Last night, I was invited to come along with my high-school-aged daughter to a house concert hosted by one of the female mentors from her internship. It was to be a night for women and music. I have been working so hard lately on the Essex Hub that I haven’t had much connecting time with my kids and, honestly, when she asked me to go, my first inclination was not one of desire to leave our comfy house at 7:30 on a Saturday evening to drive to Burlington… But all things considered, I said yes, and though a bit late, we made it just in time to participate in the round robin camp song before the “formal acts” started.

We walked into the small apartment, and there I was with my daughter in a room full of women in their twenties, honoring their need to come together in community, to hold space for each other, and to share their art and vulnerabilities with each other, to be appreciated, acknowledged, and celebrated. 

Last October, I walked into another unknown space, a room full of women business owners, at a conference in Montpelier. The information I heard there fell on me and catalyzed my thinking about what I was doing, what I felt needed to be done, and how to do it. And then, after the election, I knew there just was no time left to pretend. I knew there was something I had to embark on that brought my whole life experience together in an opportunity to be of service to women who needed to be supported in new and creative ways, honoring and allowing them to become visible in a space just for them.  

As I sat and listened in both of these venues, I heard the stories, the trials, the longing for voice, for visibility and for appreciation. I heard the uncertainty in the umms and the and yeahs. I listened for the nuanced language that comes from being uncertain and surrounded by the male gaze or the lens of patriarchy. I heard gorgeous voices of women, their raw femininity, their desire and longing for love and hope and peace. I heard phrases like non-dude space and coded in metaphor. I listened to the stories of inequity and potential and economic impact.

In just the last few weeks, I have been told that I am likely limiting my audience by creating a space that specifically caters to women. That by having the tag lines “for women & business”, we perhaps will not attract the individuals who work in particular fields to our more female-oriented space. I have had women ask if we are exclusively for women, or if men are “allowed”, to which my response has been, “We are a community of women and friends. If you are friendly, so are we.” And we do have men in our community who are stepping up every day to keep the issues of women at the forefront of their business practices, who are doing amazing things to help open space for women’s voice and equity. That kind of open space is what we hope women who come to the Hub feel, that there is space to be expansive, innovative, creative, and generative. That being surrounded by language of abundance and collaboration rather than scarcity and competition will allow us all to show up to do our best work. To take on the challenges of being closed out of the conversations or shut down by the traditional language of work or business or innovation. Our goal is to create space for the rich, raw, and feminine voices of song that can transform our communities and our economies. 

I left that house concert feeling reconnected to being a young and aspiring woman and to my daughter, realizing that the path I’ve chosen to take and to follow as a strong, independent woman unafraid of using her voice to advocate or to sing, to fight or to love, is exactly the work I need to be doing in the way I envision doing it in the space we have created for it to be done… 

And to those gorgeous voices I heard last night in song … be on the lookout for some intimate Living Room concerts in the house, some pop-up parking lot concerts this summer, and conversations about holding space for women to grow, learn, and lead! 

 

Kristin Humbargar