s here to brag? Ha.)

What I got from our last conversation is that I’m a sexist. I should never have opened a coworking space for women because I’m only perpetuating the fight of gender biases by being a gender-only business. Because if a man were to open a man’s-only workspace, it would be illegal and there would be riots at the doors.

Maybe. But that doesn’t matter in my eyes. Now, I’ve never considered myself some extreme “feminist” (big gasp at that word, right?) or some Joan of Arc-type of fighter for inequalities or injustices in the world. I consider myself a casual, happy-go-lucky but hard-working type of individual. So, when it came to seeing an opportunity and a lack of support or camaraderie between millennial women like myself, I knew I was on to something. I opened a coworking space for ambitious women because I thought that my city could use a brick and mortar location where women could work without harassment, build their businesses up with the support of other women in the same position, and continue their professional and personal development with options to take workshops and classes. I opened a coworking space for women because coworking is a heavily male-dominated field, not only in membership but also in decor and appeal. I opened a coworking space for women because I could not afford to open anything larger than 900 square feet that would attract both men and women. My reasons were all opportunistic and realistic.

Now the fact that I have to justify my reasoning for starting this business is annoying as all hell to me. Most people that ask or question me about my “why” are usually men (sorry, but true) who don’t understand the positive outcomes of putting smart and ambitious women together in a room. They’re the type of men who don’t see the slight dent we are trying to make in the way we live our life or the way we run our businesses. And they’re the type of men who will never have a business of their own, but still feel obligated to create their own opinion of how one should be run. Apparently, these men that question my all-female coworking space would have much rather had me franchise a Hooters for them.

We all have our battles. Our causes. Our ideas. But what differentiates the zealots from the doers is action. I had an idea, a community and history in a male-dominated field. What I did in response was to invest my time, energy and bank account into creating a solution. The space I created isn’t some bra-burning, woe-to-me concept for women to hide away from penis-wielding individuals. Men come in and out of my space all the time whether it be for a meeting, to hang out or to attend or teach a professional development workshop I host after-hours. I believe greatly in the power knowledge from both men and women. But in this day and age, I also believe that women need to learn from one another specifically because there is a huge difference when it comes to the treatment of men vs women in business (i.e. wages, negotiations, overall respect). Women are nurturers and when brought together in a positive way, we can be our best teachers, cheerleaders and supporters.

Bringing this all back to the conversation last night that inspired this post, as women in power, or women with any ambition, we have a tendency of falling for the facade of a new man. We crave approval, support and partnership. What we end up finding most of the time is a battle between old-fashioned gender roles, a lack of respect and the fear of coming off as too bitchy or too bossy. We tend to settle for Mr. Wrong in our personal lives because finding our equal in a partner is harder than one would think as a goal-digging 20-something.

I titled this post as a journey towards my personal empowerment because I’m starting to see and realize the good that I’m creating in this world, and how comments from the men around me should have no focus or contribution to my personal work or mission. Does that mean that I want to forever be women’s-only or female-focused? Heck no. My goal is to have multiple businesses in the future that affect and help certain demographics or niches. But I started this first business with the best intentions and I hope to continue supporting women and men who support women in the best way that I possibly can. The best advice I can give to women dealing with similar feedback or comments from others in their life is to trust your gut early. Stay strong in your convictions and keep fighting the fight. We all have our own battles, and the only way to prove them to others is to create your own solution and stand up for yourself. I did and I succeeded.

Melissa Alam

Written by

#Ideaholic. Fan of creativity, sarcasm and random adventures around the globe. Philly-based (for now). Founder of Femme & Fortune + FearlessCon.