Women who lead + women who own
Last year, after our first issue devoted to women business leaders, a businessman friend of mine said, “This is amazing! Usually when it comes to women in business all you hear about is Marilyn Carlson Nelson.” Not to diminish the former CEO of the Carlson Companies, but women are immersed in nearly every sector of industry. This year’s issue focuses on women business owners. Whether they bootstrapped, invested or inherited a company, they all own a piece of the rock.
A pleasant surprise this year is that we found a greater diversity of businesses and a greater diversity of women. Companies include a website devoted to dogs, a mobile veterinarian who makes house calls, a seller of semi trucks and a demolitionist. We also found a number of women who are either immigrants or are first or second generation Americans with backgrounds in Greece, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Mexico, Somalia, Iran and more. They are living examples of how immigrants and their descendants are good for the economy.
We also found that women business leaders are getting tired of being asked about how their gender affects their career. They’d rather just be asked about their job, such as how they are working to redefine health care (here and here). Equity is still an issue, however, and there are occasional crises in confidence. It is also true that firsts are still being made. After all, only 4% of Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs. And even though a majority of voters last November added millions of cracks in the highest glass ceiling, we have still not elected a woman to be president of the U.S.
Still, it used to be worse. Until legislation in 1988, many women could not get a small business loan unless a man signed for them — even if that man was their 17-year-old son! Which reminds me, this and other factoids were provided for our feature story by the highly educated Mary Quist-Newins, who is board chair for the local chapter of NAWBO, the National Organization of Women Business Owners, whose national conference is coming to town this year.
A few of the businesses in this issue stem from a reaction to men who didn’t “get it.” Like the women’s health clinic that was inspired by a painful experience with an insensitive male gynecologist. And the women’s law firm that was motivated by a male attorney: When he told his female client she would have to go to prison, he didn’t get why she started crying. It’s no wonder that women-only resource organizations and networking groups are flourishing.
Finally, I must thank those who helped us find the women business owners in this issue: Natasha Fedorova of WBDC (Women’s Business Development Council), Myrna Morofsky of WPO (Women’s President’s Organization) and Lani Basa of the Business Women’s Circle.
So remember, next time you need a job, ask a woman!
Editor in chief