20 Mar Women’s History Month: Celebrating our wins and facing the challenges ahead
March is Women’s History Month, which means it’s a great time to recognize the achievements of women, particularly in the business world. Women entrepreneurs and small business owners have come a long way, overcoming so many obstacles and barriers to advance to where we are today. However, women still face challenges in the business world.
Celebrating our wins and acknowledging our challenges
A Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Voices survey released on March 1, 2023, reveals that women-owned small businesses represent 42% of all small businesses in the United States, employing over 9.4 million people and generating $1.9 trillion in revenue.
According to the same survey, women-owned small businesses receive less funding than men-owned businesses, and women-owned businesses tend to be in lower-growth industries. But despite these challenges, women continue to make progress in the business world.
50 years of progress for women in business
Looking back, we can see how far women have come in terms of equality in business. The Equal Credit Opportunity Act, passed in 1974, removed the requirement for single, widowed, or divorced women to bring a man along to cosign any credit application, regardless of their income. Until then, banks would discount the value of those wages when considering how much credit to grant by as much as 50%. Does that date shock anyone else? 1974 wasn’t that long ago!
In 1975, the first woman-owned commercial bank, First Women’s Bank, opened in New York City, at which Betty Friedan had an account. And in 1978, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in the United States, ensuring that women could not legally be dismissed from their jobs for becoming pregnant.
In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that women couldn’t bring a lawsuit for pay discrimination if more than 180 days had passed. It wasn’t until 2009 that President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration act, which allows workers to sue companies for pay discrimination after six months have passed.
Women in business today
This brief look at our history shows how much progress has been made in the past fifty years, but it also indicates how far we still have to go. Today, women entrepreneurs and small business owners face new challenges. The pandemic has affected businesses across the board, and women-owned small businesses have been hit particularly hard.
While there is clearly more work to be done, I also know that there is plenty to celebrate and be hopeful about! In my work, I get to see (and help) women entrepreneurs break barriers and kick butt every day! I also have the amazing opportunity to support other women business owners at various stages of their entrepreneurship journeys through mentorship and groups like NAWBO.
My advice for women business owners
Here are a few things I’ve learned during my career that I’d like to share with women entrepreneurs and small business owners today in honor of Women’s History Month:
Find a mentor (or even better, multiple mentors)
It’s essential to have people who can guide and advise you. Look for mentors who have experience in your industry or have successfully navigated the business world. A great way to find mentors is to join your local NAWBO chapter or similar groups in your area.
Networking is critical for any business, and it’s especially important for women entrepreneurs and small business owners. Attend conferences and events, join professional organizations, and connect with others in your industry when you can. These connections will provide support and friendship, not to mention growth opportunities.
Stay up to date on the latest trends and developments in your industry. Read industry publications, attend webinars, and participate in online forums. It’s also important to understand what’s going on in the business world, specifically for women and small business owners. One great resource is Goldman Sachs 10K Small Business Voices. This initiative gathers data on small business trends and advocates for policies that matter to small businesses. That includes policies that would offer more resources for women-owned small businesses and the reauthorization of the Small Business Administration. Learn more here.
Set long-term goals and set yourself up to succeed
When you’re facing the challenges of running a small business, it can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day. You owe it to yourself and your hard work to make sure your business has staying power. Your financials are a great place to start: make sure your books are set up correctly, learn how to understand your financial statements, and then focus on your cash flow and profitability.
Believe in yourself and lift other women up
This is a reminder to believe in yourself and your abilities! Don’t be shy about sharing them with the world, either. Women entrepreneurs and small business owners have come a long way, but we still have work to do. Believe in your vision and your ability to make it a reality. As we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s continue to support and encourage each other. Together, let’s work towards a more equitable future.