Launching a new business is a crazy, amazing and hectic time. We realized quickly that the only way to get through it without losing our minds was to recognize our strengths and delegate the rest. There was a lot we could do for ourselves – between us we already had a copywriter, a photographer, an accountant and an SEO person. But we had a lot of items on our To Do list: deciding on our core business values, creating a social media strategy for ongoing work, setting up a Basecamp account to house all of our files, tasks and meetings, and then of course actually developing the ecourse that we started the whole business around in the first place! Running back and forth doing a million things we soon recognized there were some things that we didn’t know how to do.
We desperately needed a logo.
In a world where you get about 3 seconds to capture people’s attention and 10 seconds to keep it, visual identity is insanely important. Since we already knew we wanted to help women entrepreneurs, we decided to look for a female logo designer who owned her own business. It seemed like a clear win-win for everyone – a great way to keep our branding ‘on brand’!
Networking to the rescue – we sent out over 150 emails to people in our network asking for upbeat female logo designers. We decided to hold a kind of creative logo contest, the winner of which would become the primary recommendation within our growing community of small business owners.
That’s when something strange happened.
Many people got back to us saying: “I know lots of logo designers, but few of them are freelancers and none of them are women.” And we thought to ourselves, how is this possible?
By the way, we have both traveled extensively so our contact list is pretty international. While Karina’s work has primarily been with clients working for large companies, Shaleah mostly works in the small business world. There were also equal numbers of men and women being contacted for referrals. So our question remained: what gives?
A female logo designer shortage just didn’t seem possible. This got us asking a few more questions.
Is graphic design a boys club?
Many people got back to us saying that all the logo designers they knew were men. Is it possible that in a world full of gamers and comic books, only little boys are growing up to be designers? In our mind, art is something that would easily attract equal numbers of both sexes. The skill to create beautiful things seemed like something that would be easy to find among women. But perhaps the problem came down to that tricky little thing called self-promotion.
Are women bad at self-promotion?
If female logo designers existed but we couldn’t find them, could the reason be that they simply aren’t promoting their businesses as well their male counterparts? Just the other day we were talking about the still current ‘wage gap’. This is true both inside the corporate world and when it comes to female owned start ups. Statistics saying that women earn 77% of what men earn in the same job and studies such as the Pew Research’s exploring the complexities of the issue, baffle the mind in this day and age and we found ourselves asking how this is even still a thing. But in thinking about our experience with female clients, whether they were starting their own business or getting corporate headshots to score that new job, one thing was consistent: women seem to have a harder time ‘tooting their own horns’. Playing small and being ‘humble’, not asking for that raise, not applying for that grant – is this how we have been socialized to conduct ourselves in the world?
Apple and Google alum Ellen Petry Lense summed this up really well in her article about credibility. She talks about how the passive permission word ‘just’ reigns supreme in female vocabulary, in contrast to the vocabulary of men. Turning back to our issue, was it possible that many female designers out there either lacked the confidence to start their own businesses, or did not have the feeling of permission to make it widely known? An obvious key to self-promotion is the ability to understand ones own value. Is this something women struggle with more than men?
How do we define our worth?
Our consumer driven society is all too happy to tell us what is wrong with us. We need more of this and less of that. There are diets, 5 steps to business bliss plans, books to read about raising the perfect child. Media is jam packed with airbrushed versions of the women we are told we need to look like. These things prey on our sense of lack in an effort to sell us something. And in capitalizing on our insecurities we often do one of two things: get catty about our competition or get quiet about our dreams. If you think about it, it’s an excellent way to keep any group of people from creating any real and powerful change in the world – keep them in a constant state of self sabotage.
But we know we can do better. And we know that it is possible to define beauty and success and happiness for ourselves. We also know that kick-ass, positive female freelancers are out there. This is not just about a logo design contest anymore. This is about changing the way women see themselves so we can make a real impact in our own lives. And in turn, we change the world. Are you coming with us?