Womenable Founder Takes a Break  

Friends of Womenable: I have been diagnosed with brain cancer (glioblastoma) and am currently undergoing treatment. The cancer was discovered in September at Munson Medical Center after I began having trouble with speech and wasn’t feeling quite myself. I am receiving great care here in northern Michigan at Munson’s Cowell Family Cancer Center, after consulting with oncologists at University of Michigan Health Systems. At this time, I must take a pause in the work of Womenable and focus on my treatment.

angels from NAWBO sisters

angels from NAWBO sisters


I have been overwhelmed by the support and love I have received from my local community including my women friends and my Leelanau Conservancy friends, and my friends from around the world.

My wonderful husband, Walter, has been by my side constantly and we continue to take our morning walks in the beautiful environs I live in. Nature, along with people, is buoying my spirits and keeping me grateful for all that I have. Life is good—even with brain cancer!

I will begin radiation treatment in late October as well as chemo. The battle ahead is daunting and won’t be easy, but I am determined to fight as hard as I can to kick this invader out of my brain and to enjoy the gifts that come with each day.

I’m doing my best to stay positive, and appreciate all of your good thoughts. I am also posting regularly on my Facebook page (Julie Weeks) but it’s difficult for me at this time to type/reply to posts or email.
Please know, however, that I am energized and lifted by hearing from you. Thank you. 
 
~Julie Weeks (thank you Carolyn Faught for writing this for me)

Reflections on Building a Sustainable Women’s Enterprise Ecosystem

In November, I attended and spoke at the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship‘s pre-conference women’s enterprise policy day. My 25-minute presentation was entitled, “Building a Women’s Enterprise Movement That Will Stand the Test of Time: Lessons From the U.S.‘” It aimed to reflect on the recent silver anniversary of the passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988, to share lessons learned from the U.S. experience, and to offer observations of the common elements that bolster and strengthen a healthy and vibrant women’s enterprise ecosystem – which could be adapted for a variety of political systems and development contexts.

Here, then, is a Slideshare Slidecast of the presentation, which you can watch and listen to as you munch on your lunch. Or, fellow womenablers, feel free to download it and play it at your next women’s business organization member gathering or networking event to fuel further discussion about what ideas you might take forward in your own community. Go forth and multiply!

The State of Women-Owned Businesses in the U.S. in 2013

With the support of American Express OPEN, Womenable has reported on trends in the growth and development of women-owned enterprises, drawing upon detailed information from the U.S. Census Bureau, since 2011.

In our inaugural report, The American Express OPEN State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of Important Trends, 1997-2011, we provided up-to-date estimates on the number, employment and revenues of women-owned firms, and shared the insight that – despite above-average growth in the number of firms – women-owned businesses were not progressing up the business size continuum.
2013_State_of_WOBS_cover
Our 2012 report, The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of Important Trends, 1997-2012, again provided up-to-date estimates of the number and growth of women-owned firms, and took a more detailed look at the economic clout of women-owned firms regionally and within industry – finding that women-owned firms in two industries (construction and transportation) were standing toe-to-toe with their industry peers with respect to the share generating $500,000+ in revenues.

With our most recent installment in the series, The 2013 State of Women-Owned Businesses Report: A Summary of Important Trends, 1997-2013, we again provide women business owners and their associations, supporters of women’s business development and other stakeholders with the most comprehensive review and analysis of the current health and well-being of women-owned firms in the United States – as well as in all 50 states and the 25 most populous metropolitan areas. Further, the report expands its focus this year to look at the phenomenal growth of firms owned by women of color.

Among this year’s key findings are:

  • As of 2013, it is estimated that there are over 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating over $1.3 trillion in revenues and employing nearly 7.8 million people. The growth in the number, revenues and employment of women-owned firms over the past 16 years exceeds the growth rates of all but the very largest, publicly-traded corporations in the country;
  • Indeed, when looking specifically at the 2007-2013 period – since just before the start of the recent recession – the net increase of 5.3 million jobs economy-wide has come almost entirely from very large public corporations … AND women-owned firms. During the past six years, employment in women-owned and equally-owned firms has fallen;
  • The states in which growth in the number, employment and revenues of women-owned firms has been the strongest since 1997 are the District of Columbia, North Dakota, Nevada, Wyoming and Georgia. San Antonio TX, Portland OR, Houston TX, Riverside CA, and Washington DC/MD/VA are the fastest-growing metro areas for women-owned businesses;
  • In 1997, there were just under 1 million (929,445) firms owned by women of color, accounting for one in six (17%) women-owned firms. That number has skyrocketed to an estimated 2,677,700 as of 2013, and now comprises one in three (31%) women-owned firms;
  • While firms owned by women of color are smaller than non-minority women-owned businesses both in terms of average employment and revenues, their growth in number and economic clout is generally far outpacing that of all women-owned firms. Indeed, the growth in the number of African American (up 258% from 1997 to 2013), Asian American (+156%), Latina (+180%), Native American/ Alaska Native (108%), and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (+216%) women-owned firms all top the growth in the number of non-minority women-owned firms (+32%) over the past 16 years.

You may download and read the complete 71-page report by visiting openforum.com/womensbusinessreport or clicking on the link above. You may also wish to download and read the news release for the report.

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.)

Empowering Women by Empowering Trade

Accessing new markets is an important avenue to greater growth for businesses, and a more laser-like focus on issues of spurring growth among women-owned enterprises is the next stage of the women’s enterprise movement. So says Womenable President & CEO Julie Weeks in an article in the most recent issue of the International Trade Centre’s International Trade Forum. Download and read the entire issue, Empowering Women, Empowering Trade at this link.

The ITC is helping fuel this next stage for women’s enterprise development in two exciting ways:

  1. By spearheading a Women Vendors Exposition and Forum, which provides an opportunity for trade-focused women business owners to meet potential international buyers. The second annual Expo is coming up on November 6-7 in Mexico City. Find out more at this link; and
  2. By launching a new program in Africa to help improve access to international markets for women business owners there. The ACCESS! Export Development Programme aims at assisting over 2,500 women entrepreneurs. Click here to read a fact sheet about the program.

Is Separate Ever Equal?

I’ve found myself pondering this question, as school sessions get underway. Earlier this year, I visited Kosovo and Macedonia, speaking on the topic of women’s entrepreneurship (naturally) to a number of audiences – including a high school class in Tetovo, a town not too far from Macedonia’s capital city, Skopje. It was a fantastic experience, and I was delighted to engage in a lively dialogue with the students, male and female alike.

While there, though, I learned that the school classes are segregated within the same building, with the classes being taught in Macedonian (with a largely Eastern Orthodox Christian population) held at different times of the day or on different days than those taught in Albanian (for a largely Muslim population). It reminded me of another trip not too long ago to Belfast in Northern Ireland, where – although “the troubles” have largely quieted down – Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods are still separated by cement block walls and students still go to separate primary and secondary schools. This was actually even the case for me in my Arlington, Virginia elementary school neighborhood in the early 1960’s, where a wall separated white and black neighborhoods and schools were not integrated until my third grade class, after the implementation of the Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision abolished the “separate but equal” segregation practices of the past.

While language and cultural preservation is an important concern, if children are taught separately in that manner from a young age, how are we ever going to get along? Further, while some tout the value of separate classes or even schools for girls (where some studies show that they may learn better and be better prepared to take on leadership positions after graduation), others decry that position and say that separate education, even by gender, perpetuates existing societal divisions (see an excellent article from a few years ago by Wendy Kaminer in The Atlantic on this point).

We do all have to get along in a multi-cultural world, with different points of view and varied life experiences. The more we understand each others’ points of view, the better off we will all be, and that education and exposure to diversity should start in primary school. What do you think – is separate ever equal?