Cher Murphy of Cher Murphy PR recently published an article detailing “5 Challenges Every Minority/Women Owned Business Must Hurdle.” The article could also have been titled “5 Things Male Business Owners Don’t Usually Consider.”
This isn’t a dig, because she took the positive, powerful and effective approach, which uplifts one demographic without dragging another through the mud (for little reason, to little avail). Murphy simply laid out the bare facts of being a female entrepreneur in a world and industry still heavily dominated by men.
This year, stewardshipreport.com celebrated Tina Aldatz, co-founder of “Savvy Travelers” who has been recognized for her work as a CEO. Awarded as the “Mexican American Opportunity Foundation Woman of the Year,” Aldatz has tasted success as an entrepreneur and breaker of stereotypes, sharing at the National Latina Women’s Conference in Montebello, CA this past May as their keynote speaker.
However, the road to such success hasn’t been easy. As Murphy notes, women face unique hurdles in the business arena. She lists these five in her article:
(1) Women face stereotypes.
It might not be the 1960s, but many still paint all female business owners as cookie-cutter Mary Kay representatives or flirty insurance agents. Professionalism and a good work ethic is not necessarily the first image to come to mind, and Murphy points out the importance of clearly defining and presenting the image you would like people to form of you — and your business. Thinking “outside the box” is a strength, not just for consumers looking for quality but the business owners claiming to offer it.
(2) Women can’t brag.
Perhaps due to the stereotypes listed above, men have an easier time when it comes to self-promotion. Being assertive and confident are often painted as “pushy” by those who are uncomfortable with women or minorities growing a successful business, but these traits are essential to giving others a sense of who you are and what you bring to the table. A woman at my workplace said, quite sensibly, “If you don’t believe in yourself, why should they?” It isn’t arrogance if it’s true, and self-promoting honesty in business is the best policy.
(3) Women might just work too hard.
We’ve all heard the adage “Work hard, play hard.” It takes a fine balancing act. Somewhere between shuffling the responsibilities of family and social lives, many women forget how to prioritize, delegate and engage in good self-care. You can’t run a good business and take care of your employees (or your customers) if you can’t take care of yourself.
(4) Women fight to belong.
Do you remember those pictures with one odd item in a group of similar items, with the goal of pointing out “which one doesn’t belong”? Sometimes, being a woman in the business world can feel a lot like being the bicycle in a basket of fruit. Others look at you to see why you’re of particular relevance to the big picture. Show them.
(5) Women might not be seen as equals.
Murphy lists this item as “being taken seriously.” Your work ethic may be called into question, or you may be seen as a “token” woman in the field. Whether this is due to outdated views, intimidation or a Boys Club mentality, it’s not unsurmountable. Much like the challenge listed above, women can take on this challenge by endorsing professionalism and employing their strongest skills.
It takes time, effort, a clear vision, and the willingness to forge partnerships, but women can do more than hold their own in business.
Aldatz began her pioneering work over 10 years ago with a company called Foot Petals. The goal? She aimed to provide comfortable, supportive high-heels.
Her hard work and specific vision paid off. Inc. 500 listed Foot Petals as one of the “fastest growing companies in America.”
Now, business owners like Tina Aldatz, Barbara Corcoran of “Shark Tank,” and Lauren Maillian of “Quit Your Day Job” are leading by example for a growing number of women who face the challenges — but also the impending rewards — of making it in the business world.
In 2015, The Atlantic released a report from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) showing a very clear uptick in females who own small businesses. According to this report, women make up nearly 30 percent of business owners in the United States, compared to 26 percent less than a decade ago.
Furthermore, minority women have shown the greatest change. While women overall have become more prominent figures in small-business entrepreneurship, with women owned-firms going from 47 percent to 68 percent from 2007 to present, minority women have more than doubled their presence with an increase of over 250 percent. To put that in perspective, one third of all female business owners are minority women.
Jessica Milli, research associate for IWPR, theorizes that policy may have something to do with this, citing The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and the Women’s Equity in Contracting Act.
Legislation that evens the playing field in a competition that formerly only encouraged the success of one type of business owner (usually male, often white) is a necessary step toward progress, and — according to Milli — we are seeing the effects.
But that’s another layer of a very important issue.
With the leadership of people like Murphy and Aldatz also comes the need to support legislation that encourages similar courage and initiative, rewarding those with creativity and resourcefulness.
Not to get political on you, but couldn’t this be yet another reason not to vote for a guy who’s idea of being a “savvy traveler” is staying at a Trump hotel and whose primary quote in business is “You’re fired”?
In any case, while the challenges of women as business owners and leaders will not subside, it is encouraging to see that they can be met with veracious tenacity … and conquered.
Photos provided by Cher Murphy
Megan Wallin is a young writer with a background in the social sciences and an interest in seeking the extraordinary in the mundane. A Seattle native, she finds complaining about the constant drizzle and overabundance of Starbucks coffee therapeutic. With varied work experiences as a residential counselor, preprimary educator, musician, writing tutor and college newspaper reporter/editor, Megan is thrilled to offer a unique perspective through writing, research and open dialogue.