A handful of years ago, a new professional network for a new era of women was announced, and tens of thousands of Millennial women eagerly added their emails to the waitlist. I was one of them.
(NOTE: We’re not getting into the actions of GirlBoss founder and former Nasty Gal CEO Sophia Amorusa here, which is an entirely different topic and one worth reading up on in past year’s coverage of the end of the broader girlboss era, including Amanda Mull’s piece for the Atlantic).
What I was seeking was a place for community, for connection and action as I worked to align my personal and professional lives into one “me” as best I could. I wanted to meet women navigating similar challenges and sizing up and seizing their own opportunities amid a world that wants us to play and feel small. I wanted somewhere I could take up space.
To be honest, I haven’t even logged into GirlBoss for at least a year, and even then it was only because I was updating my profiles on all the things. It’s been years since I actually used the product, and I have to admit, I never really felt like part of a community there. This isn’t a criticism or sh*t-talking — building a digital platform and/or a community is really hard, and building both is exponentially difficult.
So when GirlBoss emailed to let me know they are moving their community from a private platform beta to a Facebook group, I wasn’t expecting to feel disappointed. But I did. Because while I’ve found the connection, clarity and confidence I’d been seeking right here in the OwnTrail community, this news made me wonder if the tens and tens of thousands of women who came to GirlBoss for this purpose were left still seeking.
As a founder, it’s easy to see people represented as “users”, numbers in a total. But I can’t help but think of how each of these multi-faceted, eager women are real individuals with real experiences and obstacles and aspirations, who are becoming accustomed to being moved about as if they are no more than a cell on a spreadsheet.
I can’t help but think of how each of these multi-faceted, eager women are real individuals with real experiences and obstacles and aspirations, who are becoming accustomed to being moved about as if they are no more than a cell on a spreadsheet.
I believe in abundance, and I’m working hard to rewire my brain from decades of being taught that there can only be one winner. I wanted GirlBoss to deliver on its promise. I want us all to win, because we need all the support and tools we can get to fight the very systems that hold us back. And I totally understand that GirlBoss is a business in a world that makes it really, really hard to make an impact profitable. I understand they made the best choice for their community based on their circumstances. I repeat, this isn’t a criticism.
I also know that Facebook is not — and very likely never was — a place where authenticity could thrive or thrive for long. It’s not a place where vulnerable experiences like mental health, infertility or self-doubt can be shared without risk of being monetized against. This is why Rebekah and I agreed early, early on that we would never sell your experiences on OwnTrail — which is exactly what happens on ad-based platforms like Facebook.
I wanted GirlBoss to thrive. I still do. And I know not everyone who came there looking for safety and solidarity will feel comfortable on Facebook. You are welcome on OwnTrail. You are safe on OwnTrail. You are appreciated on OwnTrail.
I’m not promising a solution to all your worries about being on the right path or how to navigate your life. No one can solve for that. (And anyone, especially any business, who says they can is lying.) Consider it an invitation to join a whole community of women who are also seeking — and down to support others as we figure it all out on our own and together.
Because we can all win.