Rena Tom Rena Tom

The Lady Web

(Note: I posted this last year on Medium. I just made the decision to pull all my content from that site and place on my own site, even though it is not strictly about retail. I’ll be posting the others in the next week or so.)


My work world is mostly women. And when I say “work” I mean my entire world – because work blends into everything else I do, of course. Friends become coworkers, networking contacts become friends.

This gender imbalance is…unusual for me. I used to be thoroughly surrounded by men in the workplace. But every year, something changed – me. I quit full-time jobs and began to work for myself. I started businesses. I sold them. Every time, the transactions and interactions started to shift. I met more people who were doing their own thing, and that actually meant more women.

My friend Maggie calls this The Lady Web. It’s a mystical land where women recommend other women to each other and get shit done. We joke about it, but it kind of exists.

In the last 20+ years, the number of businesses owned by women in this country has gone from 10% to 40%. That’s pretty incredible. My full-time jobs were at large, old, stable organizations with pretty good gender balance. The world of small business, however, is filled with women. I think a willingness to start small, and remain small, has something to do with it. Women aren’t unambitious, but they are realistic, and they take a clear-eyed look at how work incorporates into the rest of their lives. For some, that means an at-home business, and for others, it means being the CEO.

I enjoy this shift in my landscape, and not because I hate men. I like working with women, many of whom have no formal business training, because nothing is taken for granted. There’s no assumptions that things will go smoothly. There’s no sense that things will be easy. At the same time, this does mean that women will reach out to others for support and look for a little more validation and feedback that what they are doing is “right.”

Also, sometimes results manifest more rapidly when I work with women. This means I can get away with a more abbreviated style of speaking and writing which is often public (on social media) versus private (on email/text). And I’ve found that I use shorthand (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram) with women more often, and use longhand (email) with men. I’m very curious about why this is.

Let’s look at my interactions across different platforms, both inbound and outbound. I take stats reporting with a grain of salt, but Sprout Social says my Twitter followers (as of April 2014) are 71% women, representing a lot of the business contacts and friends I’ve made over the years. However, Twee-Q, which looks at the gender of your most recent retweets, says I retweet women 52% of the time, which is pretty balanced.

So I don’t think I’m being exclusionary, even though input does not equal output. I think this has to do with awareness, depth of relationship, and the amount I’m willing to put up with bullshit. Parity is something I think about a lot; if your experiences differ, please leave a note.

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  1. Lori says:

    I love this post. Curious though, why pull out of Medium?

  2. […] of potholes. Really, she’s just one of the cooler people out there. Whether reflecting on the The Lady Web or gamely letting me interview her on building community and culture in coworking spaces, […]

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