Women who own their own businesses have a lot to look forward to. According to a recent report reflecting the state of women-owned businesses, in the past 18 years the number of women-owned firms increased by 74%, a rate one and a half times the national average. Currently, it is estimated that in the United States, there are just over 9.4 million women-owned businesses generating nearly $1.5 trillion in revenues —-up 79% in that 18 year period.
Despite these stellar numbers, women are still under-represented in leadership positions. In 1996, there were NO CEOs of fortune 500 companies, in 2016 there were 21, or 4.2%, which is actually down from 24 in 2015. Women CEOs in the top 1000 companies are less than 5%. That is simply not acceptable. Great strides have been made but so much more progress is needed.
The Women Who Empower Forum featured a panel of 4 distinguished women leaders from various industries describing their journeys to success. It was highlighted by a Keynote address from April Ryan, White House Correspondent of nearly 20 years and American Urban Radio Networks (AURN) host.
The SmartCEO Brava Awards honored 40 Women CEOs from New Jersey celebrating high-impact female business leaders who combine an entrepreneurial spirit with a passion for giving back.
Among the Women leaders honored: Debbie Hart, President and CEO of BioNJ, the life sciences trade association for New Jersey; Eileen Huntington, CEO of the Huntington Learning Center (founded in 1977); and Avis Yates Rivers, CEO of Technology Concepts Group International, whose firm focuses on streamlining and automating Corporate Procurement functions.
The whole evening was a master class in innovation, determination, and perseverance.
To be a leader in most industries, technology is a critical element of that path. That becomes the nexus — to get more women to participate in leadership roles in technology.
Organizations like NCWIT (The National Center for Women and Information Technology) recognize that reality. As does the aforementioned BioNJ, who will be holding it’s second annual Women in Stem Conference on December 2nd. I attended last year’s event as my CEO (TCGi) was a thought-leader on one of the panels. Each of the speakers provided varying and relevant perspectives of which the women who attended found indispensable and inspiring.
Honoring and Empowering women entrepreneurs are keys to accelerating the progress first stated in the introduction. Driving that spirit is the 2016 Breakthrough Breakfast and Procurement Fair presented by the Women Presidents’ Educational Organization (WPEO) to be held on Friday October 7th at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
WPEO is a dynamic community of certified women-owned businesses, building on their success through mutually beneficial partnerships with Fortune 1000 corporations and other WBEs. I attended this event last year and it was truly inspiring, encountering so many forward-visioning and driven women entrepreneurs.
The Women Presidents’ Educational Organization (WPEO) comprises two of the 14 regional partner organizations of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC)—the nation’s leading advocate for women-owned businesses. They provide WBENC certification—the gold standard in diversity certification—at the regional level, and serve as an advocate for certified women-owned businesses in our New York and Washington, D.C. regions, offering them educational programs, networking opportunities and recognition.
Events that seek to inform, inspire and empower women through conversation, celebration and networking cannot be overstated. Receiving support, guidance, wisdom and shared opportunities are critical to having more women better succeed in business, especially at a leadership level.
These types of events are becoming more and more available. They are greatly needed. Especially ones that mentor and empower girls and young women. The goal of full inclusion of women leaders into the business landscape must be accelerated — in the short-term, women CEOs will break through into double-digit percentages of the top 1000 companies; the ultimate goal is nothing less than women sharing the leadership role in the world equally!