Wednesday, July 25, 2012

[Weekly Words on Women] Women Owners

A few of you know that I own a FLGS. I talk about it here now and then, and a lot more often over here.

I work at the store at least once a week, and more often if I'm needed or if I can. That leaves a lot of time that I am not there. For the most part, the store operations are run by TheDude and our employees.

Many times, because of how much work TheDude and the employees do, I feel like an out an out fraud, saying that I'm an owner. But the reality is, that's in MY head. I do all the negotiations with service providers, and have the connections in the professional networks we use. My name is on all the important paperwork. I make as many decisions as TheDude, and those decisions are just as essential and relevant as any he makes. I'm involved in as much of the running of the store as TheDude; just in a different way than his work. That doesn't make what I do less valid, it just makes it different.

I've previously wondered, where are the ladies; and found that in the hobby world, there just aren't that many. I struck upon a strange discovery recently- that all the powerful movers and shakers that happen to be ladies are in the CRAFT world, and there just aren't very many in the HOBBY world. Looking at crafting; there's a virtual cornucopia of women owners and designers (Martha Stewart just to name one), and there are very few men in crafting. The exceptions appear to be in highly technical crafts or crafts that veer into art territories, where there are plenty of men (Bob Ross is dead, but you get the idea). I have to wonder what that says about men and women; and if it has any relevance to me at all.

I look around at the gaming and geeky landscape, and I'm fairly alone as a woman in charge. There are not very many (if any) women that operate game stores, game companies, publishing houses, or who design games. There aren't a lot of ladies that are featured artists, or win a lot of contests, or who write adventures. 

How many of us are there in the hobby landscape? How many women are bosses, developers, creators, innovators, writers, publishers, artists, studio heads or any of the other various positions of power or influence in this geeky world? How many of these women love what they do? How many are doing things in action and not in words/lip service?

I can really only think of two "big names"- Margaret Weis and Felicia Day. I'm not a big name by any stretch of the imagination; I'm barely recognizable outside my inner circle. I often wonder if I have the passion, the drive, the energy, dedication and fearlessness to move to the next step and take my business to a higher level.

When I think about the level of dedication and devotion needed to "step it up", I think of my personal role model; Megan Hunt aka Princess Lasertron. Yes, she's in "crafting", but she has diligently pushed her brand into much more than just "artsy fartsy" stuff (how many people view crafting) and moved into high end design and fashion. I've been following her for a very long time, and I'm constantly impressed with how much work she puts into looking at what she needs to do on or with herself in order to grow her business and brand. She exudes a certain level of fearlessness that I envy and strive for; even if it is just what I see and not reality.

The self examination part of growth usually takes up more time and energy than it should for me, and my business stays where it is for now.  I'm also not the only one making these decisions, and TheDude has his own reservations and reasons for (or against) any growth or changes we make with the store.

It's not always easy being a female in this "wilderness of men" (my quote from a long time ago). There's a certain amount of "boys club mentality" at times; which I usually ignore. There's also some outright animosity aimed at women; especially PRETTY women (as seen here ). There are many times when the dismissive attitudes and condescension aimed in my general direction are frustrating enough to make me want to hang it up; and I've honestly asked if the reward is worth the work more than once.

Very few people know how much undermining and second guessing goes on with a business, especially one that's even close to successful.  We have quite a few people that hit us with "concerns" - concerns that are roughly disguised complaints that we aren't doing what they want; concerns that are unfair or hurtful, concerns that are fair but we aren't in a position to immediately correct whatever issue is present, concerns we don't have a direct avenue of addressing due to the form they're presented to us, concerns that are another fire we have to put out.  Trying to balance the desire for growth with the seemingly incessant quicksand of our customer's expectations and community feedback is a whole lot tougher than I ever imagined.

I do think it's worth it, in the long run. When I see my customers enjoying the community that I've worked hard to develop, when I see the laughter, the friendships, the volunteerism and dedication; I know I'm doing something right.

Being a woman owner, being proud of what I do is essential, because otherwise things will just get me down. I'm too thrilled with what I do to let that happen.


  1. Ali Mcvey? Trish Morrison?

    Two female sculptor/painters from the old GW days, Ali moved onto PP and now co-runs studio Mcvey with her husband, Mike. she's one of the best figure painter's I've ever seen..

    theres Tasia too, last name eludes me,- she's got at least one slayer sword and a painting tutorial video out there somewhere.

    I'll be honest, I teach Game Design.. allbeit computer games at the core of my course, and this comes up a lot.

    the video game industry in my country (the UK) employs about 12% of it's workforce as female creatives. (this isnt counting office support staff, where it's demographically higher, finance support secretarial etc) it's not a stat any industry should be proud of.

    the course I teach runs at about 26% femal, that can be tough too, but most of the male students I have are respectful and don't exhibit the mysogny that the industry is becoming known for.

    I try to liken it to any other technology or media based industry.. the nature of these is that early adopters ar3e drawn to them, and demographically early adopters are biased towards the male gender, over time, these trends even out, and we must remember that gaming ois a very new medium..

    how those rationalisations carry over to tabletop gaming, and game store ownership I'm not sure.

    but one thing is for sure, as long as there's a genders discrepancy to be noted, we're going to keep talkiing about it.

  2. In terms of 'big names', I wonder how big Gail Simone is? I don't roll in comics fandom so I'm not sure.

    In gaming, Sherri Yeary springs to mind: although she's not necessarily the name that everyone thinks of in association with Privateer Press she is In Charge Of It. Jen Ikuta is (was?) a very public female face for that brand, too.

    Also, you have the pro-painting world - Victoria Lamb, Jen Haley and Marike Reimer are by-words for being generally marvellous in that field.

    Aaaand there's Sally White of Hasslefree, whose name is more recognisable to me than her husband's; it's her name on all the newsletters after all!

  3. Over at Paizo, you have CEO and co-owner Lisa Stevens.

    -- Geoffrey DeWan

    1. I'm ashamed to say I completely forgot her. Thanks for reminding me!

  4. Do you think it is more the games themselves or the (largely) male player base keep tabletop gaming male?

  5. I wonder if it's mainly historical inertia? Women would have traditionally been crafty(!) because they were responsible for maintaining the family in pre-industrial times. Craft is essentially making useful AND beautiful objects.

    Men on the other hand did "important work" (by which I mean not important at all for day-to-day life), and spent their leisure time having hobbies: like crafts but deliberately pointless.

    So maybe the gender imbalances in these areas are an accident of history that just sort of kept going, like a lot of things.

  6. How about Ana over at painting mum? Maybe not an flags owner but a very talented artist and inspiration to many young ladies in the hobby.