Four women standing together in the desert wearing colorful clothing

Ladies First: Women-Led Wednesday Supports A More Gender-Balanced Economy

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Back in 2015, there were more CEOs named John than women of any name running large companies, according to a study by the New York Times.

Just three years later, the glass ceiling has yet to be shattered. Women make up more than half of the professional-level workforce in the U.S., but only 25 percent of executive and senior management officials, 20 percent of board seats, and 6 percent of CEOs among S&P 500 companies. The numbers aren’t good, and Cassie Abel took notice.

I saw an opportunity to address the need for people to vote for women with their dollars,” says Abel, herself the cofounder of the women’s outdoor apparel brand Wild Rye and the owner of White Cloud Communication. “We can talk about closing the pay gap and about getting more women in the C-Suite and on boards all we want, but I believe the fastest path to leveling the playing field is by financially supporting the companies and brands that are already there.”

This year, Cassie is spearheading the first Women-Led Wednesday on November 21, 2018. It’s a movement to shine the spotlight on female-founded and -led brands, retailers and service providers, all in the hopes of driving consumers to “shop women” the day before Thanksgiving this and every year. Think Black Friday or Giving Tuesday, but dedicated specifically to empowering women through our collective purchasing power.

The more financial success women-led brands have, the more opportunities for women to rise up through the ranks,” Cassie explains. “More women in leadership equals more role models for young women just starting their careers. More role models today will only lead to more inspired women entrepreneurs and leaders of tomorrow.”

While the big push to shop Women-Led Wednesday will be the day before Thanksgiving every year, the website will serve as a year-round shopping and discovery hub. The hope is to encourage people to “vote women” with their dollars the other 364 days a year, too. Here, we round up some of our favorite female-led brands we’re shopping this holiday season.



Cycling Clothing Designed For The Female Form

Besides making cycling gear that fits well and looks great, Machines For Freedom also makes a point to hire female photographers and retouchers, and models of all colors, gender-identities and sizes. “When we launched our ‘Bae Bottles’ water bottles, we had a rider come up and thank us for featuring a brown girl on them,” says brand manager Ginger Boyd. “The cycling industry has a major representation problem, but we’re working hard to change that.”



Handmade Goods From Makers in Mexico

We love Nipomo’s colorful blankets and gorgeous baskets, which are all handwoven by skilled artists in Mexico. We also love the mother-daughter team at the helm of the brand. “My mom owned her own business, so when I was growing up I believed I could be whatever I wanted to be,” says Nipomo founder Liz Clark. “My mom and I now work together and she is slowly empowering her community of friends when we need extra hands. Women have a unique point of view, and I think we lean more toward building community than seeking success for the sake of it.”



The Mindfully Vetted Marketplace

For thoughtfully designed goods that are built to last, shopping Wylder Goods is a no-brainer. Founders Jainee Dial and Lindsey Elliott cut through the retail noise to bring their customers only thoroughly vetted, responsible brands and goods from female artists. “We’re most excited about our exclusive products, stuff you can only get in the Wylder shop,” says Jainee. “Our Wolf Ceramics Cerulean Sky Mug is gorgeous, as are the Alaska-inspired hair forks we collaborated with Bri Bol on.”



Hard-Working Clothing for Industrious Women

Frustrated by the kind of unflattering and ill-performing workwear they were forced to wear while running their landscaping business, the trio of women behind Dovetail Workwear set out to make something better. “We’re not making women’s workwear because it’s a ‘growing segment’,” says cofounder Sara DeLuca. “Collaboration and sustainability are not marketing ploys for us. The women who wear our products are groundbreakers, pioneers, and experts in their fields. That challenges us to create work apparel that raises the bar.”



Leather Footwear With A Cooperative Mindset

Mohinders creates beautiful water-buffalo-leather shoes that conform to the customer’s foot over time, allowing its India-based partners (a cooperative of master shoemakers) to set their own rates in order to better sustain them and uphold quality standards. Two-thirds of the Mohinders team are women, but the San Francisco-based company’s female voice is less about gender definitions and more about its business philosophy, according to Creative Director Kristen Morabito. “We intentionally articulate our values and acknowledge how these often differ from a dominant (and more masculine) western business mindset,” she explains. “The kind of business we want to be a part of is generous, creative, sustainable, collaborative, and unafraid of asking questions.”



Anti-Bro-Culture Outdoor Apparel

You won’t find any neon pink or purple garments sequestered to the “Women’s” section of Western Rise’s website— CEO Kelly Watters and her husband Will are committed to creating outdoor clothing that looks timeless and lasts about as long. Though the Western Rise team is more than 60 percent female, diversity is so ingrained in the brand’s DNA that Kelly doesn’t typically give the breakdown much thought. That’s not to say there’s no more work left to be done. “The competitive ‘bro culture’ you sometimes see at more established brands has no place in this space that a new generation of companies like Western Rise have entered,” Kelly says.



Accessories For Ancestral Lands

Founder Jaylyn Gough is equally as passionate about the outdoors as she is for providing education about ancestral lands. Sales of her branded hats, stickers, and drinkwear all benefit the work Native Womens Wilderness does to inspire and elevate the voices of Native women in the outdoors. Her goals include promoting women of color in mainstream outdoor retailer advertising and providing resources for the Native and non-Native community about important ancestral lands.


To get your brand or business involved with Women-Led Wednesday, use the Contact form at Lead image by photographer Kate Rentz.

XX Johnie