By using that headline I am in no way encouraging bad behavior. But the quote, by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, underscores that to succeed we women may have to find the work-around, to take the path less traveled, to march to the beat of our own drum. But we’re good at that.
Women’s History Month wraps up this week. To help entrepreneurial women start and scale their businesses, here are some stats, advice, programs, updates and more.
By Rieva Lesonsky
1—Women’s History Month
Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), the House Small Business Committee Chairwoman, issued this statement in honor of Women’s History Month: “Throughout America’s history, the entrepreneurial spirit and drive of women has propelled our innovation, enriched our communities and strengthened our economy. Each year, Women’s History Month is a chance to honor the contributions and sacrifices of extraordinary women, including entrepreneurs and small business owners.
“Today, our country is home to 12.3 million women-owned businesses with women owning 4 out of every 10 businesses. In just the last decade, women have made remarkable gains, with women-owned businesses having increased by 58% since 2007. A large part of this success has been driven by women of color who were responsible for founding 64% of women-owned new businesses in 2017. These numbers remind us of the sheer economic power that women bring to the table as entrepreneurs.
“At the same time, however, women continue to face unique challenges whether in securing affordable capital, entering the federal procurement marketplace, or receiving technical assistance. With many traditional models of financing such as venture capital overwhelmingly awarded to men, Congress must be active in ensuring women entrepreneurs can access the capital they need to succeed.”
2—Why Women Start Businesses
According to the Megaphone of Main Street: Women’s Entrepreneurship Report from SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, Women entrepreneurs decide when to start businesses based on market opportunity, family considerations and necessity. For more information, check out the infographic below.
Money & Financing News & Views
3—from Bank of America
Get advice. Find lots of great advice and videos in the spotlight on women entrepreneurs.
Power of the Sisterhood. Check out this inspiring profile and video of Dr. Julia Harper, founder of TheraPeeds.
Connecting Women to Loans. The Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, powered by Bank of America, aims to increase the number and grow the size of women-owned businesses in the U.S. by connecting women entrepreneurs to affordable loans. This year, Bank of America committed $100 million to the Tory Burch Foundation Capital Program, doubling its investment since the program’s inception in 2014. So far, more than 2,500 women entrepreneurs have received affordable loans across 17 states.
Women Business Owner Strategy—Dedicated to supporting female entrepreneurs and helping them grow
Bank of America continues to invest in three major areas to advance this cause: research and awareness, education and mentorship, and access to capital. They’ve developed unique research for women business owners—including the annual Women Business Owner Spotlight report.
Educational resources and mentorship opportunities tailored to women business owners is available through the Online Community, Better Money Habits, National Association of Women’s Business Owners (presenting sponsor), and the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship.
By the Numbers
- Bank of America serves 1.2 million women small business clients—41% of their total clients
- They have nearly $20 billion in outstanding loans to small businesses (Fair Lending rules prevent them from capturing sex or ethnicity of applicant)
- $2B+ spent with Bank of America women- and minority-owned business partners through their Supplier Diversity & Development program
The needs of women small business owners are immediate and specific. They want a financial provider who will work for them by delivering community engagement, networking, mentorship opportunities and access to capital. In an ongoing commitment to this segment, Mastercard unveiled a holistic solution suite that is tailor-made for the always-on small business owner that includes a partnership with Create & Cultivate, the launch of the Mastercard Women’s Business Advisory Council and an expanded partnership with Astia, a global organization that levels the investment playing field for entrepreneurial teams with women leaders.
“Research shows that when we remove the obstacles for women business owners, their impact on society, on communities and on economies is priceless,” says Cheryl Guerin EVP Marketing and Communications for Mastercard. “This is why we’re not just making a commitment to this segment; we’re taking action by providing the insights, solutions and resources they need to thrive as business owners.”
A Community Built for Her. Access to mentorship programs and supportive communities were top cited means of advancing female entrepreneurs Mastercard research found. Working with some of the most forward-thinking women and motivational entrepreneurs, Mastercard and Create & Cultivate are sparking a 365-day conversation to empower female small business owners through conferences, panel discussions, networking opportunities and one-on-one mentorship.
As a component of this, the newly formed Mastercard Women’s Business Advisory Council will leverage the dynamic perspectives and industry experience of its members to help ensure the solutions Mastercard brings to market continue to meet the evolving needs of this segment. We are pleased to share that the first members of the advisory council include Create & Cultivate CEO and founder Jaclyn Johnson, ClassPass founder Payal Kadakia, Blavity CEO and founder Morgan DeBaun, Astia managing director Victoria Pettibone and Unique Markets founder Sonja Rasula. There will be more inspiring women added to the council in the coming months.
Give Her Fund$. Access to capital is a top challenge cited by women small business owners. Mastercard is committed to doing its part to change this and its first step toward this is through an expansion of the company’s partnership with Astia, a trusted global ecosystem of engaged male and female investors and advisors, who offer crucial resources, capital, networks and expertise that contribute to the success of women leaders and their ventures.
In honor of International Women’s Day, Visa is launching a new global competition for female founders, hosting an event with Rebecca Minkoff in New York as part of its She’s Next, Empowered by Visa initiative, and together with Chase, sharing tips for women to get the access to capital they are often denied at a higher rate than men.
Global Challenge: Visa announced the first Visa Everywhere Initiative: Women’s Global Edition. The program invites female founders from around-the-world to tackle challenges solving problems in the Fintech and Social Impact space. Each challenge winner will be awarded $100,000 each—12 finalists will be chosen to compete at a finals event in Paris, timed to the kick-off of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 France (June 7-July 7), bringing together women at the top of their game in the world of soccer/football and entrepreneurship.
Visa believes the next big thing can come from anyone, in any part of the world and can reach scale faster than ever. The company will work closely with participants in each challenge to help them on their entrepreneurial journey, ensure the competition results in success for the them, as well as partners and customers that would eventually benefit from what is developed. More info in the press release here.
She’s Next, Empowered by Visa, Workshop for Female Founders in New York. Visa announced this news at Wide Awake: A Day For Female Founder’s Day co-hosted with Rebecca Minkoff’s Female Founder Collective. The event, part of She’s Next (Visa’s global platform for women to fund, run and grow their businesses), brought together hundreds of female founders to meet some of the most inspiring and successful women in business who have been through it all. Visa and Chase lead the charge on workshops around financing and funding.
Visa and Chase Offer Women Tips to Secure Funding. Visa’s new State of Female Entrepreneurship study found nearly three-quarters of women starting businesses reported difficulty in obtaining financing and more than 60% had to resort to self-funding. During a workshop at the Female Founder Day event, Visa and Chase offered women tips for getting the funding like ways to evaluate potential lenders and how to get your credit in order. More information can be found here.
6—from The Wisdom Fund
Women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. Yet less than 5% of small business lending—only $1 in $23—goes to women. CNote aims to fix this disparity with the Wisdom Fund, a new impact investment opportunity.
Created in partnership with mission-driven lender CDC Small Business Finance and four innovative nonprofits, the Wisdom Fund funnels money from accredited investors—institutions, funds, foundations, family offices and individuals—into business loans for low- to moderate-income women and women of color. The loans are provided by nonprofit community lenders with decades of experience delivering the capital and resources that women small business owners need.
Fixing a Social Injustice. “We hear a lot about the gap in venture capital funding for women, but the vast majority of women who need capital are not forming hyper-growth startups; they are starting small businesses to pursue economic freedom, flexibility and independence. The financial system is not serving them well, and we’re very much failing women of color in particular,” says Catherine Berman, CEO and cofounder of CNote, an impact investing platform whose mission is to close the wealth gap in the U.S.
“With the Wisdom Fund, we’re taking a major step toward fixing a huge injustice—women’s businesses receive far less funding than they deserve,” says Berman. “We’re working with an amazing group of nonprofit community lenders nationally to entirely rethink lending to women.” CNote is also already earning support from major corporations as well as nonprofits.
“Access to capital is one of the top challenges female small business owners face and we’re excited to see CNote working to combat this with the introduction of their Wisdom Fund collaboration,” says Amy Neale, vice president and startup engagement lead for Mastercard Start Path, which supports high-potential startups around the world, including CNote. “At Start Path, we look forward to helping CNote scale their business to ensure a more inclusive economy, because when you invest in women the returns are priceless.”
Collaboration Drives Scalability and Impact. “There’s lots of data on how women are shut out of venture capital. We don’t know as much about why women are shut out of debt capital,” says Allison Kelly, senior vice president of strategy and innovation at CDC Small Business Finance. “What are the product-level needs? Who are the business owners and what barriers are they experiencing? Why are women opting out of taking on debt? The whole financial system is set up to serve a certain segment of the population. Maybe we need to rethink the distribution of capital and how we assess risk. The Wisdom Fund is an opportunity to create new debt products by working collaboratively with the women we aim to serve.”
CDFIs are an under-the-radar impact powerhouse. Community development financial institutions (CDFIs) like the ones CNote is working with are perfectly positioned to take on this work. They’re distributed across the country, they have always invested in financially underserved communities, and they have enormous unrealized potential for financial and impact returns.
“We looked at the trends and realized that CDFIs are undercapitalized,” says Kelly. “The sources of capital were mismatched to CDFI needs—it was all big capital sources deploying larger chunks of capital to fewer and fewer CDFIs.”
That’s where CNote comes in. Since its September 2017 debut with a product for retail investors, the FinTech startup has invested more than $18 million in underserved communities through a growing CDFI network covering more than 35 states. Those investments have helped to create or maintain over 2,000 jobs and fund more than 400 small business loans.
7—FinTech to the Rescue
Guest post by Eden Amirav, CEO & cofounder, Lending Express, a FinTech company
Women have become powerhouses in the U.S. business world, owning more than 11.6 million businesses, generating $1.7 trillion in sales, and employing almost 9 million people.
But women still do not have equal footing to men, neither as business owners nor employees. Until as recently as 1988, a woman couldn’t get a business loan without bringing along a male relative to co-sign.
Even if the man wasn’t involved in the business.
Even if he wasn’t even a man yet (under 18-year-olds were accepted).
That’s how deep the gender bias ran.
Granted we’ve progressed from that, but gender discrimination still runs strong in the business world. Even though the majority of women surveyed in the 2018 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight believe that access to business capital has improved over the past decade, there’s still a major disparity between male and female entrepreneurs when it comes to receiving business funding.
Anyone who denies it hasn’t looked at the facts: Although women apply for business loans at similar rates to men, just 39% of women-owned businesses receive bank loans, compared to 52% of male-owned firms (according to a 2014 U.S. Senate report).
Taking it a step further, a woman’s average business loan size is $57,097 compared to that of a man, which is $103,604. All this puts women business owners at a significant financial disadvantage.
Why do women struggle to get business loans? Institutional gender bias: It may seem cliché—a male bank manager in a suit and tie rejecting a female business owner for a loan, without any good reason—but it does happen. A study by the Institute of Government & Public Affairs revealed gender alone can dramatically affect loan access and size, even after taking other eligibility factors into account.
Credit score: Banks and traditional lenders place heavy emphasis on personal credit score when assessing loan applications. This automatically puts women applicants at a disadvantage.
According to a recent Fundbox ‘What If’ report, the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion calculate a credit score based on a number of factors including the number and types of bank accounts held, the ratio of used-to-available credit, credit history length and debt repayment history. All these factors are influenced by one common denominator—income. Due to the persistent gender pay gap, women are thus at an automatic disadvantage. Furthermore, men tend to have higher credit limits to begin with, which also has a positive impact on their credit score.
What women want
Gender-blind financing: Based on results from the 2018 Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight, 42% of women entrepreneurs want gender-blind financing, believing this would have the largest impact on gender discrimination in access to business capital.
According to Sharon Miller, Head of Small Business at Bank of America, “Gender-blind financing means that the gender of an applicant seeking investment or financing is not known to the entity or person they are applying with.”
Mobile technology for financial transactions: The Women Business Owner Spotlight also shows women are ahead of men in the adoption of mobile and other digital technologies for growing their businesses, including for financial transactions. As many as 33% of women entrepreneurs are more likely to use mobile devices for financial transactions compared to 26% of men.
Drilling down to the details, 71% of these women entrepreneurs are more likely to process mobile payments from their customers, compared to just 65% of male business owners. This is an important fact for business lending, as acceptance of mobile payments can help increase a business’s cash flow and ultimately eligibility for funding.
FinTech to the rescue—Gender-blind financing: Nothing screams gender-blind more than an algorithm that doesn’t ask for gender. Financial technology companies that omit gender from their online loan applications level the playing field for all business owners, regardless of gender. Online lenders also place less importance on credit score, so even if women generally score lower than men, this will have less impact on their loan approval rate.
This gender-blind financing provided by fintech coupled with the fact that women are more likely than men to use mobile devices for financial transactions in their businesses, creates an environment in which fintech companies can remedy gender funding inequality once and for all.
Lending Express is rapidly growing with over 120,000 business members and an ecosystem of more than 50 leading lenders and fintech partners. The company has facilitated over $100 million in tailored business loans to date.
Stats & Surveys
8—Study of Female-Owned Businesses
The number of women-owned businesses applying for funding in 2018 increased 13%, although their funding amounts went down, according to an annual study of women-owned companies by Biz2Credit, a leading online credit marketplace.
The study, which included 30,000 companies nationwide in over 20 industries revealed the average loan amount for women-owned companies was $48,341 last year. The most common type of funding was working capital for business expansion. Additionally, the study found that while average annual revenues increased, credit scores for women business owners and the average age of women-owned companies applying for small business loans dipped.
“Small business owners were willing to take more risks in 2018 because the economy was very strong,” says Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora, who oversaw the research. “Women business owners who might have previously held off from borrowing money for expansion or capital improvements, increased last year. Record high optimism and the strong economic tailwinds of 2018 supported the growth of small businesses.”
The average credit scores for women-owned businesses dropped from 598 in 2017 to 588 in 2018 and trailed the scores of their male counterparts (613) by 25 points.
“When we take a macro look, women are increasingly becoming entrepreneurial and are applying for loans at earlier stages of their companies’ life cycles,” adds Arora, whose firm has arranged more than $2 billion in financing for small business owners in the past decade. “Their credit scores often are lower because of both the wage gap and the higher amounts of student loans that they are paying off.”
“There are some very practical actions that women can take to improve credit scores such as ensuring they are making payments on time, keeping credit utilization to 30% or less, and limiting the number of credit inquires, to name a few,” says Adrienne Garland of She Leads Media, an expert on women’s entrepreneurship.
- Volume of applications from women-owned businesses were 28.8% of the applicants in 2018.
- Average annual revenues of women-owned business rose to $228,578in 2018, an improvement of 13% over 2017.
- Average credit score for women dropped ten points from 598in 2017 to 588 in 2018.
- States where the greatest number of loan applications from women-owned businesses originated: California, Texas, New York, Georgia, and Ohio.
Women-owned vs. Male-owned Businesses
- Women-to-men borrowing ratio: 28.3% vs 71.7% registrations on comin 2018.
- Average annual revenue gapwomen-owned businesses ($228,578) earned $244,579 less on average than male-owned firms ($473,157) in 2018.
- Average credit score: On an average the credit score for women-owned businesses (588) were 25 points lower than male-owned Businesses (613) in 2018.
- Average loan sizefor women-owned businesses ($48,341) was 31% less than the same for Men-owned businesses ($70,239) in 2018.
- Average operating expensesfor women-owned Businesses (51%) less as compared to their male counterparts in 2018.
- Average age of usiness(in months): 43 vs 52 for male-owned companies (the average age of business in months was lower for women-owned companies in 2018).
9—Women Entrepreneurs are Increasingly More Diverse & Educated Compare to Men
A survey conducted by small business financing company Guidant Financial and online credit marketplace LendingClub Corporation reveals how female entrepreneurs and small business owners increasingly differ from their male counterparts.
“The data clearly shows women entrepreneurs are younger and more educated, plus more resourceful in where they find funding, “says David Nilssen, CEO of Guidant Financial.
Women entrepreneurs are younger
- 52% of females surveyed were over 50, vs. 59% of men
- 29% of females were 40-49, vs. 24% of men
- 19% of females were under 40, vs. 17% of men
Women entrepreneurs are better educated
- 72% of female small business owners have graduated from college, vs. 65% of males
- 38% more women than men have Associate degrees
- 20% more women than men have a Master’s degree
- 3% more men than women have a Bachelor’s degree
- Both 4% of male and female small business owners have Doctorate degrees.
The most popular industries for women-owned small businesses:
- Health, beauty, and fitness (female ownership increased 55% y/y)
- Food-related and restaurant (female ownership increased 45% y/y)
- Business services
- General retail
Funding: 36% of women small business owners use cash to get their businesses off the ground, vs. 32% of men. Funding from friends and family is the next most popular form of financing for women, (17%, vs. 11% for men)
Take an in-depth look here.
10—State of Female Entrepreneurship on Facebook
Facebook, in partnership with the World Bank and OECD released new research about The Future of Business and studied women in business on Facebook. This report makes it clear women-led businesses around the world are driving economic growth and creating jobs. Top findings:
Women-led businesses are thriving, but… Around the world, a substantial proportion of small businesses on Facebook are owned and led by women. In the 95 countries surveyed, 39% of people identifying as owners or managers of small businesses on Facebook are women.
Women-owned businesses benefit from technology: Across the world, social media is assisting all businesses grow, sell, and hire more, but it may have an out-sized effect on women small business owners—81% of women-owned small businesses say social media is beneficial to their businesses. In 37 countries women rank the helpfulness of social media at higher rates than men.
Women mentoring and supporting other women is how we make progress: 67% of female business owners in all 95 countries say they have a role model. And 70% of female business owners’ mentors are other women. But, having a role model is not the only way women in business can learn from each other. Examining women business owners’ interactions in Facebook Groups, such as commenting, posting, or sharing within a Group, you see women business owners interact in Groups in nearly every country surveyed. Across Africa, Europe, North America, and South Asia, women business owners are more active in Groups and their interactions are particularly strong in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe.
Funding: Despite the positive impacts of social media and community on women running businesses, the Future of Business reveals female entrepreneurs still face significant barriers when seeking to fund their ventures. In nearly every country surveyed, women entrepreneurs report having started their businesses with personal savings and less than one in five report currently having access to credit or a bank loan.
This month Facebook also held eight #SheMeansBusiness “Female Founder” events across the country. And they’ve created an online template (complete with agenda/questions, planning materials, etc.) so other female founders are empowered to host their own events
Filters inspired by female entrepreneurs: Facebook partnered with artist Kenesha Sneed to bring her art and her celebration of women to Facebook users all over the world. Inspired by fellow female artists and mentors, Kenesha has designed beautiful stickers and frames for the new Stories features launch. Kenesha is a small business owner herself. Here are images of the stickers and frames.
11—Gender Inequity in Company Leadership is Significant Issue
While there has been some progress in advancing women in business, there is still significant work that needs to be done to move toward gender parity, according to a new study by Korn Ferry and The Conference Board.
Researchers surveyed human resource executives as part of the study, Effective Leadership Development Strategies at Pivotal Points for Women: Chief Human Resources Officers and Senior HR Leaders Speak*. While 62% of respondents believe representation of women in leadership positions has improved during the last five years, 66% believe there is still an inadequate representation of women in leadership positions in their organization today.
Inadequate Female Representation Increases at Higher Levels. According to the survey and other bodies of research, gender inequity is significantly higher at top levels within organizations. While nearly half of individual contributors are women, that percentage dwindles to little more than a fifth at the senior vice president and c-suite levels.
The study found a high level of dissatisfaction with female representation in leadership roles, with 66% of respondents saying the number of women at the vice president level at their own organization was inadequate, and 65% agreeing that there was not enough female representation in the c-suite.
Pivotal Points to Building a Robust Pipeline. Half of respondents believe there are not enough women in the pipeline to fill open leadership positions. In addition, 40% do not believe women are gaining the experiences necessary to help them advance. The authors of the study believe incremental actions will not be enough to close the gap, and that leaders must disrupt the status quo, take a strong position, and focus on programs that drive greater outcomes.
“The obstacles a woman faces exist across the entire lifecycle—from hiring to promotion and throughout development,” says Beatrice Grech-Cumbo, Korn Ferry leader of Advancing Women Worldwide and senior client partner. “In the study, we identified two pivotal points where women’s representation drops significantly: first-line leaders and senior leaders. While organizations are focusing on increasing the representation of women in senior leadership, it is equally important to work to place women in first-line manager roles. This point in the pipeline significantly impacts the promotion pool of female talent.”
“HR and business executives need to take a step back to better understand and address the systemic reasons behind the gender imbalance,” says Rebecca L. Ray, Ph.D., executive vice president of Human Capital at The Conference Board. “Reasons include pay inequity, hiring manager bias and accountability, a lack of sponsors and champions, as well as the lack of programmatic support for the integration of work and life.”
The report also identifies key steps that are necessary to help women advance at all levels of the organization; recommendations include:
- Challenging women early in their careers
- Redesigning talent management systems to mitigate bias and disrupt historical practices
- Creating an intentionally inclusive climate
- Providing differentiated development opportunities and experiences
- Developing a sponsorship program aimed at advancement opportunities for women
- Offering stretch assignments and personalized leadership experiences
The report also includes case studies of organizations that have enacted effective female development initiatives.
12—How Old are Women Startup Entrepreneurs?
A study by fashion retailer Missy Empire shows the most common age for women to launch a business is 33.
So, if you were born in 1986, this could be your year!
“Female entrepreneurs are so important, and they need to be talked about,” says Ash Siddique, CEO of Missy Empire. “Young people today can be inspired by these successful celebrities and know that you don’t necessarily need to have the most obvious criteria to be successful. We have researched women from all walks of life, showing budding entrepreneurs that everybody has a chance to be successful if they work hard enough.”
The study of 30 top celebrity female entrepreneurs revealed:
- 40% made their millions/billions in their 30’s
- 63% are self-made
- Over 40% launched businesses in the fashion industry compared to 6% in sports
- 53% do not have a college degree
7 female entrepreneurs who launched their first business in their 30’s
- Kristin Cavallari (30)
- Huda Kattan (30)
- Jessica Alba (30)
- Oprah Winfrey (34)
- Jessica Biel (34)
- Kate Hudson (34)
- Gwen Stefani (36)
Top 5 most lucrative industries
Interestingly, the majority of female entrepreneurs have earned their fortunes through companies in the following industries:
- Fashion (43%)
- Cosmetics (20%)
- Food & beverage (10%)
- Technology (6%)
- Sports (6%)
13—Challenges for Women in Sales and Marketing
Women in Revenue, a new non-profit dedicated to empowering women in sales and marketing careers, recently unveiled a report about the top challenges facing women in those roles.
“Research from organizations like Bloomberg, HBR, McKinsey, and others shows that gender diversity leads to better business performance,” says Women in Revenue founder Shari Johnston. “The purpose of this research was to empower companies with information about how to attract and retain top female talent, as well as empowering women with advice from their peers.”
The survey found the top three challenges women experience in their careers are work/life balance, a lack of mentorship, and getting an equal seat at the table. Women also reported the work benefits most important to them include flexible work hours, the option to work from home, and direct access to decision-makers.
In addition, the survey asked what advice women would give to their younger selves. The responses fell into three primary categories: 1) Confidence, with women advising their peers to take risks and be outspoken 2) Mentors, with respondents recommending women in revenue find a mentor and/or sponsor who is invested in their career as early as possible 3) Advice for networking, understanding revenue contribution, and various other areas.
InsideView conducted a webinar with Women in Revenue including these findings—it can be found at link. You can download a copy of this year’s report here.
14—Top 11 Cities for Female Home buyers
About 18% of all home buyers were single females in 2017 compared to 7% being single men. According to real estate tech marketing firm SetSchedule’s latest housing report, these 11 cities are the top markets for female home buyers.
- Kansas City, MO
- Albany, NY
15—State of Safety
Are you worried about your safety? Most Americans are, according to the first-annual Sate of Safety report from SafeWise.
- 58% of Americans report feeling worried about their safety every single day.
- Women and parents were more concerned about their safety than men without children.
- Women were 27% more likely than men to be concerned about falling victim to a sexual assault by a stranger.
- Being robbed on the street, assaulted by a stranger, and fear of getting murdered are America’s top violent crime concerns.
- Digital security, violent crime, and property crime are the top safety issues Americans are concerned about
16—Empowering Women Must be Economic Priority Number One
Guest post by Vijay Eswaran, an entrepreneur, speaker, and philanthropist. He is the founder and Executive Chairman of the QI Group of Companies, a multi-business conglomerate with headquarters in Hong Kong, offices in more than 25 countries and customers in over 100 countries.
Businesses that neglect their most valuable assets lose competitiveness and long-term profitability. The same is true on a larger scale for national economies. So why do we continue to tolerate the enormous, yet preventable waste of human capital caused by gender inequality? Isn’t it time we addressed this question as one of the top international economic priorities?
Only around 50% of women globally are in paid work outside the agricultural sector compared to 77% of men. This gap in employment rates has barely narrowed over the last twenty years. Worse still, the gap widens the higher up the career ladder you go. The number of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies has actually fallen by a quarter over the last year to under 5%. A sobering reality indeed.
As I was discussing these issues with NGO and business leaders at the Concordia Summit and the World Economic Forum during the most recent United Nations General Assembly, I was struck by three main challenges.
First, men seem to be doing very little to bridge the gender gap. The advocacy is mostly led by women, as was the case with the suffragette movement at the beginning of the 20th century to give equal rights for women to vote. As long as men do not understand that bridging the gender gap is their responsibility as well, very little progress will be made. It is high time for men to step up and lead together with women to address this issue.
Second, very few business leaders seem to understand that gender inequality is not just a moral and human right issue, it is also a bottom-line issue. It constitutes the single biggest distortion in the modern labor market and a major impediment to wealth creation. It prevents talent from rising to its natural level and leads to the systematic misallocation of resources, leaving the global economy worse off in the process.
It has been estimated that closing the gender gap would add $28tn to the value of the global economy—a 26% increase—by 2025. The dividend would be equal to the combined GDPs of the U.S. and China. There is today an extensive body of research showing a strong link between female empowerment and economic development. Put simply, companies and societies are more likely to grow and prosper when women gain greater financial independence as wage earners and property owners.
Forward-thinking companies should be looking for ways to empower women at work, not just as a moral obligation, but also as a sound business strategy. A 2017 report by McKinsey noted that companies with three or more women on their executive committees performed better according to a broad set of organizational criteria, including innovation and quality of leadership. It further concluded that companies with the most women in senior positions achieved returns on equity 47% higher than those with none.
Third, when advancing female economic empowerment, the international community seems to mostly focus on helping women to break the glass ceiling in companies currently dominated by men. While this is important, we are also missing a big piece of the puzzle. I am convinced that the most effective strategy would be to actually increase opportunities for women to create and build companies of their own. Championing women’s entrepreneurship will contribute more to a narrowing of the gender gap than promotion within existing businesses.
Sadly, today’s entrepreneurs are still twice as likely to be men as women. Female entrepreneurs receive a disproportionately small amount of venture funding, with only 2.2% of the total invested in the U.S. last year going to women-owned startups. This is despite the fact that companies founded by women deliver significantly higher returns than the market average, according to surveys. More must be done to provide the investment capital needed to support and accelerate the emerging revolution in female entrepreneurship.
I know from my own experience running one of the leading direct selling networks in Asia, Africa and Middle East that women are equally talented and eager to take control for themselves and become entrepreneurs.
When Nobel Prize Winner Professor Muhammed Yunus created the first ever microcredit bank in Bangladesh more than 30 years ago, he noticed that women were more likely than men to run their business in a professional way and to repay loans. As a result, more than 90% of Grameen bank customers are women.
Gender inequality is not a fatality. But turning this vision into reality will need more than good intentions. It will require transformative change in the way we do business and support entrepreneurs.
Vijay Eswaran has published three bestsellers on leadership and mindfulness. Praised as “a beautiful book” by self-help genre pioneer Stephen Covey, In the Sphere of Silence (2006) has sold over half a million copies to date. His latest book Two Minutes from the Abyss was published in 2017 by Networking Times Press. Eswaran is the recipient of numerous awards for entrepreneurship and business leadership and has been featured in Forbes as one of Asia’s Top 50 philanthropists. He is also on the advisory board of the World Economic Forum’s Global Growth Companies, and a regular speaker at WEF’s annual meeting in Davos.
17—The Power of Community
Guest post by Tammy Cohen, founder and Chief Visionary Officer, InfoMart
I went to a school that held yearly class elections. When they rolled around, my stepfather asked why I wasn’t running for class president. I replied, “Because only boys run.” This wouldn’t fly in his house. We stayed up late making campaign posters and writing slogans. I won.
My stepfather taught me an important lesson that day. Challenge expectations and barriers. Are you doing something a certain way because that’s the best method, or because that’s the way it’s always been done?
The most important lesson I learned, however, didn’t come until I started my own business. Back in those days, 20-something-year-old women didn’t found businesses. It just didn’t happen. But I did it anyway, and the women around me took me under their collective wing. These women came from different industries and professions, but they were determined to help me succeed. An executive at the local chamber of commerce, for example, gave me advice, invited me to sit on a local committee, and introduced me to every business owner in our community. I learned from representatives, advocates, and business leaders and they made me the successful person I am today.
This taught me the power of community, camaraderie, and solidarity. The women around me provided opportunities and advice I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I started my business alone with no funds. Now, my company is one of the leading background check providers in the industry. I put all of myself into this company, but we wouldn’t be where we are now without the lessons I learned from my stepfather and the women of Cobb County (GA).
Tammy Cohen has grown InfoMart to new heights for over 30 years, earning the moniker “Queen of Screen” along the way. She started with zero startup. Tammy’s been recognized on the list of “Top 500 Women-Owned Businesses in the United States.” She was presented with the Enterprising Women of the Year award by Enterprising Women Magazine and has been honored with the “WBEs Who Rocks” award by MBE Magazine.
Kathy Chiu, the founding Managing Partner of DeepWork Capital, a venture capital firm specializing in the technology and life science sectors, has spent over 15 years climbing the corporate ladder in venture capital, a predominately male-dominated industry (less than 10% of its decision-makers are women). Kathy’s decision to become an outlier in the industry has created a path and opened doors for other women hoping to do the same. However, this success did not come without its challenges and valuable lessons:
Be resourceful. Becoming a mother taught Kathy the value of using the resources she had to reach her goal. After being a stay-at-home mom for several years, she decided to continue her professional journey. Instead of committing herself to a firm, she readjusted and became a freelance consultant specializing in cross border deals.
Learn to prioritize. After founding DeepWork Captial with her partners, Kathy soon learned the value of being able to prioritize. She learned running a business requires wearing multiple hats, so she had to learn to wear them all without stretching herself thin.
Lead gracefully, yet assertively. As a young child, Kathy’s female mentor taught her she could say anything, it would just have to be delivered in a nice yet firm manner. She continues to follow this philosophy today as she finds new ways to ensure her voice is heard among male executives.
Check out this really cool journal from Knock Knock. The I Am What A Feminist Looks Like Inner-Truth® Journal is available on the Knock Knock website. If you hurry and but this week, 51% of the proceeds of this journal will be donated to TIME’S UP in honor of women, who make up the 51% of the population.
Earlier this month, 21 trailblazing female entrepreneurs behind some of the world’s most innovative business ideas were announced as this year’s finalists for the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards.
It’s an exciting time for female entrepreneurs who are rewriting the rules for business, families and society across the world. Impressing 30 high-profile jury members, this year’s finalists distinguished themselves by their significant entrepreneurial impacts across a number of sectors including; science, health care and education.
Each finalist has received a winning package including personalized business coaching, entrepreneur workshops, enrollment in an INSEAD program and $30,000. The finalists are from seven global regions.
In less than a decade, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards has grown from 360 to nearly 3000 applications. With a growth in both the quantity and the quality of the businesses applying, the initiative has become a transformative step in the lives of 198 women entrepreneurs in over 49 countries. From attracting 360 applications to nearly 3000 yearly, Cartier has supported 184 companies, of which, 80% are still running today.
21—Want to Grow Global? This organization can help—Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global. Its mission: To educate women business owners and entrepreneurs worldwide on how to go global so they can run healthier businesses and create a new future for themselves, their families and their communities.
22—Women’s Liveability Index 2019. What countries offer the best living conditions for women. Check out the report from Nestpick.
23—Gender Wage Gap—SmartAsset has identified the occupations with the largest & smallest gender wage gaps.
24—Help from Yelp. Yelp is now identifying women-owned businesses via Fortune magazine.
25—Prime motivations of female entrepreneurs. Northwestern Mutual conducted a survey of women entrepreneurs and identified four personas: dreamers & doers, family legacy entrepreneurs, passionistas and lemonaders.
While female business owners have various reasons for starting a company, one trait stood true for all: women entrepreneurs are motivated by better work and family balance—10% more than male business owners (56% compared to 46%) say this.
26—Apple Camp. Apple is hosting 2-week-long Entrepreneur camps on its campus to help women business owners develop their iOS app.
27—VC Fund for Women Entrepreneurs. Check out Jane VC, a new venture capital fund that plans to invest in “visionary female entrepreneurs.” The fund was started last June after the two female founders experienced “first-hand the systemic hurdles women face in tech.
28—Building a gender-balanced workforce boosts business success
- Credit access for female business owners
- Gender credit gap
- Helping women entrepreneurs thrive
- Closing the funding gap for female entrepreneurs
- Fundbox guide to small business grants for women
30—Golf for Women
Golf is played by millions of women globally. Are you one of them? Women’s Golf Day will be held June 4th. Check out the infographic below from FastLearners to learn more.
Woman stock photo by aurielaki/Shutterstock