We are all SO busy…all the time. It seems like there’s hardly a spare moment to spend with friends let alone organize a girls night out. The good news is, today is National Best Friends Day, and if that isn’t the perfect excuse to call up your besties, we don’t know what is. After all, it’s no secret that our schedules will always be busy. So, it’s up to us to make time for the people and things we care about the most, right?
Here’s the plan: you gather the girls, we’ve got the “Night Out” part covered. On June 28th, bring your entourage to the Pay Gap Comedy Tourat the Parkway Theater. We’ll start with dinner and a drinks at El Burrito Minneapolis– plus a few surprise goodies, special guests, & priority seating for the main event (all of which comes included in the $40 VIP ticketadd-on). Next, everyone will meet at the Parkway Theater for music and comedy performed by an all-woman lineup!
This is a night to celebrate and lift up ourselves and each other with positivity, laughter, and Woman-Power.
You’ll also be helping us do a little good; a portion of the evenings proceeds will go to support Breaking Freeto fight sex trafficking in Minnesota, and Casa de Esperanza to help victims of domestic abuse.
If you look at the list of top 10 highest paid comedians in 2018, you will notice that they all have one big thing in common – they’re all male. So why aren’t any female comedians making the big bucks? Do they simply have less creativity or talent? We don’t think so. If you saw our blog last week about why we named our upcoming comedy event the Pay Gap Comedy Tour, you’ll already know that we think women are missing from lists like this because they don’t have the same access to the opportunities, leadership roles, or success that could land them there.
Here’s the thing, it’s not just comedy. This story repeats itself to women across all artistic fields and beyond. According to the Strategic National Arts Alumni project, the difference in men and women’s annual income across all arts jobs is $20,000. For a long time, art created by women was seen as less valuable, and the effects of that are still felt today. Luckily, we can help re-write that story by supporting our women artists – and here are a few great reasons for doing so:
Attending female performances helps lend value and importance to women-made art. It has the power to show others that this art is worthwhile.
It gives female artists more access to resources that could lead to more opportunities and success in their field.
When we celebrate female performers, we legitimize them and challenge the way we and others think about women in creative spaces.
We want more women to feel empowered to own their stage and express who they are. Supporting female artists is one way to help show the world the value of all things created by women, whether it’s a stand-up comedy set, a small business, or a community initiative.
Here’s a question: how is the gender pay gap still a thing? How are women still facing this in 2019? As much as we wish it wasn’t true, the pay gap is alive and well and that’s a hard pill to swallow – which makes it easy to ignore instead. It’s easy to think it doesn’t affect us much on our home soil, but according to U.S. census data analyzed by the American Association of University Women (AAUW), Minnesota women only make 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. That gap is even wider for women of color. When the AAUW analyzed the national statistics by race, they found African American women come in at 61 cents, Latina women at 53 cents, and American Indian women at 58 cents for every dollar a white man makes. As an organization that strives to elevate the powerful female voices of our community, this is an issue we can’t ignore.
In fact, we found ourselves face-to-face with the gender gap just a few months ago when we saw a big announcement about a new comedy tour promoting an entirely male line-up. We couldn’t help but wonder, “where are the women?” So, we gathered some of the most talented female comedians we know from around the Twin Cities and created our own event: The Pay Gap Comedy Tour.
You might be wondering, “what does the pay gap have to do with comedy?” The pay gap isn’t funny, but we choose to use laughter, positivity, and some bad-ass local comedians to take a stand against inequality. To us, it’s not just about money, the pay gap is a systemic reflection of gender disparity on many levels. It’s a measure of our access to opportunities, leadership roles, and success. These gaps become even more apparent in traditionally “male dominated fields” – like comedy. The numbers show that women don’t feel encouraged to step into the limelight; and in some cases, they might feel actively discouraged from doing so. We’re here to say, it’s ok to be LOUD, take up s p a c e, step into center stage and shine!
We are also taking this opportunity to support a few organizations dedicated to stopping violence against women. Portions of the proceeds from the evening will go to Breaking Free to fight sex trafficking in Minnesota, and Casa de Esperanza to help victims of domestic abuse.
Women’s History Month is winding to a close and we are spending this final week highlighting some of most powerful voices in our community. This past January, we had the pleasure to include the following list of incredible women’s organizations at our Rock What You Got event. These organizations are helping the women of Minnesota rock what they have through philanthropy, entrepreneurship, activism, and more!
Do something for yourself today and check out these amazing organizations. After all, whether it’s women’s history month or not, anytime is a good time to join an organization that focuses on supporting women. Click on any of the names below to learn more – and if there are any others we absolutely need to include in our September event, let us know in the comments!
The Ann Bancroft Foundation inspires and encourages girls to imagine something bigger. We strive to build confidence and offer tools that will allow a girl to go after her dreams and feel supported along the way. Through grants, mentorship, and ongoing development opportunities, the Ann Bancroft Foundation is giving Minnesota girls strength to achieve their full potential.
We are a Black Woman owned Minnesota Specific Public Benefit Corporation. We provide cultural wealth and financial education to foster skills, capacity, and needed social capital to build generational wealth among Historical Black Women.
GRW’s programming is tailored to realize a vision of a world in which women are guaranteed their human rights to equality and freedom from violence. It is vital that the implementation of VAWG laws is victim-centered and holds offenders accountable. GRW’s programming incorporates an understanding that multiple forms and systems of oppression affect women and girls ability to be free from violence.
Jeremiah Program offers one of the nation’s most successful strategies for transforming families from poverty to prosperity two generations at a time. Jeremiah prepares determined single mothers to excel in the workforce, readies their children to succeed in school, and reduces generational dependence on public assistance.
MAIA is a free searchable national guide to women-owned products and services for your home and business.
Think of her as your personal assistant helping you find a co-working space, a cup of coffee, a website development firm, a building company, a professional development association, plus thousands more! With equality as our baseline, every business listed in the directory is at least 50% women-owned.
The National Association of Women Business Owners – Minnesota Chapter (NAWBO-MN) provides a local avenue for women entrepreneurs to connect with their peers. Women business owners, large and small, join together for regular networking, educational programs, mentorship and support. Nationally, NAWBO was founded in 1975 to open doors for women entrepreneurs by transforming public policy and leveling the playing field. Representing the issues and concerns of women-owned businesses at the national, state and local levels, NAWBO is in the forefront of advocating on behalf of women business owners and the issues that impact their companies.
She Rock She Rock (SR2) is a Minnesota nonprofit dedicated to empowering girls, women, trans and nonbinary folks through the art of music. We provide an inclusive environment that values collaboration and diversity, develops leadership skills and fosters self-confidence. Through our music education programs and events, we believe that creative expression can evoke social change, challenge gender stereotypes and encourage support within, to positively impact individuals and the community.
We have a clear sense of purpose, values, and integrity of our organization. We are a Team. We value relationships, community, life-long learning, mentoring and an atmosphere of shared empowerment. We support all women who work or live in Minnesota, providing opportunities both personally and professionally. We believe in leadership development, from entry level up to the C-suite. We give back to the community and inspire others to do the same.
The WBDC-MN provides WBE Certification to majority-owned women’s businesses in Minnesota, Western Wisconsin, South Dakota and North Dakota. The WBE Certification is national in scope and issued by the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). It is accepted by over a thousand major corporations and public agencies in the country. In addition, the WBDC-MN offers training, mentoring, networking and business development opportunities to WBEs.
Women in Networking (WIN) is a Twin Cities based organization in which women in business encourage one another’s professional growth and business success. Our members are a mix of female entrepreneurs, business owners and key players in business to business services.
The WIN experience is designed to be motivating and rewarding for women who value and actively practice the principles and process of networking and lifting up other women in business.
Women’s History Month might be coming to an end, but we wouldn’t dream of finishing out the month without mentioning one of Minnesota’s brightest and most tragic stars, Judy Garland. Born in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Judy started entertaining at the age of 2, traveling across America with her mother, performing in nightclubs, cabarets, hotels and theaters. She went on to attain international stardom during Hollywood’s Golden Era. Over her 45-year career she received many awards including a juvenile Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and she was the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for her live recording of Judy at Carnegie Hall.
Despite her far-reaching success, Garland led a troubled life. At 13 years old, she was signed to MGM where she soon began working on her role as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz (1939). Film executives constantly criticized her physical appearance which led Garland to struggle with her self-image and mental health. They fed her numerous pills, such as amphetamines, to achieve the desired streamlined figure and combat her exhaustion on set. The constant flow of narcotics soon led to a downward spiral that resulted in Garland’s life-long addiction to drugs and alcohol – a habit which ultimately led to her death at age 47 from a barbiturate overdose.
Although Garland battled with severe addiction and mental health issues, she nevertheless continued on to receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in A Star Is Born (1954); at age 39, Garland became the youngest and first female recipient of the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement in the film industry; And the American Film Institute placed her among the 10 greatest female stars of classic American cinema.
In addition to her professional accomplishments, Garland led a lavish love life. She was married five times and had several celebrity lovers including Mario Lanza, Yul Brynner, Frank Sinatra, Joseph L. Mankiewicz and Orson Welles. In pop culture, Garland became a gay icon due to her role in The Wizard of Oz and her numerous personal struggles that seemed to mirror those of gay Americans at the time. Her search for strength, authenticity, and acceptance in her self-identity continues to resonate with and inspire people everywhere.
In 2013, our CEO and owner, Buffie Blesi, attended the inaugural Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame induction ceremony. During the event, she was struck by how many successful companies in the Twin Cities are run by women and how few of those women are recognized for their accomplishments. Finally, an organization like the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame was creating an avenue for these powerful female voices in business to recognize, celebrate, and love themselves.
For this week of Women’s History Month, we want to highlight a couple of those powerful voices that most profoundly impacted Buffie when she heard their story at that first induction ceremony just five years ago: Mother-daughter team, Ebba Hoffman and Sharon Avent.
Ebba Hoffman grew up in a time before women had the right to vote. By 1944, she had married, and was firmly entrenched in her role as a housewife with no dealings in her husband’s Hastings-based business, Smead. When her husband died suddenly in 1955, the newly widowed homemaker, with two young children and an eighth-grade education, found herself at the helm of his debt-burdened office products company.
Over the next 43 years, Ebba steered the Smead Manufacturing Company out of a crippling financial situation, through the era’s gender biases, past competitors, and into a position as one of Minnesota’s greatest, and quietest, success stories. Under her savvy leadership, Smead grew from roughly $4 million to over $300 million in sales. When she passed the business on to her daughter, Sharon Avent. The company had gained a nationwide reputation as an office-products powerhouse.
With her many ongoing innovations, Sharon continued to expand upon her mother’s work. Today, she is the sole owner of this 100-plus year-old company that continues to be identified as one of the largest woman-owned manufacturers in the United States with more than 2,000 filing and organizing products sold in the U.S. and Canada by large retailers such as Office Depot, Staples, Office Max and Amazon.
It’s Women’s History Month and of course we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to highlight this powerful singing trio that became one of the best-selling musical groups to ever emerge from Minnesota! Nicknamed “The Queens of the Jukebox Machines” for their many hit records, the Andrews Sisters were an American close harmony singing group of the swing and boogie-woogie eras. The group consisted of three sisters from Minneapolis: Patty, Maxene and LaVerne. Known for their precise harmonies and perfectly syncopated dance moves, the girls reached heights of worldwide fame and set staggering sales records. Their musical influence continues to inspire modern musicians, such as Christina Aguilera and Bette Midler.
Among their many achievements, The Andrews Sisters were the first female group to achieve a Gold Record award and became one of the best-selling female vocal groups of all time with somewhere between 75 and 100 million records sold. Of their billboard top 100 hit songs, they are most known for “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” and “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree.” They were even among the inaugural inductees to the Vocal Group Hall of Fame upon its opening in 1998.
Andrews Sisters Fun Facts:
During World War II, the sisters Entertained extensively with frequent concert appearances at military bases in America, Italy and Africa, visiting Army, Navy, Marine and Coast Guard bases, war zones, hospital and munitions factories.
They appeared in more films than any other singing group in show business history.
They recorded 47 songs with Bing Crosby, 23 of which charted on Billboard, including three million-selling platters, “Don’t Fence Me In”/”The Three Caballeros,” “South America, Take It Away”/”Get Your Kicks on Route 66-!” and “Jingle Bells”/”Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”
March is Women’s History Month! We plan to celebrate this month by doing what we do best: highlighting some of Minnesota’s most powerful female voices in music, business, theater and community. Next week, we’ll kick off the month with a look at some of the most influential female musicians in our state’s history. The following week, we’ll dive into the world of Minnesota business, after that comes theater, and last but not least, community.
So come along for the ride as we find inspiration in the past, present, and future of Minnesota Women’s History. While our Minnesota cities might seem small, there’s no doubt that our Minnesota women have made big contributions to the world.
Stay tuned for stories of talented women who Rock What They Got! And we would love to hear from you too, so don’t forget to take some time this month and share about the historical female figures who inspire you the most.
Behind every great idea, there’s a passionate individual. As we enter the final week of preparations for Rock What You Got, we wanted to get a little personal, to pull back the curtain behind our very own “Wizard”. Today, we want to introduce you to the woman who has the courage, heart and brains to take on this monumental event.
The lineup of unique experiences and interactive opportunities explains it all. It takes a village to put together this one-of-a-kind event, but leading that village is one innovative champion for women in Minnesota. Her name is Buffie Blesi, and her title is CIO (chief inspiration officer).
“Buying this event and attempting to completely change it, along with the minds of those who have strong opinions about it, has been both rewarding and frustrating,” says Blesi. “But I am truly grateful to all of the amazing and powerful women who trusted me and agreed to be a part of this crazy mission.”
That mission? To be a guide and catalyst to help every woman fulfill their dreams and potential. Whether it’s small business, a professional career, or family life, Blesi has been and continues to be a fierce advocate for women. That is why she is determined to revolutionize this expo— to provide women with experiences, relationships and introduce us to the community we deserve. Celebrating ourselves and lifting each other up with the goal of transforming this event into a festival of women rocking what they’ve got without ever apologizing for it.
Perhaps you’ve felt guilty for the decisions you’ve made in life. Perhaps you’ve found yourself saying “sorry” for your success or your drive to achieve. Perhaps you’re looking for more substance and meaningful connections in life. If you are a woman, you can likely relate to Buffie Blesi on her journey. And thanks to her vision, you can take comfort in knowing you’re not alone.
The holiday season is over and we’re all working to get back into the swing of a routine. It’s a new year, filled with fresh perspective and redefined goals. We should be filled with excitement and a renewed sense of purpose. Instead many of us are exhausted from the holiday gatherings, lack of vitamin D, and the constant struggle to stay relevant in a time when we must fight to show our true selves.
Acclaimed musician, Chastity Brown, knows all about the struggle to stand by her true identity in the face of adversity. Raised in Tennessee, Chastity made a drastic change when she chose Minnesota as her new home base. It’s a transition that has come with a specific set of challenges and a finite focus on self-love throughout it all. Her powerful force is exactly why our team at Rock What You Got (RWYG) presented by Twin Cities Women’s Expo selected her to headline our first concert series.
Her newest single, Mad Love was inspired by a confrontation Chastity had with a white supremacist in western Wisconsin. The songs powerful lyrics convey a message of resilient authenticity in the midst of an ever-changing societal climate.
“Wouldn’t be so hard/if I got my way/I’d get far from these crowds/though they scream and shout and hate/like they’re/like they’re angry with themselves/cause we/we got/all the mad love/that they want.”
Chastity stands by her values to choose love in the face of hate. This powerful anthem of acceptance encourages us to abandon our fear, hold tight to our light, and join her in casting positivity into the world.
It won’t come as a surprise that we jumped at the chance to bring this message of hope and love to RWYG LIVE! presented by City Pages on Friday, Jan. 25 at the Earle Brown Heritage Center. Chastity Brown will headline an incredible lineup of women performers as we celebrate our authentic selves and one another, just as we are today! Tickets to the show include a 2-Day Pass to all RWYG experiences.
Put yourself on the path to acceptance by participating in our various performances, guest speakers and interactive experiences. Join us on January 25 and 26. And check back here over the next several weeks as we invite you to Rock What You Got!