The F-Suite Faces Down the Fear Factor

by Anna Gelbman Edmonds

The idea of producing a digital business magazine for women has me excited. I love the idea of providing a place for women to come for inspiration, advice, resources and networking opportunities that will empower them in their career goals. But it’s important that you know that’s not my sole motivation.

I’ve been on an amazing personal journey over the past several years. The only obstacle I kept running into was fear and it met me in various forms around every corner. Facing down and overcoming my fears gave me a confidence I’d never experienced and opened doors to great jobs, relationships and amazing opportunities. Conquering them led to discoveries about myself, what I’m capable of, and the impact I have on those around me and my community.

Don’t get me wrong; I still get scared.  I just don’t let fear get the best of me.  I only recently read Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In” after I came up with the idea for starting this magazine.  I was surprised that much of what she wrote wasn’t new to my way of thinking regarding women in the workplace and as business owners. She, too, recognized fear as the biggest obstacle in fulfilling our aspirations. But she caught my attention when she asked readers “What would you do if you weren’t scared?”

Well, I would start a women’s business magazine. So here I am doing just that.

This digital magazine allows me to provide other women with tools and inspiration to help them discover their potential and impact their world in very real ways.

The times, they are a changing

When I moved to South Carolina more than 25 years ago from the Washington metropolitan area I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock. In 1993, the grocery stores Culture in the workplaceand restaurants offered very little in the way of healthy food choices, the blue laws were still in effect, Memorial Day wasn’t observed as a bank holiday (though Confederate Memorial Day was), and public swimming pools closed on Labor Day despite the fact that temperatures reach 95°F well into October and beyond.

These are only a few examples of the things that required me to adapt to life in Dixie, though there were many more ­– some quite frustrating, others rather charming. By far the two most baffling were 1) Columbia’s downtown Main Street district was a ghost town by 5:15 p.m. and 2) the only women employed by the very large commercial building contracting firm where my husband worked were administrative assistants or on the janitorial crew.

Many of those antiquated ideas and laws have changed. We can now buy liquor on Sundays, Main Street is a bustling business, cultural and entertainment district, and plenty of women work in various roles and management levels in that construction company. Sadly, the pools still close on Labor Day.

What hasn’t changed is the male-dominated good-old-boy political culture. South Carolina is largely run by men, too many of whom only yield their seats in Congress, the State House, city halls, and board rooms after they’re convicted, senile or dead. Women in South Carolina make up 51% of the population, but they make up only 13.5% of the state legislature.*  In its 230-year history, South Carolina has never elected a female to the U.S. Senate. Women in South Carolina are also underrepresented in board rooms, executive suites, and law enforcement; and they’re less likely than men to be in the labor force. Because women here are more likely to live in poverty, it’s not surprising that South Carolina ranks sixth in the nation in the rate of women murdered by men (an improvement over being ranked first for years).

This is not the culture in which I want to live.

Women think differently than men.
Women manage differently than men.
Women reason and negotiate differently than men.
Women make decisions differently than men.
Women don’t do these things better than men. We simply do them differently.

Making an impact

While the differences between South Carolina and the nation were glaring a few decades ago and somewhat less so now, what I currently see is that the challenges for women’s empowerment in business and government is a national problem. That is why The F-Suite is launching from South Carolina, but will reflect the issues facing women around the nation – and even internationally.

Here is my real reason for wanting to empower women in the workplace. Women who Female leadership in businessfind their footing, voice and confidence as employees, executives or business owners are more apt to go out into their communities and make an impact. They do this by serving on their PTA or homeowner’s association, volunteering for a nonprofit or political campaign, mentoring a student or young professional, participating in or even speaking at rallies and demonstrations…  or even running for elected office. The leadership skills we develop and the voices we find at work give us the confidence to use them elsewhere and make our immediate and larger communities better places for us and the next generations.

So, wherever you work and at whatever level, you’re invited into The F-Suite. Come on in. There’s a seat waiting for you at the table and we’re interested in what you have to say.

* Status of Women in South Carolina

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