February 25, 2020
Dr. Sarah Saska
Five years ago today, while balancing a Ph.D. and a fellowship at MaRS Discovery District, I sat at my laptop and nervously followed the instructions to register a corporation. I’ve always been fortunate to have an extensive support system around me. However, few understood the vision, and even fewer understood the name.
People often stumble when pronouncing ‘Feminuity.’ They start strong with “fem...” and then trail off. We even redesigned the logo with the hope that we might better guide people through the pronunciation.
Sometimes our name is confused with the term “femininity” or with the former half of the conjunction, “feminism.”
“People will think you just do ‘women’ stuff.”
“It’s really feminist-y, you know?”
“You’re a startup. You might scare prospective clients away!”
I’ve heard it all. I was advised many times to change the name. I considered succumbing more times than I can count.
I’ve come to realize, however, that this is simply part of the work. People assume that we solely support women or feminine-presenting people, or that our work is women-first or gender-centric. People hear the word “diversity” and translate it to mean “women.” Breaking down these assumptions is part of our work.
Our company name, Feminuity, is a combination of “feminism” and “ingenuity.” For us, feminism is an equity-based movement that—when done well—works to benefit everyone. An equity-based movement recognizes that advantages and barriers exist relating to multiple identities such as race, gender, sexuality, or socioeconomic status. As a result, different people have different needs which require tailored support. ‘Ingenuity’ is defined as the quality of being clever or inventive. Together, the words express our approach to this work.
For us, ‘feminism’ is an equity-based movement that—when done well—works to benefit everyone.
Over the last five years, we have worked with companies of all sizes, from startups to Fortune 500s. Most are in the technology and innovation sector, working on artificial intelligence and data-driven technologies shaping our lives now, and well into the future. Some of the companies leading these forces are outpacing law and policy, and have more wealth and power than entire countries.
We believe that we’re at a critical moment where we can either exacerbate existing inequality, or we can make things better. We know that the people inside companies are hurting, and in some cases, the products and offerings that companies share with the world hurt people, too. For us, innovation that hurts people or the planet is neither radical nor revolutionary.
We know that the people inside companies are hurting, and in some cases, the products and offerings that companies share with the world hurt people, too.
We conduct our work with the belief that an organization is only as good as its humans. Diverse teams foster innovation, creativity, and empathy in ways that homogenous teams seldom do. By combining inventive thinking with an equity-based framework, we have helped companies make their products, methods, and services more equitable and inclusive and make things better for more people within the company itself. This leads to workplaces that allow people to feel like they belong - where they are respected, secure, and happy.
Suffice it to say, we believe names tell a significant story of who we are, and sometimes even what we support or represent. In our case, when you mispronounce and misunderstand our company name, you miss out. It’s the combination of the two words for us that can help us build a future of technology and innovation that brings everyone forward. Practice it, learn it; we’re keeping our name. :)