women business owners

Sponsored by Sage


By Rieva Lesonsky

Today is International Women’s Day (IWD), a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural, and political achievement of women. The theme of this year’s event is gender parity. And while women have certainly made a lot of progress since the first IWD in 1908, the momentum has slowed lately.

In 2014, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicted it would take until 2095 to achieve global gender parity. Then, only one year later, the WEF estimated the “already glacial pace of progress” meant the gender gap wouldn’t close entirely until 2133.

The IWD website says IWD is “not only for raising awareness and seeking help—it’s about sharing insights, knowledge, and advice. Women helping women.”

One of the best ways for women to help other women is through mentorship, which plays an integral role in furthering the careers of women, particularly in the U.S. and for entrepreneurs. In fact, a recent study by Sage revealed women are more likely to launch startups than men. The survey also found that entrepreneurs with mentors have a higher success rate than those who don’t.

Jennifer Warawa, global vice president of product marketing at Sage, is a champion of women in business and a strong advocate of mentoring.

Warawa practices what she preaches—both with her own employees as well as with young professionals about to enter the work place. She says, “The power of mentoring is something I believe in. I love talking with recent grads and people starting out in their careers and often advise them to begin with their end goal in mind. I encourage them to think about the kind of role, responsibilities, and experiences they need to achieve that goal and then choose the path that’s going to help get you there. Don’t settle. Go after what you want.”

Warawa encourages other women to be mentors. She advises them to, “have a conversation [with the mentee] to understand what the individual aspires to be. Jot down several goals and have them pick the one that makes the most sense to be their main focus. Figure out what steps are necessary to accomplish this goal and encourage them to start taking action on those steps immediately.”

Being a mentor is about investing in the future. Warawa says, “Teaching future entrepreneurs to seek out opportunities and take action on them will directly contribute to their level of future success. Encourage young people to point out small problems or setbacks in their lives or at work and brainstorm solutions on how to resolve their troubles. This will teach them to focus on creating positive solutions, instead of focusing on the problem itself.”

But mentorship isn’t just something you do on a professional basis. True mentors will carry that spirit into their personal lives. For instance Warawa and her husband are foster parents. She also volunteers with Family Promise, an organization committed to helping homeless and low-income families achieve sustainable independence through a community-based response. And she encourages parents to teach their kids about entrepreneurship. “Have them sell something (think lemonade stand),” she says, “they can price the items themselves, practice convincing people to purchase, and handle transactions. This is also a good lesson in customer service.”

Mentorship, explains Warawa, is about fulfilling our “responsibility to support the next generation of business owners.” Ask yourself, she continues, “What are you doing to build confidence and entrepreneurial spirit in tomorrow’s leaders?”

Check out these helpful resources for women business owners.