March is Women’s History Month, and the National Women’s History Project has themed this year’s events around “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.” The group recognizes the “extraordinary and often unrecognized determination and tenacity of women” and honors those especially who have made distinct contributions in women’s rights and human rights. Click here to learn more about this annual celebration and the 2014 honorees.
Obviously, women make significant contributions in all kinds of ways, in all kinds of fields. Business is no exception. In fact, many think women in business are changing the world! And Forbes.com blog contributor Natalie MacNeil makes the case that entrepreneurship is the new women’s movement. She says there’s a “quiet revolution” taking shape, as more and more women leave the workforce to become job-creating entrepreneurs.
For the last two decades, women have been starting businesses at a higher rate than men and, in general, tend toward micro (fewer than five employees) and small businesses. Predictions are that by 2018, more than 9.72 million new small business jobs will be created, and it’s expected that women will create over half of them! For comparison, women-owned businesses created only 16 percent of U.S. jobs in 2010. This is amazing progress and represents real impact on not only the business world but also on our society as a whole! But MacNeil says that it’s been the perseverance and creative ways women business owners who adapted to and survived the recession points to one of the biggest dynamics of this revolution. Women who start and own businesses now are “battle-tested” and more competitive than ever before.
Many women will still choose corporate jobs, a totally legitimate choice. But others are finding corporate environments lacking in a variety of ways and are saying “no thank you” to the climb up the ladder. The answer: Starting businesses that align with personal values and the ability to have some freedom and flexibility. Others will bypass the corporate world altogether, often with great success! With an eye to independence and sanity, Gen-Y and Millennial women are heading to the ranks of “business owner” in droves. And resources are popping up all over: Women 2.0 and Ladies Who Launch are just two tailored specifically for women entrepreneurs. The 21st century “Quiet Revolution,” MacNeil says, is here to stay and getting louder and louder!
This movement comes as no surprise to those who see women in general as often having traits uniquely suited to business success, from EQ (emotional intelligence) to negotiating skills to a more collaborative style that can cut through the noise and zero in on getting the job done. Successful women business owners tend to share some characteristics that set them apart, says Sharon Hadary, former executive director of the Center for Women’s Business Research. These traits include:
Defining success in their own terms
Creating cultures of success
Trusting their instincts
Setting high goals
Nurturing the ‘Midas touch’
Building multiple support networks
Treating their time and energy as a scarce resource
Investing in themselves
Always leaving time for serendipity (being open to life!)
The potential impact of female entrepreneurs isn’t limited to the U.S. Designer and entrepreneur Tory Burch explains why the world needs more women entrepreneurs. Investing in businesswomen, she says, boosts the economy for everyone. Women are crucial to economic growth around the world.
But there’s still a long way to go. According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, there are 126 million women operating new businesses and another 98 million running established ones. There are only seven countries where women participate in business at rates equal to men (and no, the U.S. isn’t one—yet!).
Burch says continued progress for women around the world requires three priorities:
Access to capital
Support for fledgling businesses
Access to entrepreneurial education
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