As a business veteran, I understand the entrepreneurial calling. And yes, for many women, it is a calling. Why else would you put yourself through the countless hours of worrying and planning, as an increasing number of women continue to do?
In fact, it’s estimated that women-owned businesses will yield about 5 million jobs this year. And though this means there are a lot more women to come to each other’s aid, it doesn’t mean that we can shirk our obligations to one another. More than ever, female business owners are worth seeking out and lifting up.
Here's how to support them--and why it's important.
Share your (her)story
The trade secret. The best-kept secret. The secret sauce. What do those words mean? The opposite of sharing. As fellow female business owners, we can’t afford to do that. Supporting other women is good for business; the rise of women-owned businesses corresponds to the rise of the economy. “The economic landscape is shifting,” stated Jonathan Bowles, Executive Director of CUF and author. “At a time when large companies are decentralizing their operations or moving overseas or going to cheaper locales, what’s driving the growth in cities? Small-business entrepreneurs. And many of them are women.”
Educate the men in your life
This doesn’t often come to mind when we think of supporting women, but it should. Considering that men make up about 51 percent of the world population, preaching to the female choir is only half the battle--literally. If we’re going to shift attitudes from its current environment towards true equality for women, we have to attack inequality from all fronts. For me, someone in a position to hire, manage and work alongside men, I try to educate them on the importance of supporting women in business. I believe this education will trickle down to their employees and their children when or if the time comes.
Frequent women-owned businesses
This sounds like a given, but we forget that what women-owned businesses are tasked with most is to generate revenue. It’s not enough to espouse “leaning in” through mere words, we have to put our money where our feminist mouths are, unless it’s to get the word out about up-and-coming, struggling or existing women-owned establishments. Using social media as a bullhorn is a good way to do that. Free and effective, social media is also a great marketing tool for female entrepreneurs to show their (and their business’) personalities, and create an online presence for themselves.
Refer them to a connection
The adage isn’t wrong. In business, it really can be about who you know. If you can connect women who own businesses to other female business owners for a mutually rewarding partnership, do it. In the forty years I’ve spent growing my career, I have made pivotal connections--many with other business women--and many that went beyond just the professional. After all, no one knows the struggles a woman in business faces more than another woman in business.
Reach out personally
Nothing says I support you more than a personal note (or email). Because of social media, exposure to burgeoning women-owned businesses is easier to generate, which I do on a daily basis. You’d be surprised how responding or proactively reaching out to other women can mean to businesswomen just starting out. More than anything, a link to like-minded women helps remind me how much we can offer one another--through something as simple as an old-fashioned (or digital) thank you note.
The business landscape is not for the faint-hearted. For women, it can be even more daunting. Though at times it seemed like the cards were stacked against me, especially when I first entered the business world four decades ago, times are changing. Today, I think we recognize that as women-owned businesses increase in number, the need to support one another is more important than ever.