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I’m glad I’m a woman.

Actually, I’m glad I’m a Woman entrepreneur, and you should be too.

I’ll tell you why in a minute.

For a moment I’m going to talk about all the things women in business already know:

We still live in a society where men are the typical, almost preferred, leaders in any type of industry.Surprisingly, women are often content to take a back seat rather than fight for position. We all know what it’s like to be labeled “THAT” type of woman! The one that charges over everyone to get to the top. The aggressive workaholic that would rather order people around than show compassion or a softer side for fear of being weak.

The glass ceiling is alive and well. While we’ve made some progress in this area, women still don’t get paid the same wage as men for doing the same job. Worse yet, often women aren’t even given the opportunity to fill those positions “reserved” for men. For years I’ve worked in the private sector – new home construction. As you might imagine, the construction industry is definitely very old school and very much still a “Good Old Boys Club.”

When I started there over 28 years ago, I had high aspirations of becoming an officer of the company and made my plans known all the way to the top. There was one woman in that position which gave me confidence it was possible to achieve with dedication and hard work. So, I put in my time, became an expert in almost every facet of the organization, earned the respect of my co-workers and management, and even made some money for the company through innovative suggestions. Watching promotions go to men within the organization over the years was disheartening, but there was still that one woman in a leadership position. The only problem – she never seemed to do anything remotely involved in decision-making for the company. She, too, did her job well but never embraced the role of leader. Well, she retired this year. What surprised me the most while attending the going away lunches and parties in her honor, was that never once was it mentioned that she was Corporate Secretary for almost 40 years. Then it struck me, the officer position she held was merely an attempt at political correctness; to, at least on the surface, appear to be a forward-thinking company. Last week the president sent out a call to action to his all-male management team. In it, he listed eight employee names in consideration for the vacant officer’s seat. My heart skipped a beat. Surely, now was my chance. Of course, you guessed it, my name wasn’t on the list. Among the eight names were six men and two women. Another skipped heartbeat with the possibility that some other woman might make it to that honored status. The candidates? A woman who has been with the company for four months and the other in poor health and close to retirement. The all-male management team will vote next week. What do you think will happen?

Women don’t ask…for help, for money, for anything that is going to make them appear less independent. There have been a number of studies to substantiate this point. Linda Babcock of Carnegie Mellon University indicates the main reason women still earn approximately 78 cents to every dollar men earn, is their unwillingness to negotiate for higher pay. Data shows that men are also four times more likely to ask for a salary raise than women, leaving thousands of dollars in unearned income on the table.

A brave and talented childhood friend shared a story about her very slow rise to success. She’s a buyer at a prominent fashion retailer in New York City today, but it was a hard-fought battle that brought her there. Molly was always considered the “fashionista” of our tight-knit group of BFFs. You know the type, the pretty little thing that could pull off mismatched knee socks (before it was popular), layer-upon-layer of everything in her closet, top it off with her favorite scarf and call it her “style.” Somehow, she made it work every time. When she grew up, no one was surprised that she pursued a career in fashion. She put in the work, got her degrees, and finally felt ready to tackle the world. The only problem…she was a large talent in a small town. After years of searching for the perfect job and making minimum wage in her comfortable home town, she realized that her opportunities were limited. She jumped from one boutique to the next with little chance for growth. She told me that the male-dominated retail industry in our cozy community left little room for her fashion-forward ideas. To them, she had amazing potential as their head sales clerk, because she was cute and friendly.

Molly finally had enough. She took a leap of faith and headed to the Big City. With no job, no place to live and just a little bit of savings, she got on a bus and headed east. Can you imagine? Molly found out the hard way that if she wanted fame and fortune, she had to reach for it. It was risky, but worth it in the end. Her only regret? That she waited so many years before making the move.

You might be thinking that these are isolated instances or limited to certain industries, but that’s not the case. Consider the female-dominated nursing profession – in a field where women outnumber men 10:1, you’d think the women would have an overall advantage, especially in earnings. Nope. According to the latest Census data available from 2011, female nurses earned 7 percent less than male nurses. The phenomenon where men earn higher wages, obtain faster promotions and concentrate on achieving positions in the highest-earning segments of their field even encroaches into the healthcare industry.

Does any of this sound familiar? While I don’t really consider myself much of a feminist, I am convinced that in order to break stereotypes that still exist in business today, real change has to start young. And there are initiatives that are working toward this goal. For example, the Girl Scouts have adopted a “Win-Win” badge where girls are required to accomplish a series of negotiation skills to earn it. In addition, researchers at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley have identified empathy as a critical skill needed to reinforce stronger interpersonal connections, better collaboration and team building from childhood through adulthood. Preschool and other childhood educational programs are being geared toward early adoption of these skills for both boys and girls.

It’s a start; and hopefully future women entrepreneurs will find a more balanced playing field. Already statistics are showing improvement with an increase in the number of women-operated businesses and financing options available for all small business ventures.

Okay, now I’ll tell you why I’m glad I’m a Woman entrepreneur.

While I’m always going to root for the underdog, being considered one just makes me mad. It would be nice to have a fair playing field in business, but life’s not fair. Being an entrepreneur has taught me to be a problem-solver when faced with obstacles. Being a woman entrepreneur has given me practice.

And I’m not alone. Statistics from a 2014 Womenable-authored report published by American Express OPEN confirmed there were close to 9.1 million women-owned firms, generating over $1.4 trillion in revenues in the United States. Between 1997 and 2014, the number of women-owned enterprises increased by 68 percent – the fastest growing segment among all others over that period. Think about that for a minute. Are you surprised? I was.

There are a number of areas in which women excel, and that, if used properly in business, should give them an edge over their male competitors. I’ll list the top 10 reasons I’m happy to belong to this group, but feel free to add your own.

Of course, I haven’t listed all the financing options available to small business owners – male or female. It’s possible you could win the lottery or find a bag of money on your front porch. More than likely, you’ll need to be resourceful, tenacious and a problem-solver. In other words, be yourself. There are always going to be challenges in business. Just understand that you’re not alone, and there will always be an answer. With alternative funding solutions available from Excel Capital Management, you’ll never have to worry about accessing the cash you need for upcoming expenses, and instead, you can focus on your success.

See, now aren’t you glad you’re a Woman entrepreneur too?

Debbie Dey

I'm a freelance writer and administrator for a major construction company. I've split my time living in the U.S. and Canada while learning all the ins and outs of the family summer resort business.
Debbie Dey

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