I recently read an article in the New York Enterprise Report that talks about helping the next generation of women entrepreneurs. It got me thinking about the history of women in the workplace and today’s impact around the world. And while I think we have made great strides, I see that we still have a long way to go. And in my point of view…that’s a good thing. Why? Because it conspires collaboration.
That is what inspired Dr. Terry Neese, who started The Institute for Economic Empowerment of Women – a nonprofit that provides education to women entrepreneurs on public policy. This experience led her to also create the Peace Through Business program, which teaches women in Afghanistan and Rwanda how to build and run their own businesses through guidance and mentorship from other women around the world.
According to the Women Entrepreneurs Grow Global social enterprise blog by Laurel Delany, founder of GlobeTrade (and author of Exporting, The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably), there are 188 million female entrepreneurs worldwide. For women seeking resources, there are tons offered by Ms. Delany on her websites and blogs: www.globalsmallbusinessblog.com and www.womenentrepreneursgrowglobal.org. She also touts a global business program for women entrepreneurs, called Think Global Institute, that is worthy of investigation – www.thinkglobalinstitute.org.
Since the early 19th century women have been in the workforce, yet even before that there are noted and documented women entrepreneurs that date back to the mid-1700s. According to an article in the August 2008 Entrepreneur online magazine, Eliza Lucas Pinckney was ‘America’s first important agriculturalist for introducing blue indigo dye into continental North America in 1739.’ Mary Katherine Goddard became the ‘first woman publisher in America’ in 1766. And Lydia Pinkham ‘converted her herbal home remedies into a big business by skillfully marketing her products toward women and educating them about health issues.’ As a result of their courage and hard work, millions of women have followed suit hundreds of years later.
The Global Initiative for Women’s Entrepreneurship Research at Babson College (formerly known as the Center for Women’s Business Research) released a 2012 Women’s Report via its Global Entrepreneurship Monitor and states that in 2012, an estimated 126 million women were starting or running new businesses in 67 economies around the world. In addition, an estimated 98 million were running established businesses, and currently employed one or more people in their businesses.
On average, in every region of the world, at least half of these women entrepreneurs operate in the consumer sector. These are powerful statistics that scream opportunity for world economic growth. And even more impactful is the fact that innovation levels are highest among women entrepreneurs in the United States. Approximately 36% report having products or services that were new to some or all customers, and for which there were few or no competitors – according to the GEM report.
To me this goes beyond the impact of growing business via new hires or driving internationalization. It means that there is a stronger need for collaboration to drive further innovation. There are still barriers that exist, but which results in the types of organizations being created every day
to address these needs. While balancing careers and family as well as country-specific challenges as it relates to women as a whole, there is a need for support and guidance for women from different cultures worldwide. Many of them struggle with the same things that American women business owners face: access to finance, setting targets and driving growth, staying local versus venturing abroad, short term vs. long term ventures based upon necessity, and most importantly, ‘going it alone.’
I believe that this is where many of us still need help. From an economic perspective, women from around the world must continue the impetus to engage others and collaborate on important endeavors and ideas that could drive world change. For many, it is a cultural challenge that prohibits collaboration as it relates to values and perceptions. For others, it’s a mindset of not understanding how to get started or how to drive further growth beyond a level of business maturity.
For those of us that understand the global environment and the impact of cultural differences, it is imperative that we continue to collaborate and offer guidance – a key to international business success for any business owner. Regardless of the sector that women entrepreneurs choose to operate in, global cultural differences will directly impact the profitability of business and we must support one another to help overcome any and all globally sensitive barriers. But most importantly, we must continue to build upon international competencies and success as a result of worldwide collaboration.