Ashley Longshore, 42
Artist and Entrepreneur
Ashley Longshore is as unapologetic as they come. Known for her raw artistic talent and a penchant for the ridiculous, this fearless innovator has built a name for herself on social media and in the art world. “We can be our own worst enemy,” says Longshore, who counts amongst her client base (and close friends) the likes of Salma Hayek and Blake Lively. “You have to have self love and be your own best friend when you are in business because it’s hard man, it’s hard out there.” The painter’s greatest achievement has been to inspire other people to to be brave enough to be creative and to put themselves out there.
1. What made you choose this career path? What has been your greatest achievement?
I feel like you don’t necessarily choose a career path. A career path chooses you if you allow yourself to have plenty of experiences when you are younger. That is why education is so important. Maybe I wouldn’t have known that I was a great oceanographer if I didn’t take oceanography. Maybe I wouldn’t have known that I was a good astronome. I had such a great liberal arts education and I always learned so much. I was always so expressive that fortunately one day I found myself painting and I realized I had found exactly what I wanted to do in my life. My greatest achievement thus far has been to inspire other people to be brave enough to be creative and to put themselves out there. No matter what stage we are in success, it’s really so important to have people that you look up to inspire you. And as much as I try to give myself a pep talk every day, I’m really hoping that I have put that energy out in the world and I have given people the ability to know that they can really accomplish anything.
2. What’s the biggest criticism/stereotype/judgement you’ve faced in your career?
Uh yes. I was told that I couldn’t do things because I was a girl or a southern girl or my daddy wasn’t as wealthy as a Rockefeller. I think we have to acknowledge the fact that these aren’t always things that people are saying, these are also things we are telling ourselves. We can be our own worst enemy.
This is why I preach so much that you really must have lots of self love and be your own best friend when you are in business because it’s hard man, it’s hard out there.
"My greatest achievement thus far has been to inspire other people to be brave enough to be creative and to put themselves out there."
3. What was the hardest part of overcoming this negativity? Do you have an anecdote you can share?
I mean, the biggest limitation has been the structure of the art industry. I mean, me as an artist I always thought it was so ridiculous to work with galleries, to give off 50 percent of your sale. The business model just seems so antiquated. But also being a woman in the art world has been a limitation.
I constantly feel like a woman’s take on life isn’t valued as much as a man’s take. I don’t know if it’s because women are naturally more expressive and more analytical so when a man is able to do that, it is worth more. That’s been a really hard thing being a woman in the art industry. Will I be as successful as Jeff Koons? Will I be able to have a multi-million dollar company and have the capital to create any of my wildest imaginations, which I think is any artist’s dream? I think as you become more successful, you realize that you are just a human on this planet.
It’s not about male or female. It’s about being a person with a vision and putting yourself out there. And again, that constant pep talk of put down the grilled cheese sandwich. Girl you are a bad ass, you have everything you need. I love me some me kind of situation.
4. How did you #SWAAYthenarrative? What was the reaction by those who told you you “couldn’t” do it?
First of all, everybody says you can’t do it. People always talk about why things are so hard or so difficult. But really, for me in my own life, it’s not why you can’t do it, it’s why you can do it. Something else that can really fuel your fire is being broke and not being able to support yourself. The hotter the fire, the stronger the steel. If somebody would have written me a check, or if I had married some rich guy that was like “oh go open a gallery,” well that’s fun and great, but not the same as making it for yourself. When this is your future, past, and present, there is a real sense of urgency to make sure that you are kind to yourself while working as hard as you possibly can. The same goes for mean girls who said I would never amount to anything. It’s funny when they say living well is the best revenge. Not that anything is really about revenge, but it is absolutely sweet when you start to have success and you are grateful and have a lot of self-love. It is incredible.
5. What’s your number one piece of advice to women discouraged by preconceived notions and society’s limitations?
Well first of all, you can’t think about preconceived notions and society’s limitations. You have to understand that if you are going to be an entrepreneur and be successful, you really have to be your own universe. You have to be your own entity. You have to absolutely believe in yourself. You have to believe in the endless possibilities of being successful, of knowing that you can do it. You have to be a racehorse with blinders on. You have got to mind your own business, keep your nose to the grindstone and hustle hard than you have ever imagined. And that’s really how you do it.
"You have to understand that if you are going to be an entrepreneur and be successful, you really have to be your own universe. You have to be your own entity."
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.