A census in 2012 found that 36% of all businesses were owned by women – a number which has steadily increased. Female entrepreneurs and business owners are no longer taken with a grain of salt. In 2015, businesses owned by women brought in more than $1.5 trillion in sales. Women no longer hold lowly positions in favor of keeping the peace. Female CEO’s of S&P 500 companies include Mary T. Barra of General Motors, Lynn J. Good of Duke Energy, and Indra K. Nooyi of PepsiCo. While women have made leaps and bounds in the world of business there are still plenty of obstacles to account for. Women still only make .79 cents for every dollar a man makes. Maternity leave is seen as a weakness in many companies – complicating the work/life balance for women even further. Female entrepreneurs continue to make strides in business despite the pay gap, discrimination, and gender politics which play out on both large and small stages. But in the infamous words of Margaret Thatcher, “If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.”
We had the opportunity to speak with several female entrepreneurs and business owners on what changes they would love most to see in their industry.
#1 – Industry Stereotypes
I'm an auto mechanic and an author, both of which are industries dominated by males. But my main problem lies in the automotive industry. Believe it or not, women have just as much concern about a female working on their vehicles as men do. I can't tell you how many times I've been told Women don't know how to work on cars! or Are you sure you know what you're doing?. I always have to prove myself to customers, and I get many men who don't know the first thing about taking care of their cars. I have also lost many job opportunities to men despite my being more qualified. So, if I could change one thing in the automotive service industry, it would be to get rid of that stereotype that women don't know anything about working as mechanics.
Thanks to Selena Drake, Drake Books & Media
#2 – More Opportunities
I am a session singer and producer, and I wish clients and peers would give me more of an opportunity to work in the technical side of the business (such as mixing and editing). I feel like sometimes females aren't typically seen as tech-savvy in this industry, and that we belong on stage instead of behind the scenes. I've had to put in many hours to learn my own equipment due to a lack of interest in even training me. I don't mind learning on my own and I am always on my educational journey, but it would be nice to get a little credit for the things I do know as well as an opportunity to put my knowledge to use.
Thanks to Mella Barnes, Brain Stamp Music
#3 – VCs Stepping Out of Their Comfort Zone
I recently sat on a panel where the discussion was the challenges facing female entrepreneurs – out in the wilderness. One of the audience members introduced himself as representing a VC that was looking to encourage female entrepreneurs and business owners. He asked the panel how could his company entice women to seek out their offerings. I responded by saying attending an event like this was a good start and then asked him if his VC company was interested in interests outside of Technology and Medical .. The short answer was no and whilst many of the businesses present had a large technology component to their company, with custom developed software etc they could not present themselves as a tech company. All lending companies need to stop being so safe, so repeatable, so traditional and dare one say it male-oriented. They need to look towards all industries and find new ways to invest in women owned businesses and step out of their comfort zone.
Thanks to Sophie Burkart, SoffiaB
#4 – Effective Negotiation
Women entrepreneurs, especially African-American women, are the fastest growing segment of business owners. But only around 2% will actually achieve revenues over $1 million dollars. So what could possibly shift and increase their growth? Three major changes could increase their chances of experiencing sustainable growth: access to angel/venture capital, learning effective pricing/negotiation skills and business mentorship. These critical factors will help build their internal and external capacity to support good decision-making which equals profitable enterprises.
Thanks to Aquila Leon-Soon, Advance Talent Solutions
#5 – Helping One Another
There are not enough women entrepreneurs despite that fact that we are filled with great ideas and talents. More women need to be empowered to take the leap. To do so, they need support. Successful women in the investment community need to be on the lookout for them and support them by funding, giving access to resources or simple advising. We, women, have a unique perspective on the needs of our families and communities and with proper support and guidance, can achieve thrive.
Thanks to Connie Calabrese, The SignUp Hub
#6 – More Women in Tech
I'd love to see more women get into tech. Float.Design is a web design agency focused on beauty and lifestyle brands — while our fellow agencies are nearly all run by men, the beauty and lifestyle brands we work with are frequently lead by female entrepreneurs (so I know they're out there!). When I started my studio, I didn't think of it as particularly innovative but now I go to conferences and get comments about being the rare woman in tech, interviewees who say it drew them to our studio, or a nice email from an agency in Dallas wanting to connect simply because we're both woman-led. It's a great field with interesting and creative work, I'd just love to see more women get involved.
Thanks to Larissa Pickens, Float.Design
#7 – Investment in Companies that Support Women
As a female entrepreneur and cofounder of a business, I would like to see more investment into technology companies that support women, as most women make 80% of buying decisions. I see a huge opportunity for investment into female run businesses moving forward and a potential missed opportunity for investors today. And as most women make the bulk of the buying decisions in an area like the home (an industry that my tech company supports), I would also like to see less siloed thinking by organizations that support the home. We have so many organizations that touch the home, yet in order to manage and run my home, I need to touch so many different types of companies. And many of these companies are not closely aligning their products and solutions to address the homeowner and how to make it easier to access data and solutions to manage my home.
Thanks to Elizabeth Dodson, HomeZada
#8 – Be More Welcoming
As a female entrepreneur in the tech space, I would like to see our industry be more welcoming of new ideas, opinions, and start-ups from females. My company benefits from having a mix of women and men in every area and level of our organization, but more often than not, I see male-dominated (or male-only) founding and scale-up teams. To make a difference in the future of our industry, female tech leaders (myself included) need to be more deliberate with our networking, mentoring, and public personas. Change will only occur if our efforts are strategic and intentional.
Thanks to Angie Stocklin, Readers.com
#9 – Encouraging Girls
When I was in high school, nobody talked about entrepreneurship. If you wanted a good job, you have to either be a lawyer or a doctor. It was like nothing else was an option. (And that wasn't that long ago either!) We even had a few students' parents come and give conferences about their jobs, what it was and how they got there. None of them were entrepreneurs or owned a small business. They all worked for somebody else. Girls don't need to be intensely pitched about being entrepreneurs every day, but if schools considered that path as one as good as become a doctor or a lawyer and invited female entrepreneurs to give conferences, we'd probably see a lot more young women going into business!
Thanks to Virginie Carmichael, CityGirl's Design
#10 – Prominent Roles
Although a few well known brands/companies have started to take notice and pledge for change, the fact remains that it’s still vary rare to see a woman hold a C-level role and, when she does, it’s almost always that of CMO. Sure, we’re great with communication, honing partnerships and sustaining positive business relationships thus warranting us the right to CMO titles but that doesn’t mean we can’t be just as effective (if not more) in a CEO, COO, CFO or even CTO role. To me, 2016 is synonymous with a real tipping point for women in “corporate America” because the industry is finally taking notice of the glass ceiling. With the theme of International Women’s Day 2016 being “A Pledge for Parity,” one can only hope that we’re getting closer to being taken seriously and seen in a light where holding the title of CEO or CFO is just as commonplace.
Thanks to Stacy Igel, Boy Meets Girl
#11 – Women Supporting Women
Industry: both major and minor. First and foremost I wish to see more women support, praise and acknowledge one another’s creativity, talent and integrity. I would like to see more women come together in the name of innovation, business and artistic expression in a way that we empower one another. I would also like to see our creative intellectual property better protected. With social media and modern-day technology, many talented designers find their collections replicated and reproduced by mass-market suppliers. I think if we better respect one another’s creative projects and lend the support needed to fellow women entrepreneurs, we all can learn from one another; in turn, sparking the ability to lead a more productive and focused creative outlet for all employees and consumers.
Thanks to Meagan Ollari, Ollari Collection
#12 – Easier Parenthood Transition
We still treat parenthood as an inevitable sacrifice of career growth, personal hobbies, romantic relationship, travel, and so on. Pregnancy is almost always associated with putting other aspects of your life on hold. As a senior female executive, business owner, and mom to a 3 year old, I'm trying to redefine parenthood every day. However, we need the collective power of women leaders to really break through the stereotypes, including our own self-doubt. The Baby Manual video series are designed to empower parents to balance it all.
Thanks to Oksana Domine, The Baby Manual
#13 – Pick a Specialty
The biggest change I want to see in the life coaching industry is for more life coaches to choose specific niches to coach in. Coaches must figure out who they can most effectively help, and it can't be everyone under the sun. When there is an influx of life coaches with no niche, clients begin choosing coaches solely based on who has the lowest prices rather than who would be able to coach them best for their specific problem. Choosing a niche also makes it easier to make more money. If you are the only coach who does what you do, it is much more compelling for a person to choose you and your premium fees.
Thanks to Marissa Russell, The High Achieving Woman
#14 – More Support
As a female entrepreneur and business owner, I would like to see more people supporting business owners in general. It seems like everyone around us is constantly shopping, ordering and hiring services they find online or in town. Most of these services could be found among their friends and family members who own their own business. People are afraid to work with people they know; they are afraid to hire the fitness coach down the street or the freelance writer in the family. If they are going to shop or hire out, why not buy and support local small business owners? We need to be taken seriously and deserve a chance.
Thanks to Vanessa Kromer
#15 – Greater Representation
One major change I would like to see happen in the food industry is a greater representation of women in Food Science and Technology. Traditionally, men have dominated this field, but we can influence young women to contribute to it by educating them about the math and science world from a young age. I am proud to see that this is a trend we have begun to move towards, but a great deal of work still needs to be done in order to educate young women without calling attention to them as a minority in Food Science and Technology. At home, I try to instill a sense of pride in my daughters by involving them in the kitchen with practical education opportunities, such as focusing on the mathematics behind measuring for the younger ones and on the elemental changes that occur in cooking for the older ones. Confidence is critical to their success and courage in entering such a male-dominated industry.
Thanks to Venae Watts, Minerva Dairy