Working with Sisters: a Women-Run Workplace
by Jacquelyn Farnsworth
Equality in the workplace happens from inside the boardroom — not shouting from the sidelines. Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg was the first to champion this idea. To gain true workplace equality between the sexes, we need more women running the place.
When Sandberg published the book Lean In in 2013, she invited controversy by claiming that women fail to seek management roles because they are too afraid of being disliked, are not confident enough in their own abilities, and don't know how they will be both good employees and good wives or mothers — years before they've even found a partner.
As Sandberg wrote, “Women need to shift from thinking 'I'm not ready to do that' to thinking 'I want to do that — and I'll learn by doing it.' "
Here at Spinster Sisters Co., women are doing it all, from production to management. Founder and CEO Kelly Perkins built the company from the ground up, and still presides over all major decision-making. Over 90% of positions in the company have been held by women over the years, including production, administrative, and management roles.
We wanted to know if our female-led work environment has positively affected the women who work here. We spoke with four women who work at Spinster Sisters Co. about their experiences as female employees in a workplace where women call the shots.
Is there a different feel to a female-dominated workplace like Spinster Sisters?
Kristina is a Production Supervisor who works in our Microsoapery crafting skincare products from scratch. After more than three years spending long days on her feet, handling large quantities of raw ingredients, she had a practical answer to the question. She told us that "one way that our workplace feels different is that there are no men around to lift heavy bags or boxes of ingredients, or to move 450-pound drums of oil. We do it ourselves or as a team, and being strong together is empowering."
Female CEO’s are rare; in 2019, only 5.2% of CEO’s from companies in the S&P 500 are women . What does it mean to a female employee to work for a female CEO?
Gina, a member of our administrative staff who started in the production department, says that working for a female CEO is important to her for many reasons. She sees a female CEO like our founder Kelly as a role model for other women, who can help them build confidence. According to Gina, "Women need confidence and that happens more easily when they are surrounded by other women with confidence."
Gina has a young daughter who is just starting preschool, so naturally her perspective also includes encouraging the next generation of women. The roles that girls see other women take has an effect on their own dreams for the future. In Gina's words, "A woman CEO gives hope to all young females that they can do and achieve whatever they want!"
Has being a woman ever held you back at work? If so, what would have had to change to make your workplace more equal?
"Being a woman in the workplace has certainly had an impact on my professional skillsets over the years," says Hannah, who has taken a number of roles at Spinster Sisters Co. over the last 4 years while also working as a consultant. "I've called out male counterparts for inappropriate comments made at work, I've rallied for hiring events focused on women and people of color."
Hannah has a clear grasp of the inequalities facing women at work, and frequently included people of color in her comments. She quoted a statistic showing that inequality goes far beyond the CEO level. Only 16 of the Fortune 500 companies release demographic data, and at those companies, 7 out of 10 senior execs are white men . Hannah says that she is committed to "work hard and lead with the understanding that ANYONE should be allowed the opportunity to make an impact in the workplace."
She continued, "I learned a long time ago, thanks to parents who instilled in me the power of my gender and always championed for women's rights and inclusivity, that leadership isn’t about your gender, your position at work, your title, your corner office, or your company shares, it’s about a passion for excellence and making a difference. You can lead as a janitor. You can lead as a VP. And you can lead as a woman despite the gender inequalities that unfortunately show up in workplaces."
According to Hannah, a woman-owned company like Spinster Sisters Co. offers up a supportive environment for its employees. She's proud to work for a company that celebrates women in all stages of life in the workplace, and she is especially happy to see our partnership and internship program with Girls Inc. that empowers young girls.
Does Spinster Sisters allow its employees more flexibility to fit work into their lives?
One of the major issues facing women is finding the right balance between time spent at work and home if they decide to take on the responsibility of raising a family. As Hannah observed, it seems that Spinster Sisters is especially generous when it comes to working around the obligations of employees in different life stages. Managing school schedules, the needs of young children, and extracurriculars can be a burden for women who are caregivers.
One of our production assistants, Debra, brought up the needs of her family when asked if Spinster Sisters allows her extra opportunity for work/life balance. "Since I have two girls in grade school, I have to be flexible," she says. "That's what you get at Spinster Sisters. I love my job."