“We can’t wait to see you rock this world, girl.”
“We’re not your average cheerleading squad… this is your squad for life, girl.”
These are the kinds of messages you receive in your inbox when you sign up for emails from Heidi Ganahl’s “SheFactor,” a lifestyle brand geared toward millennial and Gen Z women who are “craving community, growth, and purpose,” according to its website.
Visit the website and you’re prompted to take a quiz to find out if you’re a dreamer, a queen, a guardian, a conqueror, a director, an explorer, or a storyteller.
“Finding your unique magic & following your inner compass are the secrets to creating a life you love, which is why we created the Silhouette Quiz for all the women embarking on their own personal Journey to She!” states the website.
“The movement is made up of tools and resources that will meet you where you are in life, where YOU define the rules and create your own destiny.”
The so-called “movement” includes a book written by Ganahl, a podcast hosted by Ganahl’s daughter Tori, a blog, an app, and occasional in-person and online events.
It’s one of the business ventures that the Republican gubernatorial hopeful and University of Colorado Regent At-Large has touted on the campaign trail as she points to her entrepreneurial success as evidence that she’d excel if voters choose her for the state’s top executive spot. As the only Republican elected to a statewide political office in Colorado following a blue wave in the state that’s spanned multiple election cycles, Ganahl is the Republican Party’s best hope in the 2022 governor’s race.
Ganahl talks often of wanting others, particularly young people and women, to have the same economic success she’s had. Her purported desire to “pay it forward,” guide people toward success, and make them masters of their own lives is mission-critical to everything Ganahl does, or at least what she claims to be striving for. But as a key Republican political figure in Colorado, Ganahl’s advocacy for female empowerment is at best confined by conservative thought, and at worst appears to be a thinly veiled attempt at promoting a conservative worldview.
There is perhaps no better example of this than the juxtaposition of the SheFactor brand and Ganahl’s refusal to talk about issues that profoundly impact women’s lives and their ability to succeed.
“Heidi and Tori built SheFactor together to inspire women to become confident, successful leaders of their lives and create the life they love – their Journey to She,” the website reads. “They know the struggles young women are up against, because they’ve been there, too.”
This brand of glittery “girl power” feminism is ubiquitous across the political spectrum and in the corporate world these days. It’s the definition of lip service, and a shield behind which politicians and businesspeople hide to escape scrutiny from the growing movement of people who are demanding more for women, whether it’s equal pay, better workplace sexual harassment policies, or access to affordable, safe, and legal abortion.
When Ganahl talks about giving people the opportunity to succeed, much of the conversation revolves around the usual conservative talking points: deregulation, taxes, crime. The conversation stops short, however, of discussing policies that are proven to improve financial security for women and help them succeed in the workforce, such as paid family leave, affordable child care, and, of course, access to reproductive care.
Ganahl has been mum on whether she supports giving women the tools they actually need to define their own destiny, to borrow a SheFactor phrase.
Ganahl’s recent refusal to answer questions about abortion rights, including her claim of not having seen the recent abortion ban enacted in Texas, makes the SheFactor brand feel all the more perverse.
Texas Senate Bill 8 has famously banned the vast majority of abortions in Texas for nearly three months now. It has forced pregnant people to cross state lines for care and subjected abortion providers and anyone who helps someone get an abortion in Texas to a draconian enforcement mechanism that allows anyone from anywhere to reap a $10,000 reward for successful lawsuits against them. It’s at the center of two U.S. Supreme Court cases that are pending a decision. The court is scheduled to hear yet another case that threatens to do away with abortion rights on Wednesday.
But Ganahl has been playing dumb, telling Axios Denver’s John Frank that she hadn’t seen the Texas law and refusing to say whether she supports a ban on abortion in Colorado. She’s described herself as “pro-life” a couple of times, but has ignored multiple requests for comment from the Colorado Times Recorder seeking details on her anti-abortion stance, including for this story.
She’s also ignored questions seeking more information about what she plans to do to make childcare more affordable — something she’s pledged to do on her campaign website.
“I will roll up my sleeves and do all I can to prioritize making it easier to work, live, and raise a family in Colorado,” Ganahl says on her website. “Childcare is a huge expense for working families.”
Indeed, it is. In fact, child care costs in Colorado are some of the highest in the country. Minimum wage workers in Colorado would have to spend a full two-thirds of their salary to afford child care expenses for a single child. It’s one of many factors that keep women out of the workforce in Colorado and prevent the state from bouncing back economically in the late stages of the pandemic.
“Women, especially moms, know they can’t stand on the sidelines anymore, we need to raise our hand and be the change we want to see in society, in government,” wrote Ganahl in a May column for the Greeley Tribune titled “More Than Ever, We Need to Celebrate Our Mothers.” The column noted the mass exodus of women from the workforce during COVID-19 and Colorado’s sky-high child care costs.
Democrats in Congress are looking to address the child care crisis in the Build Back Better bill by creating a child care and early learning entitlement program. Ganahl did not respond to an email asking if she supported this provision, or if she had a different plan to address the crisis in Colorado.
Paid family leave is another popular Colorado policy that helps women succeed that Ganahl won’t say whether she supports. The available evidence points to opposition. In multiple columns for the Colorado Springs Gazette, Ganahl has derided the “onerous regulations” that, according to her, cost Colorado families money, citing a $1.8 billion figure that is mostly comprised of a paid family leave program that was overwhelmingly approved by Colorado voters.
Again, Ganahl has ignored requests for comment on the matter.
In contrast, in the SheFactor book, Ganahl details her political journey and offers this guidance for young women to become more politically active:
“Try asking yourself some of these questions the next time you feel challenged about an issue to help get past partisan thinking and into reality. Why do they believe what they do? What solution do they think is best and why? Where can you find common ground, even in the smallest way?”
“As an example, if you care about gender equality, research all of the perspectives and solutions, beyond the sound bites and op-eds,” she continues in the chapter entitled “Freedom.”
Ganahl has in fact admitted that there’s a political purpose behind SheFactor, saying at a 2019 luncheon that although it isn’t an “overtly political” organization, she wants to promote conservative ideas.
“It’s also a way for us to give young women a different message than they hear in the media, in entertainment, and in education. You better bet we are talking about free markets, free speech, individual rights, personal responsibility, all those things that we’re so passionate about,” said Ganahl. “We’re just not doing it as an overt political organization. But we’re making sure that happens and that those conversations are happening.”
SheFactor feels emblematic of an empty brand of feminism in which women can overcome the hardships in their lives and have it all, if only they can just be fierce. Like Ganahl’s campaign itself, it’s devoid of anything substantial that helps women live their lives.