Yesterday my PR firm contacted me for a quote about why women are at the forefront of the entrepreneurial movement in America. It was an interesting and hard request, as the journalists only wanted 1 or 2 sentences from me. I feel that it is very difficult to comment on such a big topic in only 1 or 2 sentences. I think there are so many forces at play that have placed women front and center of the entrepreneurial movement. First, before I discuss all the reasons I think women are at the forefront, I thought I would share some stats with everyone:
The Overall Picture: 2008-2009
- 10.1 million firms are owned by women (75% or more), employing more than 13 million people, and generating $1.9 trillion in sales as of 2008.
- Three quarters of all women-owned businesses are majority owned by women (51% or more), for a total of 7.2 million firms, employing 7.3 million people, and generating $1.1 trillion in sales.
- Women-owned firms (50% or more) account for 40% of all privately held firms.
As of 2002 the number of women-owned businesses has grown at twice the rate of all firms. Now of course, it is easier to double your numbers when your numbers are small. But still it is extremely encouraging and inspiring to see that women are truly shedding all the barriers to becoming entrepreneurs and are in control of their own destiny. So why are women suited to be entrepreneurs? Here are a few reasons I think they are:
- Like it or not, women multitask better. This is nature, not nurture. In order to survive throughout history women have always needed to multitask raising children with the other things that they are in charge of. When starting a business, multitasking is an asset. You need to be able to do 5 things at once.
- Women who have chosen to become mothers are used to dealing with stressful 24-hour-a day jobs. Being a mother is wonderful, magical, beautiful, but also stressful and exhausting. Despite the fact that many fathers today have stepped in and really truly do their part in parenting, until the day that men can actually bear children and breastfeed, much of the burden of having and caring for babies falls onto the woman. Period. All of us who have struggled through business meetings, hoping we don’t vomit from morning sickness, or gotten through a day rocking every business commitment despite having woken up 4 times to breastfeed a new baby the night before, or taken a conference call on our mobile phone in order to get to be able to talk, and still pick your child up on time, know what I am talking about. What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger, and I think more prepared to deal with the highs and lows of entrepreneurship.
- Any woman successful in business today has had a moment where she was unfairly judged by someone else, just because she is a woman. It happens. It will probably continue to happen in my lifetime. It certainly doesn’t happen as often as it used to even 10 years ago, but it does and will. Those of us who are successful don’t let the judgment bother us, and prove ourselves by being better, smarter, faster than our counterparts. I think successful women are more likely to want to be in charge of their own success. They are not happy to wait around and let someone else decide their fate. This is the type of woman who is out there starting a business.
- Women are less likely to get the family business passed on to them. If they want to own and run a business, in almost all cases, they have to start it. Of course this is not always true. I run my family business, and it was passed to me by my father. But prior to running this business I had already started two other businesses.
- Women now decisively outnumber men on the nation’s college campuses, and they graduate at a higher rate than men do. And the numbers are expected to just get better for women and worse for men. Some studies cite that, if the gender gap continues, 2/3 of all college graduates in 2020 will be women. Here is another article pointing to the gender gap (more women applying to Yale than men): Yale Daily News. If women become more educated than men, and more women than men are graduating from college, you will continue to see the number of women entrepreneurs go up.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree with my reasons?