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Women-owned businesses of Logan Square grow amidst sexism

After Kristi Wood opened Logan Square Pilates & Core with two women partners in January, there were times when they were disrespected by men who didn’t take them seriously.

“There was one Chicago business that came in and did a quote, and he basically thought, because we were female, we were completely incompetent of understanding what needed to happen,” she said.

Logan Square is the home of many up and coming businesses, many of which are owned by women. The number of women business-owners in the U.S. has grown 114 percent over the last 20 years, and “at least 51 percent are owned, operated and controlled by one or more females,” according to a report filed in 2017 by American Express. Regardless of this reality, it is common for women like Wood ― as well as those beyond the Logan Square area ― to face issues related to gender-inequality. Wood is one of many women in Chicago who have experienced this sexism as a business owner.

Wood opened Logan Square Pilates & Core alongside partners Chelsea Katz and Aileen May. Wood is a co-founder, co-owner and also manages the studio, the instructors and the clients. 

In the few months the business has been open, Wood said she has experienced both positive and negative interactions as a business-owner. But overall, she finds that being in the studio creates a sense of peace for her otherwise chaotic life.

Wood explained that her experience apart from that negative interaction with the Chicago business (which she chooses not to name), described earlier in this story, has overall been welcoming.

“That [situation] was our only ‘oh yeah, I see,’” she said. “Other than that, this neighborhood is fantastic. I think we’ve gotten a lot of support from all genders for being women and making this happen.”

She also added that she and her business-partners are “die-hard Logan Square residents,” and each of them live in walking distance of the studio.

“We chose our neighborhood, because we love our neighborhood,” Wood said.

Dawn Harris, associate professor at Loyola University’s Quinlan School of Business-Management, said the negativity toward women in the business world is mainly due to an “unconscious bias” that people have. She explained the lack of organizations promoting women is also a common ― if not the greatest ― factor.

In order to keep women progressing in the business world, women with advanced positions in a company are those who will keep promoting more women, Harris said.

“The CEOs, the top executives promote women, so they create a culture that is very receptive to women and moving women up within companies and firms,” she said.

Shayna Norwood, owner and creative director of the Logan Square location of Steel Petal Press gift shop said she has dealt with many issues since the opening of her retail store in 2016, and since opening the online and wholesale stationery business in 2008. She added that with every season comes a new set of issues. 

Regardless of some issues, Norwood said being a business-owner for a company in the stationery industry means that most of the community around her is made up of women.

“I feel like [sexism] hasn’t been an issue at all,” she said. “It has been a very supportive community.”

Alexandra Wright is opening her first bar this summer, called X Bar, alongside her business-partners, and has experienced sexism as a female business-owner.

Wright said when she transitioned into the role of project manager for the construction of the bar that her job often revolves around dealing with cisgender, white males in the male-dominated industry of construction ― cisgender, meaning their gender identity matches their anatomical gender at birth.

“This idea [was presented] that, because I am woman, I don’t know what I am speaking about,” she said.

Because of the disrespect, Wright said she feels she needs to prove herself every day she goes to work.

“In so many industries, women have to work so much harder to prove themselves,” Wright said. “To prove that they are an equal ― or if not a better fit for something going on ― [because] it is very much so a male-driven and male-run industry.”

Still, Wright has experienced a lot of good in starting a business in Logan Square. She explained that she is fortunate to be a part of the growth that is slowly happening in west Logan Square ― where the bar will be replacing a Mexican night club ― as opposed to the more “saturated” areas, but it is still crucial to be mindful of the history there, she said.

“We’re trying to hold onto some of those roots,” Wright said. “There’s a lot of sensitivity behind gentrification, but there can be a lot of thought put behind it [so that] the impact can be positive.”

Wright added that being around other local business-owners has given her opportunities to be a part of community-based events that shed light on the talents and strengths of everyone in the community of Logan Square.

“Now I feel like there’s this community that I’m surrounded by that’s really inspiring and educated, and that’s cool,” she said.

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