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My dad used to tell me something about what it would be like in corporate America over and over growing up. He told me I was going to have to work 2X harder than any other woman in the room and 4X harder than any man. He told me in the eyes of others, I was considered a double negative. Not only was I a woman, but a minority women. I thought his way of thinking was outdated – I mean, come on!! But not only was he right – this exact principle is what got me to where I am today.
In the U.S., women make up 47% of the workforce, and despite the gender gap, there’s been a recent surge in the number of women holding key leadership positions, it’s clear that women are taking over the business world. Experts say that women’s rise to the top is thanks to several factors, including the fact that companies are finally starting to see the value of diversity, and the fact that women are more likely to help each other climb the corporate ladder.
As women are increasingly becoming the breadwinners in American families, it’s becoming clear that women have their own ideas about what constitutes success and how to get it. Women are redefining the modern workplace with their own fresh ideas, and they’re getting ahead in business by thinking outside the box.
Even more than taking over corporate America – women are starting more businesses than any other group in America. Faster than women business owners is the growing number of companies owned by women of color. An average rate of growth has been 163% in the last 45 years, women in business statistics estimate. In the last 20 years, this number has increased by nearly 500%. That means that 259 African-American women open new businesses daily. The number of companies owned by Latinas grow by 227 every day. The odds are in our favor when it comes to entrepreneurship for women. After all, our demographic is very qualified to lead a small business.
Female entrepreneurship is on the incline. I’m seeing and following more of them on social media. Despite this fact, our net worth isn’t on the incline as quickly as male entrepreneurs. All this education and competency and still almost 90% of women owned businesses generate no more than $100,000 yearly. It’s not that we don’t bring the value – we absolutely do. We just don’t charge enough for it.
I had the honor of having a conversation with a group of amazing women in the Houston area last week – I wanted share a few of the highlights of our conversation. Let’s face it, it can be tough being a successful minority woman entrepreneur in today’s world. During my conversation with these women we all agreed on one thing – from the moment we step in the door, we are written off – despite holding more degrees and certification than most of our counterparts.
We also found very little support in our businesses, and we honestly all wondered why that was. We need more mentorship, funding and an equal shot at business success to our male counterparts. After leaving this conversation I was only more convinced that women should support one another more in business, after all – no one understands what we’re going through more than we do.
Many newbie women owned small businesses mistakenly leap right into advertising and cold messaging, assuming that the power of their marketing will net them customers. However, businesses grow best when they’re supported by the owner’s reputation, and minorities understand this very well. By leveraging one’s personal network, budding entrepreneurs can garner feedback, conduct market research, and reach potential customers at virtually no cost. A strong personal network provides a sturdy foundation for business growth. Don’t be afraid to ask relatives to for referrals or to offer bonuses to existing clients or friends to refer work your way.
Women and POC have learned to build each other up, and there are few places where this is more obvious than in business circles. Female and minority entrepreneurs are discovering the value of business partnerships and bartering arrangements in which creative services can be swapped in a collaborative space. For example, an aspiring jewelry maker may offer a free necklace to someone who provides her with a logo. These sorts of arrangements reduce the startup costs for one’s business and forge valuable connections that support the fledgling new business.
You may have noticed that most of these tactics revolve around personal networking. When you lack the institutional support and access to traditional infrastructure for business development, your primary resource is your network. One of the best ways to support your nascent business is to expand and leverage your connections to your fellow entrepreneurs. There are hundreds of Facebook and LinkedIn groups devoted to women business owners, and you can also get your business listed in a specialized directory, such as Sisters in Business.
The journey to female entrepreneur is riddled with difficulty, learning curves and odds not in your favor. I want you to know that here at Masterly CEO, you have a community, you have a friend and you have a biggest fan.
Until next time, Masterly CEO’s.