Cape Cod is known as a premier East Coast summer vacation destination, and it is packed with people from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
But, the Cape is much more than just beaches, ice cream stands and tourist attractions.
In fact, the coastal region has grown to be quite sophisticated—politically, socially and economically. More and more people live here year-round and pursue a variety of careers and lifestyles.
Women are an integral part of this evolution, from the boardroom on down.
A couple of the big banks — Cape Cod Five and the Cooperative Bank of Cape Cod — and Cape Air are run by women. Dozens of nonprofits have a woman at the helm — from a majority of the local chambers of commerce to Heritage Museums and Gardens. Highly educated professionals include doctors, lawyers, school administrators and scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Many small businesses are literally mom-and-pop shops, where husband and wife call the shots together, notably Beth and Todd Marcus at Cape Cod Beer or Joan and Jeff Talmadge of weneedavacation.com.
Women are prominent in the Cape’s workforce, even in industries that might not have been female-friendly in years past. Just look at women in the construction and restaurant businesses.
So, why does the Cape have so much gender diversity?
Due in part to its relative insularity, Cape Cod boasts a number of family owned small businesses. While these might have been founded by men, the family has passed on major management responsibilities to daughters, nieces, daughters-in-law, even granddaughters. Hy-Line Cruises’ Scudder family and the Catania’s of the Catania Hospitality Group (owners of the Cape Codder Resort and Daniel Webster Inn) are good examples.
This particular phenomenon has provided opportunity for women over the years to climb into higher-profile positions without as much risk, and they return the favor often, mentoring women in the generations coming up behind them.
The gig economy has allowed many women to better manage work-life balance. Men and women are more likely to work flex hours or from home to take care of children or elderly parents. Take Karen Moorman, an independent consultant for skin care giant Rodan + Fields, who lives in Sagamore Beach. She left corporate America six years ago to pursue sales and has been able to spend more time with her children as a result.
Some women on the Cape see success because at an age when their suburban counterparts might have taken time off to raise a family, these women were back at work after maternity leave.
“Sometimes it is simply a case where women need to work,” explains Wendy Northcross, president and CEO of the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce. Housing and living costs on the Cape are relatively high, and because good-paying jobs are limited, a higher percentage of two-income households exist among younger people.
Then there are those natives who return to Cape Cod.
After earning her masters in environmental studies, Amanda Converse returned home and worked at the Hyannis Main Street Business Improvement District, where she developed its Shop Local initiatives. When the time was right, she founded her own eco-friendly clothing boutique. She recently closed it after nine years in business, but currently is publisher of two print publications covering wellness and fashion, and she is founder of Live Love Local, a craftsperson collective and festival organizer.
“For people here on the Cape, it is a very intentional decision to be here,” says Converse. “So, women and men are likely to be more invested in their communities.”
Converse also points to the generosity of women, and the enlightened men who support them. “I have never been put down in a business situation for being a woman,” she says. “I have always been treated as an equal.”
Converse is worried, however, that the health of the retail sector will have an effect on women, who are disproportionately represented in that field.
Like Moorman, who is a member of the Falmouth chapter of Business Network International, and Converse, who relishes the support she receives from the Cape Cod Women’s Association, Alison Caron, owner of Alison Caron Design, has made connections at the Hyannis Rotary.
“Like many seasonal vacation destinations, Cape Cod experiences an ebb and flow when it comes to its economy. So, women find it natural to band together,” she says. “Everyone knows and supports each other in the offseason, and that bond stays true throughout the whole year.”