When it comes to women in the workforce, change is in the air. According to research, 13 million women are considering quitting their corporate jobs and working for themselves instead. They say the corporate glass ceiling, pay disparity, and workplace discrimination are determining factors.
This female exodus from the traditional workforce is driven by a desire to transcend barriers and achieve lasting success. Of the thousands of women who participated in the study, 84% said self-employment would make it easier to be a working mother, 63% said self-employment would allow faster career advancement, and 52% said self-employment would enable them to reach their full potential as an employee.
Data from the Pew Research Center gives credence to this idea that women are better off taking the entrepreneurial route. Women only hold about 10% of executive positions in the corporate world. Narrow your evaluation to the Standard & Poor’s Composite 1500 stock index, and women only account for 5% of executive positions.
If you’re tempted to think this is only a short-term problem that will improve in the future, the numbers don’t back it up. When you look at large companies in America, women only make up about 10% of the candidate pool for CEO.
Despite these challenges, women have an oversized impact on the business world. And much of their most meaningful work is being done in small business. Women own 36% of the businesses in America, contribute $3 trillion to the economy, and bring in $1.7 trillion in revenues annually. Worldwide, the rate of women joining the entrepreneurship ranks rose 13% in 2017.
At the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting, Karen Quintos, chief customer officer for Dell, spoke about fueling the rise in female entrepreneurship. She called out several improvements still needed:
- Creating incentives for individuals and organizations to invest in women-owned companies
- Modernizing existing government certification, grant, and loan programs that help women-owned businesses compete
- Creating new sources of capital, such as crowdfunding and impact investments
- Supporting mentorship efforts
- Encouraging multiplier platforms such as accelerators, continuing education, training programs, and facilitated networking events
- Incentivizing leaders to approach diversity as a core business strategy
- Integrating diversity with other priority business drivers and talent management strategies
- Encouraging leaders to recognize and address the role of conscious and unconscious bias
- Promoting positive success stories of female founders and diverse business owners
- Encouraging diversity on boards, in venture partnerships, and on executive teams
- Increasing awareness among women of the hardware, software, and digital resources they can access to scale their companies
The good news is many organizations and networks are already striving to promote these resources and updates. For example, Facebook has launched its Community Finder tool as part of the #SheMeansBusiness program. This resource enables female entrepreneurs in more than 20 countries to connect, exchange resources, share advice, and grow their businesses.
Facebook also hosts “Open Door” events and workshops. These networking nights are open to female business owners and meet at the company’s offices around the globe.
Not to be outdone, Apple introduced the 2-week Entrepreneur Camps. Held at their campus in California, these events are engineered to support app-driven businesses led by women. Each session includes 1-on-1 training, an advanced technology lab, and ongoing mentoring.
Another valuable resource for female entrepreneurs is the Bank of America Institute for Women’s Entrepreneurship, a joint venture between Cornell University and Bank of America. With content developed and taught by Cornell faculty, the online courses can accommodate up to 100 students at a time.
These programs, as well as countless others, represent a focused effort in the business world to provide opportunities for women to network and share. And these factors are often the keys to success.
“Even though women are generally strong collaborators and communicators, we tend to have fewer business-related connections than men do,” writes Shama Hyder for Inc.com. “If we’re going to achieve equality in the workplace, we’ve got to […] learn to ask for the things we want. We need to put some time into building these work relationships, just like we do all the other relationships in our lives.”
More companies, organizations, and government agencies than ever are doing their part to accelerate the rise of female entrepreneurs. While women have traditionally been kept out of the various “boy’s clubs” that existed in business, they’re forming clubs of their own, helping them become increasingly connected and better equipped.
Research shows that when women network with one another, they double their likelihood of receiving a promotion. And the most telling statistic is that when they’re buoyed by the strength of fellow female entrepreneurs, 78% percent of women report feeling more optimistic about their business future.