Thursday, July 19, 2012

Realities and Potentialities in Gender Equity

By Rachel Adler, Summer Intern

Alicia Robb of the Kauffman Foundation of Entrepreneurship wrote a recent post for the Forbes blog entitled "Women: It's Time to Own Your Potential."  This title represents the juxtaposition of challenge and promise that women entrepreneurs embody. 

As Robb describes, there is much work to be done towards gender equity in the business world.  "Women own less than 30 percent of all businesses and only 16 percent of businesses with paid employees," Robb states, and "Women-owned firms generate just 4 percent of total revenues, 6 percent of employment, and 4.5 percent of payroll."  Robb also links to a Kauffman Foundation video sketchbook which presents additional statistics about the success gaps between men- and women-owned businesses: women-owned businesses are growing more slowly and have less access to networks of capital than men-owned businesses, for example.

Robb's post reminded me of Anne-Marie Slaughter's controversial article published this month in the Atlantic Monthly, called "Why Women Still can't Have It All."  Slaughter's article deals more with the stories of women in positions of political authority, rather than exclusively women entrepreneurs, but there are many connections between the struggles and realities of women in these overlapping categories.  There are unique challenges for women working to succeed in business, political, and academic positions that men in similar positions do not face.  Slaughter's article calls out cultural concepts of time, family values, and the arc of a successful career, among others, as some of these unique challenges.  Robb points to a lack of female presence in investor networks and on boards of directors as others. 

These articles do a good job of presenting the realities of women's empowerment today.  They do not sugarcoat the situation: clearly, there is much work to be done to bring about greater gender equity in business, academic, political, and cultural worlds.  This is why organizations like Women's Initiative are so important.  Through the Simple Steps and SuccessLink programs, women from a variety of low-income backgrounds are empowered to enter the business world with the support of knowledgeable staff, experienced alumnae, and professional networks.  For example, through Connect Events, Women’s Initiative alumnae can network with successful business professionals as potential investors and advisors who can help them grow their businesses in a number of ways.  Through connections such as these, Women’s Initiative programs help narrow the gap between growth rates of men- and women-owned businesses.

Robb closes her article with notes of inspiration, listing several resources for women who want to launch high-growth ventures, become investors, or join boards of directors.  Slaughter, too, presents a number of ideas and innovations to counter the disparities she details earlier in the article.  There's a lot of work to be done, but with thinkers like Robb and Slaughter, and forces like Women's Initiative, there are many ways to move forward towards a more gender-equitable workforce and culture.


Anonymous said...

Yes, it's important for women to have access to capital not face discrimination in other ways. We certainly need more women in leadership positions in all sectors - business, government and civil. That said, the disparity between the size of men- vs women-owned businesses does not necessarily represent a bad thing in and of itself. Bigger is not necessarily better.

joyish said...

joy@ fempreneur

Women’s Initiative was not only for the house holds chores but they’re also having the knowledge to run a business successfully.

albert george said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
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