Photos by J. Alan Paul
We know all about the endless list of things Millennials have killed: department stores, sit-down restaurants, and golf, to name a few. Now, they’re coming for networking.
Danyel Moe and Laura Caroon are the founders of a new local group called Ladybosses of Fargo-Moorhead, and while they’re not focused on catering to Millennial women exclusively, they are bringing their generation’s disruptive approach to an activity they believe needs a bit of a rebrand.
Meet the Head Ladybosses
Content strategist at Concordia College
- Prior to her position with Concordia, referred to herself as a “multi-passionate entrepreneur”
- Used to work as a portrait photographer, in addition to partnering in other small businesses at the same time
- Says one of her passions is supporting, empowering and connecting women in business
Content specialist at Concordia College
- Has a passion for social media, specifically, how she can “create real-life connections near and far”
- Artist, likes working a creative job
- Feminist, believes in female empowerment and women holding big jobs in the area
Ladyboss (n.): An empowered female, confident in her abilities and instinct, boldly leading with heart and integrity
Q + A w/ the Founders
What were some of the gaps you two saw in local networking options for women?
Caroon: We were looking for a place where women could connect and feel a part of something, especially women who are artists or entrepreneurs and who don’t have a built-in network of coworkers.
We started Ladybosses to create a community for women. It’s a place to make new connections, try new things, and learn from and support each other. It’s about empowerment; it’s about having each other’s backs; and it’s about educating ourselves and being the best advocates for women that we can be.
Moe: We wanted to create an opportunity for women to meet in a casual environment, whether that’s online or at one of our happy hours. Most opportunities are posed as a very corporate networking environment, which is great, but it can be uncomfortable or intimidating to some. We were hoping there was a way for women to network without knowing they’re networking — small meetups that are more like hangouts, where you can actually build real, honest connections out of them.
What would you say to a man who asks why a women-only group like this is necessary?
Caroon: We try to provide an experience that’s honest about topics women are facing. We like it to be a shame-free zone, and we want people to feel safe and that they can talk about their experiences as a woman in business without feeling like someone’s going to tell them they’re wrong.
There are a lot of things women experience on a daily basis that men don’t see because they just haven’t ever experienced it and can’t understand. Women have been told that those things are just in their heads or that they’re exaggerating, which is just not true.
Can you give some examples?
Caroon: Leadership can still be a boy’s club atmosphere, whether they believe it or not. I think patterns are there. If women aren’t being invited to the table or are being excluded from the table in leadership, that’s saying something. And you can say, ‘Oh, he was more qualified than her’ all day long, but how many of 50 percent of the population are always just less qualified? That doesn’t make sense. We’ve seen situations where people who are perfect for a job get passed up because they’re not the right gender.
Moe: We actually had a conversation early on about, ‘What if a man wants to join Ladybosses? Are we going to let him do that?’ And we decided that, at least for now, we want our group feeling like a safe and unique space exclusively for women. But there’s potential for us to hold events in the future where men are invited to take part.
Caroon: It would be kind of fun to do a conference that’s focused on women’s issues, but have men come and hear, ‘These are your friends, neighbors, and coworkers, and this is what they’re experiencing.’
It’s a place to make new connections, try new things, and learn from and support each other.
You’re saying gender bias in the workplace is a little more subtle than people realize.
Caroon: It’s nuanced, but women see it. And then women don’t try for things because they don’t think they’re going to get them anyway, or they stay where they are because they don’t want to seem pushy or like they’re not a team player.
Moe: And not even just leadership positions. There are a lot of industries women haven’t really tapped into at all.
Caroon: I think women feel like they need to compete with each other because there are fewer spots available, or they feel like there are fewer spots available. If one woman is winning, then they feel like they can’t (win). It doesn’t mean there’s less for me. When one of us succeeds, we all benefit.
What’s the ultimate goal with Ladybosses?
Moe: Our goal is to create opportunities for positive growth and connection for women — opportunities for artists, for makers, for small business owners, for corporate-ladder climbers, for healthcare providers, for teachers, for doers and for dreamers.
Right now, that looks like hosting events and an online community. We’re open to where the future leads us in this endeavor, (though).
And this is a concept you’d like to take to other cities?
Moe: Our vision is Fargo-Moorhead. I think what’s so great about us doing it in Fargo-Moorhead is that we know these people. These are our people. I feel like if we were in a different community, I couldn’t speak for those women – not to say I can speak for all the women in our group — but I just don’t know if we could relate in the same way.
Caroon: There’s something special about keeping it local.
In addition to the daily activity in the Ladybosses Facebook group, the majority of the group’s in-person networking takes place at their (roughly) twice-monthly events, which typically last a couple hours and are hosted at women-owned local businesses around town such as Make Room or Naturally Randi Kay. They’re also always situated around a particular activity such as a book club, yoga session, or a service or learning opportunity — an intentional format, Moe says.
“We hope the networking happens naturally,” she explains. “Because we don’t want to (finish the activity) and then say, ‘Alright, now network.’ (The format) allows you to kind of be half in conversation, half to yourself. If you’re feeling uncomfortable, you have something to attend to.”
Meet a Ladyboss: Simone Wai
Interview by Danyel Moe and Laura Caroon
A community builder and cofounder at Folkways, Simone Wai says she’s focused on creating magical moments to enhance people’s everyday lives. If you’ve been to the Red River Market, Christkindlmarkt, or the Alley Fair; watched the Canoe Parade; or enjoyed the mobile sauna, you’ve experienced her work.
There’s been a huge (positive) shift in the way people see and think about Fargo, and you’re a big part of that. Why was it important to you to become a community-builder for Fargo?
Wai: I have done events pretty much my whole career. I have worked with people like artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs, and we just saw a need to collect those people and really change the attitudes and culture of the community.
When I lived here as a highschooler, it wasn’t a place I wanted to start my career. I didn’t want to be a Fargoan. So for us, we wanted to show people the potential in our community and shift their attitude.
What’s your best career advice?
Wai: It’s career and life advice: not to take anything personally. I am part of, but also outside of, what I create. When we get surveys back from our events, there is always one crabby person. There are so many things that could be going on with someone’s life.
Who is your hero and why?
Wai: I feel like I have so many friends who I look up to. I guess my local Ladybosses are my heroes. I think of my friend, Randi Kay, who is killing it with her massage business, Naturally Randi Kay. And my friend, Amanda McDonald, who is working on Giving Hearts Day for Dakota Medical Foundation. People who are just in their corner of their world being totally awesome. I’m so proud of them!
How are you taking better care of yourself in 2018?
Wai: A lot of sauna-ing. SADness (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is real, and I’ve found sauna-ing to be the most amazing way to combat that. You get the socializing and the firelight, and you’re so warm. I live in a 110-year-old house, and it’s never warm. I also take a lot of personal time. I work hard and then relax hard.
Come check out their June conference:
Thursday, June 7, 7:30 a.m. – 1 p.m.
6 12th St. N, Fargo
*Note: Registration open through Ladyboss Facebook group only
Ladybosses of Fargo-Moorhead