Work, Wellness, and the Future of Having our Freedom

LaKay Cornell (she/her)
6 min readJan 11, 2021

How three human trafficking social enterprises created business models with enough moxie to free the world we are living in.

Photo by Kelsey Chance on Unsplash.

and when it was over
nothing defined us
other than the moments
that made us feel free
r.m. drake

One year ago, in January of 2020, I went to Sonoma to a World Changing Womxn Summit. There, in the beauty of wine-country, surrounded by womxn who were showing up, creating space, and keeping the faith, I felt the joy and optimism that is required to be a world-changing womxn. As I looked around every room I was in, I started to believe that if these were the womxn in charge of things, 2020 would be the year we finally saw the needle jump towards equality.

I flew back to Florida ready for the best year ever — for myself, for our country, and for womxn.

In Zora Neale Hurston’s novel, Their Eyes are Watching God, she writes, “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” 2020 was a year that gave us more answers to more things than we knew we had questions about.

Among the many things she made crystal clear for us is the truth that womxn are still getting the short end of the stick.

Only 8 weeks after I left Sonoma, Elizabeth Warren was booted out of the Presidential Race.

Days after that, Brianna Taylor was fatally shot, by police, in her home.

One 3 weeks later, and less than a month into quarantine, the UN released a report saying that COVID-19 would have a disproportionate effect on womxn’s lives, economically, than men’s. (UN)

Over the next 3 months, statistic after statistic proved that prediction.

In August, after President Biden announced Kamala Harris as his running mate, a Virginia Mayor wrote on his Facebook page that Biden had just chosen Aunt Jemima as his running mate. (US News)

In September, 1.1 million people left the workforce, and 80% of them were womxn. (Boston Globe)

Election polling data showed such a stark gender gap, with men overwhelmingly voting for Trump, that Jill Filipovic wrote, “Women are yearning for a future we’ve never seen. A large number of men, it seems, are harkening for a past that was never so great for women.” (CNN)

In December, 156,000 jobs were lost by womxn, while men gained 16,000 jobs. (CNN)

And it wasn’t just the action of men that were shining a light on the pervasive culture of misogyny. The summer months saw the dramatic exits of the founders of The Wing and Girl Boss, amidst allegations of hostile work environments.

As we stand here, now, on the precipice of 2021, and hope and pray that a new world is coming, there is one answer we must feel in the depths of our souls.

If we have any chance at reaching gender equality, we have to start doing everything differently.

To do this, we need new models, especially in business. Of all the leadership, leading through a crisis, conscious leadership, and future of work articles I read in the past year, not one discussed how pivoting to a more feminine and feminist view of work is the solution.

And yet, it is the only one that will give us a chance.

In her 2018 groundbreaking book, Proposals for the Feminine Economy, Jennifer Armbrust defines a feminine economy as one that equally values the stereotypically feminine traits of empathy, receptivity, nurturing, introspection, and gentleness. She detailed how shifting to this type of business model was necessary for equality and success.

In October of this year, she used the seemingly unexplainable and colossal defeat of Elizabeth Warren, and the rhetoric surrounding her, as more evidence that what we need is not simply more womxn in power, but to rethink what power looks like and how people in power operate entirely.

Women will never, ever, earn their way into full legitimacy within the patriarchy. Not with your brilliant brain, your beautiful body, your piles of plans, your superhero mom skills, or your patented work-life balance. You will never transcend the institutions of Capitalism, of patriarchy, of white supremacy with your individual merits. It will never be enough. And that’s the point. The patriarchy doesn’t want women to earn their way into its most powerful posts. Because a patriarchy run by women isn’t really a patriarchy any more, is it.

Until we feel in our bones that we cannot succeed as long as we are working with in the existing systems of oppression, we will not experience anything even closely resembling gender justice.

So how does one go about creating a more feminine business model? How do we rethink business and power and structures of work to that extent?

We look to the womxn who are already doing it, successfully.

Today, in honor of National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, I share the stories of three such womxn. Each of these womxn is running a social enterprise that was started to provide freedom to survivors of human trafficking.

And, as a result, they have created a model for freedom that is available to us all.

Together they give us these Universal Truths.

We can no longer separate work & wellness, we must have holistic businesses that give as much weight to the wellness of their ecosystem as they do the financials.

We must create workplaces that encourage people to flourish in all aspects of their lives.

We must use our work to bring benefit to, not just extract benefit from, all living things.

We must remember that no business acts in a vacuum and consider the long-term impact of every decision we make.

L → R: Sarah Symons of Her Future Coalition, Vanessa Bouché of Savhera, and Jennifer Moreau of World for Good.

One of the most astounding parts of their work is that they didn’t set out to create models for the rest of us; they set out to bring freedom to one of the most vulnerable and disenfranchised populations of womxn in our world. When I asked each of them what their greatest joy from for their work is, their answers focused on the girls and womxn they are helping.

And still, because they approach their work from a more feminine place — incorporating empathy, receptivity, nurturing, introspection, and gentleness into everything they do, they are proof that this type of holistic business works.

The people in their ecosystems are not just thriving — they are creating change of their own.

Because when humxns are heard, respected, and supported, in all areas of their lives, they want to give those same gifts to the people in their own communities. This is how we build a movement.

And this is what the future of work — and wellness — must look like. It is the only chance we have of freedom.

The Modern World needs Modern Activists.
Modern activists are thinkers, entrepreneurs, protestors, writers, readers, teachers, and innovators. We are putting everything we’ve got into creating solutions that live at the intersection of gender justice, racial justice, economic justice, and climate justice. We are radical, audacious humxns who lead and create with moxi and devotion.

We are inspired by rebellion and fueling a revolution.

LaKay Cornell is a writer and creator on a mission to change the world through changing the narratives. Modern Activists is a series in her newsletter. Learn more and subscribe here.

LaKay Cornell (she/her)

Southern. Queer. Feminist. SingleMom. Former cult-church royalty. Writer. Spoken Word Artist. Goal → incite a revolution; topple systems ≠ people; survive.