Womenable’s Top Ten

For the fourth straight year, we devoted our end of year e-newsletter to a review of the most noteworthy womenabling events of 2012. Just in case you don’t subscribe to our quarterly e-news (CLICK HERE  if you’d like to do so), we’ve repeated here our list – in no particular order – of the ten most important research reports, events, and emerging trends of the year:

  1. Numbers go visual: There’s been quite an increase in the use of infographics to share data and research in a visual way. We’re proud that our 2012 report on The State of Women-Owned Businesses has been named by PR Week as a finalist in the ‘Best Use of Analytics’ category. The communications this year included a large social media campaign, including infographics. Here are some of Womenable’s favorite infographics, on a Pinterest board.
  2. Data portals: There’s been a great leap forward this year in the aggregation of research information on women’s economic empowerment. Most particularly, the World Bank this year launched a Gender Data Portal, which grants widespread access to a plethora of statistics, including the ability to compare countries and regions, as well as to look at trends in a number of measures over time. It’s nirvana for womenablers everywhere!
  3. Data at hand: Speaking of data nirvana, there are now a number of smartphone apps that can place statistical information literally at your fingertips. Check out the US Census Bureau’s America’s Economy app, the World Bank’s Data Finder app, and the visually-appealing Women of the World iPad optimized e-book from Fotopedia and the World Bank. (Another great e-book, which we mentioned in last year’s list, is the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report, Gender Equality and Development.)
  4. Telling stories: Even those of us who are quantitatively focused recognize the value of personalizing research, and using profiles and stories to impart knowledge, stir emotions, and spur action. There’s a new player in this space, who’s building a fabulous community of womenabling stories, The Story Exchange. Check them out – and also learn more about their 1,000 Stories initiative. Here’s one of my favorite stories from their website of high-quality video vignettes:
  5. The “Having It All” myth re-exposed: In late 2010, Facebook’s COO Sheryl Sandberg made a splash with a TEDWomen speech during which she essentially told women to “man up” (my paraphrasing) if they wanted to get ahead. The YouTube video of her remarks has gotten nearly 2 million views. (Not as many as Gangnam Style, but pretty high for something related to women’s empowerment!) An equally big, if not bigger, splash was made this year by Ann-Marie Slaughter, Princeton professor and former senior official in the U.S. State Department, in a July cover story in the Atlantic magazine, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All,” exploring the family pressures that led to her departure from the federal government. It lit up the blogosphere, and certainly showed that, while women have made a lot of progress, it’s not been without sacrifice and there are a lot of heated opinions on the many facets of this issue.
  6. Making headway in high tech?: Speaking of Sheryl Sandberg, the topic of women in tech has a similar “push me-pull you” dialogue going on about how to get more women in STEM fields. Do they just need to toughen up and push ahead, or should existing paradigms be shifted to be more accepting to the differing leadership styles and professional goals of women in the field? Modeling the former modus operandi is new Yahoo CEO Marissa Meyer – who caused a kerfuffle when revealing her pregnancy shortly after taking the helm, but getting right back to business soon after giving birth. Taking a different tack is Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe, who has singlehandedly changed the environment – and increased the success – of female engineering and technology students on campus. So, too, new social networks such as Girls Who Code and Girl Geeks chart a different path by creating a collegial environment for women in a still very male-dominated field. It remains to be seen which approach will lead to greater success, but perhaps you can guess which side we come down on!
  7. Increased focus on access to markets: Last year, we pointed out that an increasing number of corporations are investing in the development of women’s business enterprises as suppliers – shifting their emphasis from “corporate social responsibility” to “value chain development.” International trade is an important element of market access, and a valuable link in this value chain is the International Trade Centre’s Access! initiative for women business owners in Africa, and their Global Platform for Action on Sourcing from Women Vendors – which included a trade exhibition and forum in Mexico City just last month. In addition, the 2nd quarter 2012 issue of their Trade Forum magazine, Empowering Women, Empowering Trade, focused entirely on access to trade issues for women-owned enterprises.
  8. Gender equality – continued Nordic dominance: For the past seven years, the World Economic Forum has released a Global Gender Gap Report. While some nations rise and fall in this global ranking of gender equality in the areas of health, education, political leadership and economic participation, one region has dominated the rankings since the beginning – the Nordic economies of Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden. Read more about the trends and download the current and previous reports at THIS LINK.
  9. Increasing the robustness of indices and lists: While the Global Gender Gap Report remains an important source of data on gender equality, its rankings are based on relatively few variables, none of which include business ownership or self-employment. There are now other players in the game, increasing the robustness of global rankings. First, the OECD has updated and expanded its Social Institutions and Gender Index (SIGI), which evaluates 100 economies on a number of measures that impact gender equality. The variables included in the rankings include existence of domestic violence legislation, women’s mobility and discriminatory inheritance practices – highlighting the sometimes hidden ways that inequality is perpetuated. Secondly, the Economist Intelligence Unit, author of the Women’s Economic Opportunity Index, is partnering with the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (IDB-MIF) to produce WEVentureScope, an analysis of environmental factors that make it easy – or more difficult – for women to start and grow businesses. This soon-to-come index will finally add women’s entrepreneurship into a country ranking equation – at least for Latin America and the Caribbean. Viva!
  10. Recognizing the contributions of unsung heroines: Most business awards and lists focus on economic impact – who generates the highest revenues, employs the most workers, or has grown the fastest in either or both of those areas over a period of time. The International Alliance for Women has done things a little differently, and we think that’s all to the good. For the past five years, their World of Difference Awards have focused on recognizing women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial enablers who are making a difference to the triple bottom line – largely without fanfare. We need more of this, so we’re adding it to our Top Ten list to shine a light on this approach, and perhaps to plant a seed for others to follow!

And, just for good measure, here are links to some other Top Ten lists you might be interested in:

Did we miss any critical items? Think we’re off the mark on any of the above? Let us know! Curious to compare this list with our previous Top Ten lists? Click on the following links to read our Top Ten womenabling events of 2011, 2010, and 2009.

Womenable Testifies at U.S. Senate Hearing

Womenable President and CEO Julie R. Weeks testified at a recent hearing of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, entitled “Creating Jobs and Growing the Economy: Legislative Proposals to Strengthen the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem.” Weeks was one of eight witnesses invited to address the committee. Other witnesses included officials from the U.S. Small Business Administration, a representative from the National Federation of Independent Business chapter in Maine, an official from the Granite State Economic Development Corporation, and business owners. Weeks spoke as an expert in women’s enterprise development, and as chair of the Association of Women’s Business Centers.JulieWeekstestimony_sm

The hearing, held on November 29th, focused on actions that the Committee could take now and early in the next Congress to spur small business growth and job creation. Weeks’ testimony, which can be downloaded and read in its entirety HERE (PDF file with active source links) or HERE (HTML on the SBC website), offered three specific policy recommendations:

  • Federal Procurement and WOSBs: Eliminate the monetary cap which is currently limiting the procurement opportunities that can be directed toward women-owned small businesses, and enable agency procurement officials to restrict competition for WOSBs;
  • Women’s Business Centers: Ensure that the SBA, when measuring and analyzing the performance of the WBC program, includes all of the support provided by WBCs, not just one-on-one counseling; and
  • The Census Bureau’s SBO Program: Ensure the continued funding of the quinquennial Survey of Business Owners program, and direct the Census Bureau to investigate growth continuum issues such as the emergence of “women-led” firms, and the feasibility of determining the gender ownership status of non-profit businesses.

The hearing was also significant in that it was the last Senate Small Business Committee hearing to be co-lead by retiring Senator Olympia Snowe – who has been a champion not only of small business development in general but of women’s enterprise development in particular during her storied 35-year Congressional career. Weeks concluded her testimony with a tribute to Snowe, saying,Weeks_Snowe_sm

“Finally, if I might be so presumptuous to speak on behalf of the entire women’s enterprise development community, I would like to recognize that, ever since she came to the U.S. Congress in 1978, Senator Olympia Snowe has been a vocal supporter and forceful advocate for women’s entrepreneurship issues without equal in the U.S. Congress. Her support and thought leadership on behalf of the women’s business center program, on federal procurement issues, on SBA entrepreneurial development coordination and impact evaluation, on the National Women’s Business Council; her inclusiveness in calling advocates to the table to discuss challenges and solutions; and the collegial way she has led the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship as both Chair and Ranking Member is unparalleled and is a shining example of the best in national politics and policymaking. Her voice and leadership will be sorely missed by all of us.”

All in attendance gave Senator Snowe a standing ovation near the start of the hearing.

A press release issued by the Committee can be read HERE, and video from the 2+ hour hearing can be viewed on the Senate SBC video archive or on C-SPAN.org. (Weeks was the last of the panelists to testify.)