As I sat in rooms with some of Boston’s most powerful and influential female leaders, there was a familiar situation that kept occurring.
Last week the City of Boston kicked off #WeBosWeek hosted by Women Entrepreneurs Boston. This initiative advances Boston’s women entrepreneurs by providing the skills, technical assistance and network they need to launch and grow their business. It aims to unify and support all women entrepreneurs, from startups to home-based businesses to the established brick-and-mortar mainstays of Boston’s neighborhoods. The week featured events on everything from funding options to how to grow your business using social media, and everything in between.
It was an incredibly unforgettable experience. I met so many women from all different sectors — private, public, government, education, fashion, tech, medicine, startup, etc — and made what I hope to be long-lasting relationships, supporters, potential partners, and friends. It was amazing to sit in rooms with such talent, expertise, authenticity, and strength. And as a woman, feminist, and small business owner, I found it truly inspiring. I hung on to every word and soaked up every detail, frantically jotting down notes, exchanging business cards, and listening to how we can ensure that for women, Boston is the best it can be.
As I ran from location to location, shaking hands and sharing business ideas, I was fascinated by how different the experience of networking in a room full of women was in comparison to a mixed or predominately male crowd. Women seemed more engaged, vulnerable, and exposed. There was less competition and more camaraderie, less stuffiness and more vulnerability, less pretension and a willingness to truly hear each other out. But there was also something else — the reality that we were all still women. Women who not only care about the success of our business, but also care about how we look.
As I sat in the different audiences throughout the week, completely in awe of the amount of knowledge these women had, I also couldn’t help noticing how well Denise Hajjar’s dress fit, how cute Nancy Batista-Caswel’s top was, or how lovely the locks of Yelitsa Jean-Charles were. On three separate occasions I watched as women brushed, flipped, teezed, and shook out their hair. My intern who’d had a bad experience at a local salon, felt sad and self-conscious, and was distracted at work. And one woman at We Work Boston who was preparing for a video interview, turned to me and said, “it’s all about the hair, right?” And I couldn’t help but laugh because I could totally relate.
Hair has been a topic of conversation for women for decades. Personally, my hair is where a lot of my confidence comes from. When I am having a good hair day, I take more time to pick out my outfit, I play with my makeup, and I feel ready to take on the day. And on the contrary, when I am having a bad hair day, I feel like I already look like crap and whatever I wear will look like crap, and my makeup will look like crap, and I would rather hide from the world.
When your hair is curly, you wish it was straight. When it’s short, you wish it was long. When it’s dark, you wish you had highlights. We cut it and color it, dye it and fry it, and are constantly striving to reach this idea of what ‘good hair’ looks like. And it’s not just about beauty and confidence, hair has carried implications throughout history, which have varied with each culture. In some cultures, hair is connected to religious doctrines, and covering it is a sign of respect. In our society there are even phrases that are used like “letting your hair down” which refers to letting loose or being wild.
The history of hair is fascinating because it is a reflection of our identity, and one of the few things that is both personal and public. Not only is it one of the most YouTubed categories, it is a multibillion-dollar industry. The average woman spends roughly $50,000 on her hair over her lifetime, and almost two hours a week washing and styling her hair. Whether you wear weaves or go natural, go to hair salons or to your friend’s house, the amount of time, money and energy that women spend on hair is innumerable.
While there are many misconceptions, stereotypes and implications, women today care as much about their careers as they do about their appearance. We work hard and play hard, pursue goals and chase dreams, run board meetings as well as households. And our ability to take it all on, maintain balance, and look good while doing it is just one of the many things that make us the amazing beings that we are.