So…what exactly are we doing?

Via Julia Evans

“Missoula” Via Julia Evans

We’ve received a lot of Facebook messages, texts, homing pigeons, smoke signals, and awkward sideways glances asking us “So, what exactly are you doing?” This is a fair question. Let me start by saying that the goal of (Her)oes is simple:  to encourage and inspire an up-and-coming generation of Montana women entrepreneurs, innovators, thinkers, artists, and leaders by honoring the already successful and influential women in our community.

How are we going to do that? Starting in the summer of 2013, we will shoot, edit, and post a new video interview of a game-changing woman from within our community every two weeks.

But, the story is so much more interesting than that.

The idea all started at The Loft in downtown Missoula. I was listening to a local woman discuss her experience starting what has since been hailed as “one of the best” national magazines of its kind, and was blown away by her insight in small business ventures. However, I was more surprised that I hadn’t heard of her story before. In fact, none of the people in that circle had. The month before this interaction, a local political figure told her story about running for office to the same group of people, highlighting the struggle and hard work it took to win. All I could think about while she was talking was “this could be so powerful…if other people knew of her experience, I bet more women would run.”

These discussions highlighted an uncomfortable difficulty for me in being a woman pursuing excellence in Montana. Besides my mom, while I was growing up the only readily accessible examples of successful women were Hillary Clinton, Maya Angelou, Mother Teresa, or Condoleezza Rice. They’re great, but also completely intangible and inapplicable to my life, values, and circumstance. I can’t call up Hillary and ask advice on running for office or how to start a small business. I could spend some time dissecting why this distance also creates a warped ideal of “success,” but let’s save that particular rant for a later post.

Now, I’m not saying that somehow those women did me a disservice as intangible role models, or that I was prevented from pursuing my goals because Hillary wasn’t at my disposal. But, what I know for sure is this:  there is something to be said for being able to run ideas and hopes by someone who has “been there, done that,” and this has not always been an option for many young professionals looking for female mentors in their fields of work or study.

It’s not hard to picture the chasm between examples of success and real life when considering the stark lack of equal representation between men and women in professional spheres across our country. Women make up 50.4% of the United States, but comprise 20% of Congress, are 4.2% of Fortune 500 CEOs, and are responsible for only 19% of quotations in US magazines.

Now, my intention in throwing out statistics isn’t to soapbox. Rather, I hope they serve to magnify the stark truth that the future of development and innovation in Montana, and our country, is women. We need to collaboratively acknowledge our current reality, but encourage men and women to equally rise through the ranks, take risks, and acknowledge each other when we try and succeed.

But, now we’re off topic.

Here’s the thing, though the stats nationally are disconcerting, I realized something at The Loft; You don’t have to travel to Washington D.C., Dubai, New York City, or the moon in order to be connected to other women doing incredible things. Missoula, Montana is bursting with an array of talented, experienced, and successful women in art, business, politics, education, and other fields who have changed the face of our community and state.

And, we need to hear their stories. I need to hear their stories.

They are here, walking down Higgins, sitting in City Hall, teaching at the university, playing music at the Top Hat, and painting in basements.  These are real women with stories in need of telling that will push young leaders one more step toward great things for our state and in our time.

So, stay tuned with us. We’re planning, kickstarting, filming, organizing, scheduling, and building right now. I can promise you that the amount of passion already expressed by the women and men involved will make the wait worth it.

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