Women's roles in society
6/6/16 at 09:36 PM 0 Comments

How Women's Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Are Intertwined

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When discussing gender equality in the workplace, we often talk about how more viewpoints make for more flexible and diverse companies, or how businesses that have women in C-suites are more likely to have higher profits and better problem solving. We don't always talk about the benefits that women themselves see when we remove the barriers that keep them from succeeding as small business owners.

Tory Burch, CEO of the Tory Burch Foundation as well as an entrepreneur who manages a lifestyle brand, has identified the major challenge that women entrepreneurs face as access. Specifically, women entrepreneurs struggle to access capital, training, and mentorship.

Improving the ability of women to live independently and support family

Women tend to be the smallest percentage of entrepreneurs, even in the United States. When the economy slows, encouraging women to start businesses is often considered a way to jump start the economy by creating new jobs and businesses.

But when women start their own businesses, they are also creating their own sources of income. This was studied in India, where many women face abusive relationships and even gang rapes for stepping outside of the traditional role. As the acceptance of women entrepreneurs increases, women gain additional freedoms, both inside and outside of the home.

HE Tebelelo Seretse, Ambassador of Botswana to the United States, said in 2014: "When you empower a man, you empower an individual; when you empower a woman, you empower a nation.”

Improving equality

While educational opportunities get a lot of attention in discussions about how to help women thrive around the world, most studies have shown that increasing the economic power of women is also important. In areas where finding a job is difficult or impossible, starting a small business may be a much more reasonable path to accumulating wealth.

This has been seen particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, that region had a higher rate of female entrepreneurship than anywhere else in the world. The area has seen an explosion in job opportunities, notable rises in gross domestic product, and fantastic new opportunities.

Improving wealth for everyone

According to Tory Burch, "Narrowing the gender gap in employment will increase global income per person by as much as 20% by 2030." Burch also noted that in developing markets in particular, women tend to reinvest 90% of their income in their community, which accounts for the overall increase in wealth.

Where do American women own the most businesses?

Between the years of the Great Recession, from 2007 to 2012, the number of American businesses fell by 3.8 million. But during the same time period, women-owned businesses increased by more than 27%. While few women have the opportunity to relocate to a new city in order to start their business, it's important to look at which cities are the friendliest to businesses that are owned by women. By studying patterns, other cities and countries can consider what they can do to make themselves more approachable to businesses that are owned by women.

Boulder, Colorado, was considered the friendliest city to women entrepreneurs by at least one website analysis. The city earned high marks both because it was overall very friendly to small businesses, but because it already had a high concentration of businesses that were owned by women.

Remember Burch's belief, agreed upon by many experts, that to succeed in business, women need access to mentorship? Specifically, women need mentors who have been where they are, facing the unique challenges that women face when they start businesses. By starting a business in a community that has a large number of women who are successful in business, new women CEOs are more likely to have the necessary resources to turn to when they need help.

As an entrepreneur, what does this mean for a company's success? Hopefully it's quite clear that supporting initiatives to provide more opportunities to women who aspire to own businesses benefits not just the overall economy, but the broader world of women and equality.

The benefits available are especially true at intersections of race and gender. In underprivileged communities, women who start their own business have the chance to not just improve the lives of women and their families, but the communities around them. By improving those communities, the lives of everyone in the community improves.

Few women have the luxury of relocating to the best communities for female entrepreneurs before they start their business. What can be done, however, is to work to make all communities more hospitable to female-owned businesses, and to help women form communities, online and through chambers of commerce, to support their unique needs.

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