In late 2017, I gave birth to my daughter, Rosalind. Two months later, with Baby Roz snug in her carrier and asleep on my chest, I launched my social impact consulting company. Becoming a mother and starting my own business at the same time plunged me into two new, complex identities, each with their joys, challenges, and rewards.
Mom and Entrepreneur
Both motherhood and entrepreneurship were new to me. I scrolled parenting Instagrams in the wee hours of the morning, and absorbed business audiobooks while pushing Rosalind in her stroller up and down the quiet blocks of our neighborhood. My confidence as a parent slowly grew, and so too did my zeal to build a business that was by and for women. If I could do this whole “mom and entrepreneur” thing, I wanted more women by my side!
As the fog of the newborn days faded and my business grew, so too did a trend that went from a minor annoyance to an issue that bombarded me nearly every day. I wanted to learn how to run a business, to grow my consultancy, to be a great manager, and to build a thriving company. All the classes, conferences, podcasts, and blogs I found had a qualifier: I was a “girl boss,” a “boss babe,” a “momtrepreneur,” or a “mom boss.”
Along with these cutesy, self-imposed titles were carefully curated images of women entrepreneurs sipping lattes and typing on their laptop, manicured nails and perfect hair painting an image of casual perfection. As “boss babes,” the message was that we needed to build a successful business and happy family, learn to enjoy the present, and create a life that we loved. And, if your life isn’t what you wanted when it came to money, marriage, children, weight, you name it…well, that’s on you.
Minimizing Our Accomplishments
Four years into running my business (and raising a daughter whose energy level challenges the Tasmanian Devil) I’ve learned a lot. I’ve clawed my way into leadership trainings, spent late nights watching YouTube videos, and picked the brains of countless entrepreneurs and mentors. And yet, when I’m invited to leadership trainings, entrepreneurship conferences, and speaking engagements it’s still with the cloying qualifier that I’m a “boss babe.”
Ultimately, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that as a woman, mother, and entrepreneur, I’m not sold information on how to run a business because my work isn’t taken as seriously as if I were a man in the same position. Ultimately, there’s more money to be had in faux feminism, unattainable toxic positivity, and the promise of perfection that we’ll never achieve.
I’ve silently cringed when I’m greeted as a “boss babe” and politely declined when I’m invited to speak as a “momtrepreneur,” because I didn’t want to be rude, diminish another women’s achievements, or offend anyone (my inner Midwestern people-pleasing tendencies are strong!). But when I hear the term “boss babe” thrown around (or any of the accompanying cutesy nicknames), my heart sinks, because this trend is far from just an annoyance. It’s a qualification that slyly minimizes women’s accomplishments and keeps women entrepreneurs in a different—and inherently inferior—category than men.
Not Your “Boss Babe”
Y’all, I can’t do it anymore. Yes — my motherhood and womanhood are part of my success, but I’m not a “boss babe,” a “mom boss” or any other cutesy qualifier. I’m the CEO and founder of a social impact agency. I’ve bootstrapped my company from a small desk in my living room to a thriving and growing business. I have the privilege of employing a team of fabulous women (many of whom are mothers themselves). And of course, I am a woman and a mother.
So, I’m ready to do better. I’m here to keep building a company by women, for women. I’m committed to leading with feminist values, as hard as it may be. Sorry, inner people-pleaser — no more bad-ass “boss babes” here. Just women, entrepreneurs, and leaders, and everything that that entails.
About the Author
Catherine Ashton (She/Her) is on a mission to change the way nonprofits raise money. As the founder of Giant Squid Group LLC, Catherine works with nonprofits in Austin, TX and Chicago, IL to land donors, win grants, and fund their works. She is an experienced nonprofit leader who has served as staff member, board member, coach, and facilitator and has a unique ability to help nonprofits tie together program impact, fundraising, and agency capacity. She is a sought-after coach, speaker, and strategist locally and nationally, and specializes in helping organizations marry best practices and mission-aligned innovation to drive systems-level change.
Catherine is dedicated to promoting inclusivity and equity in the nonprofit sector. She is an alumnae of Leadership Austin and an active member of AFP Austin, Community-Centric Fundraising, and the Young Women’s Alliance. Catherine also serves on the Board of Directors for the Austin Diaper Bank and is the co-founder of Answer the Call Community.
Catherine is an audiobook enthusiast, yarn fanatic, and home-cooking fiend. In her “outside of work” life, she spends time with her daughter, husband, lazy rescue pitbull Latke, and rotund rescue cat, Artemis.