What’s So Great About Women Entrepreneurs? Here’s What.

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By Kathy Korman Frey

Recently, BNET blogger Mark Henricks wrote a post onWhy It’s Time to Stop Giving Women Entrepreneurs Special Help.”  It’s not time to stop giving women entrepreneurs special help, but, it’s still a great discussion to have. Here is the response I crafted which I can’t post, because my account validation email has yet to arrive…

Here’s the punchline…

Support of women-owned businesses is not going to stop in the near future.

Here’s why:

  • #1) Let’s look at the half-empty part... It is not just the NUMBER of women-owned businesses(as accurately pointed out by Mark), it is the size that matters as well (as pointed out by Donna Fenn in the comments to Mark’s post). Women-owned businesses are still not as large as the businesses of our male counterparts. So, bottom line: There’s more work to be done. Why does anyone care, anyway?  What’s so great about women entrepreneurs? This leads us to….
  • #2) The half-full part – Women entrepreneurs globally are massive contributors to their countries’ GDP. In emerging markets, women entrepreneurs are specifically encouraged as an economic development strategy. What women do with the earnings from their businesses is markedly different than what men do. If I were the leader of a nation, I’m going to invest in what works and is creating growth. In the US, the rapid growth of women owned businesses has been a huge contributor to GDP – more so than sectors you’d THINK would be driving our GDP as pointed out by SBTV’s Susan Wilson Solovic in The Girl’s Guide to Building a Million Dollar Business. This economic growth “magic fairy dust” effect has been very well articulated in the sprawling and multi-year research from GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) out of Babson which is viewed – in the women’s leadership field – as one of the “supreme beings” of research along with other powerhouses like the Diana Project, the Center for Women’s Business Research, and Catalyst.

Look, gender stuff is always sensitive. I, too, had the “why are women different” view years ago when I was I worked for a male-dominated merger and acquisition firm, and also as a student at male-dominated Harvard Business School. I had no problem with men. Still don’t. So, when I started teaching Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at the George Washington University School of Business, let’s just say I had a bucket of cold water thrown on me when I learned about the gold-mine which is women entrepreneurs.

I had a bucket of cold water thrown on me when I learned about the gold-mine which is women entrepreneurs.

The evidence of women’s contributions is quite staggering. Yet, much of these great soundbytes get holed up in the halls of academia or at research conferences. So, as someone with one foot in the corporate/entrepreneurship world and one foot in women’s leadership/academia, I’m here to tell you that women’s entrepreneurship is one bus we want to get on. And, if we don’t, there’s no one to blame but ourselves if we’re left behind standing on the sidewalk, breathing fumes.

Women’s entrepreneurship is one bus we want to get on. And, if we don’t, there’s no one to blame but ourselves if we’re left behind standing on the sidewalk, breathing fumes.

Now, playing devil’s advocate, I completely understand the frustration that can occur when one group gets a lot of attention and support. That can seem unfair. Nevertheless, as long as women’s business keeps on giving…so will everyone else.

Parting Thought: Why hasn’t this research gotten out about women entrepreneurs and their value?  While certain people may be frustrated by Mark’s piece, guess what? He’s putting a huge stake in the ground, getting behind an opinion, and pushing it out there. “80 million people drove safely today,” does not get headlines people. Women need to take it upon themselves, PUSH the information out there, inform and educate… and  if folks don’t know about the value of women, then whose fault is that?

Related links:

Women’s Business Fact Sheet

Global Entrepreneurship Monitor

Clinton Global Initiative: Empowering  Girls and Women

WhiteHouse.gov: Women and Women Entrepreneurs





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18 thoughts on “What’s So Great About Women Entrepreneurs? Here’s What.

  • Thanks for linking to The Debunker. Obviously, I’ve seen the data about the disparities in sales volume between women-owned and other businesses. Since this data comes from an advocacy organization — the Center for Women’s Business Research — and is offered in support of its advocacy efforts, I tend to regard it warily. As a general rule, these organizations cannot be relied upon to present a well-rounded viewpoint of a situation. In fact, their charters essentially prohibit providing any information that doesn’t support their advocacy stance. So my first question about relative revenues is: Says who?

    I think your commentary lacks the balance that it criticizes The Debunker for lacking. Specifically, why stop at using relative sales volume to determine equity? Let’s look at the traits assigned to the way women supposedly are redefining success. Shall we have setasides and exclusive loan deals for entrepreneurs who don’t achieve the levels of, say, flexibility that women business owners may have?

    How does that sound?

    Mark Henricks

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  • Great article! After reading this, I headed over to Mark’s post to read it, and was rather surprised by the comments left. Why do women who are pursuing their Big Dreams have to be seen as threatening to any group? After all, we are merely trying to effectively “be the change” in our corners of the world. Shouldn’t that be something worth noting? I look forward to the day when women’s contributions, big and small, are welcomed by all. It’s not as if we are holding onto an attitude of entitlement. I don’t know of any women entrepreneurs who aren’t willingly working their tails off to advance their businesses.

    • Well, it’s interesting because if we’re really going to get down to brass tacks: White men having the sole right to vote in this country for years ultimately spawned the conversation: “uh, it’s time for everyone else.” Well, plain and simple, it’s our turn to catch up. So, that’s one part. And if someone thinks it’s through “Special help” than so be it. The financial rewards are there to justify it. And, even if they were not, the social justice is there to justify it – but, we don’t even need to go there. Women are just so d&@m good for the economy, you don’t need to go any further…at all. So, for someone to argue in any other direction, or to feel defensive, or to spend one minute of negative energy on it – in my opinion – is a minute they could have been out building a million dollar business. So, get busy women! And, if you’re not there yet, and you’re part of the magic and fairy dust that supports others – guess what, that is priceless. So, go get busy doing that too. The point is, to recognize the value we hold. The days of not recognizing it…those days are over. And anyone is welcome – ANYONE – who wants to join together and recognize and build that value with us. My son, my husband, my daughter, the guys at the GW Department of Management Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, my dad…no one needs to explain this to them. No one needs to explain this to the Clinton Global Initiative. So, why are we still explaining. I find it small. It’s time to THINK BIG.

      • Well said! (Again! 🙂 ) I am all about thinking BIG and inspiring the women with whom I have the pleasure of working to think BIG too. If you haven’t read it already, Susan Butler’s book, Women Count, is excellent on the subject.

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