Throughout the entire world history, except for recent times, the society has been exclusively masculine-oriented. Only men had the right to occupy both leading and ordinary positions in politics, economy, social and cultural life. Women were supposed to be housewives and mothers, staying at home and looking after their children. It was absolutely out of the question for a woman to have her say in any serious matter. Females were oppressed and humiliated…until the 20th century.
History of women in business
There are numerous examples of women successfully starting and running businesses, particularly family-owned ones. In the end of the 20th century, the research was conducted in order to determine the oldest family business in the world. Surprisingly, it found nearly a hundred of famous family businesses. Take a look at the following list of some of the world’s oldest companies:
- Kongo Gumi (Japan, building and repairing Buddhist temples);
- Hoshi Ryokan (Japan, hotel business);
- Château de Goulaine (France, owning a castle with a butterfly collection, museum, and vineyard);
- Barone Ricasoli (Italy, producing wine and olive oil);
- Barovier & Toso (Italy, glassmaking);
- Hotel Pilgrim Haus (Germany, hotel business);
- Antinori (Italy, wine production);
- Berenberg Bank (Germany, owning a private bank);
- Eduard Meier (Germany, shoe company);
- James Lock & Co. (the UK, production of hats);
- Yamamotoyama (Japan, the world’s oldest family-owned tea company);
- Farina Gegenüber (Germany, the oldest perfume company in the world);
- Tissages Denantes (France, cloth production);
- Hacienda Los Lingues (Chile, ranch business).
Each of the companies listed above has been existing for more than two centuries and was family-owned throughout its existence. Family businesses acted as suitable platforms for women to practice their entrepreneurial skills, which with time has led to the feminist revolution.
Succeeding in family businesses first, women then attempted to break free from discrimination, trying themselves in setting up their own companies. Female-run business was considered to be “shameful”; nevertheless, in as early as the 18th century the following businesswomen were distinguished:
- Eliza Lucas Pinckney (agricultural work: running the plantations, planting indigo seeds; resulted in a successful family business);
- Mary Katherine Goddard (newspaper publisher).
The next century brought even more female entrepreneurs:
- Mary Gage (initiator of the USA stock exchange for women, aimed at investing in railroads);
- Rebecca Pennock Lukens (director of the inherited iron and steel company);
- Biddy Mason (the first black female real estate owner);
- Catherine Anselm Gleason (mechanical engineer, the first female president of the First National Bank of Rochester, member of the American Concrete Institute, member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers).
The feminism boom started in the 20th century, bringing prominent changes into the workforce sphere. Moreover, women were even endued with the right to vote. That was a real success, resulting in more and more women getting engaged in business:
- Madam CJ Walker (one of the first female millionaires, cosmetics business);
- Elizabeth Arden (initiator of the international beauty business);
- Mary Kay Ash (owner of the direct sales cosmetics company);
- Olive Ann Beech (one of the owners of the aircraft company serving the US military);
- Katherine Meyer Graham (director of The Washington Post).
One of the opportunities for women to show their work potential was the World War II, which increased the number of female workers by 10% during five years of wartime. Women obtained highly responsible positions, working on more or less equal working conditions with men in order to substitute the lack of male workers engaged in military operations.
Later on, together with social alternations and increasing divorce rates, women were getting involved into business even more. They had no financial support, and, consequently, occupied a considerable niche in a labor market, starting up their own entrepreneurship.
A significant step forward was done in 1988, when the US Congress issued the Women’s Business Ownership Act. It removed the former necessity for married women to get their husbands’ signature while signing business-related papers. In addition, the Act enabled women to get bank loans without the written approval of their husbands. Such a document, approved on the state level, became the first step to setting the equality of men and women in the business sphere.
Nowadays, the situation has improved to such an extent that half of all the workers in the world are females. They occupy the positions of managers, CEOs, governors, which was impossible even in the previous century. Things are changing super-quickly!
According to the Credit Suisse Global Family, there are over 900 large companies in the world nowadays that are family-owned, with women occupying the executive positions. Among such world known business giants there are the following:
- Samsung Electronics (South Korea);
- Facebook (USA);
- Oracle (USA);
- Walmart (USA).
In the 21st century, female entrepreneurship rate increased by 54%, and the number of women-governed companies increased by 45%. At present, there are nearly 11.3 million businesses run by women in the USA alone. As a result, the economy gets improved, bringing huge revenues in the amount of almost $2 trillion. Social researches prove that women are three times more likely to start their own businesses than men. This statistics is quite promising, isn’t it?
Problem of women entrepreneurs in business
Mary Kay Ash, Coco Chanel, Oprah Winfrey…If there’s one thing that unites them it’s the fact that all these universally adored women were forced to fight their way into business. They still serve as bright examples of female wit, talent, and perseverance in spite of unfavorable social conditions. However, challenges and difficulties that women face in business didn’t change much since the times of Coco Chanel or Mary Kay Ash. Here are some examples:
- Social and cultural outlook for a female role
What is a woman born to be? A mother and a housewife. Such a traditional mental conviction got deeply rooted in our social conscience. It goes without saying that certain jobs, professions, and businesses are meant strictly for men, and there’s no place for women there. It may look kind of ridiculous for a woman to be a welder, a driver, or a mechanic. Why? Because women are believed to be weak. It is always an immensely difficult task to change any fixed notion that has been followed throughout centuries. However, women have proved their ability to generate worthy ideas, develop business plans, give wise pieces of advice, invest into right economic niches.
Mary Kay Ash once said, “I knew I had been denied opportunities to fulfill my optimum potentials simply because I was a woman. These feelings were not merely indulgences of self-pity because I had personally known so many other women who had suffered such injustices.”
This is what may hamper the female entrepreneurship even nowadays, for the reason that modern society has not completely gotten rid of the concept of treating women as inferior creatures incapable of hard work.
- Keeping a work-life balance
Traditionally, women were responsible for bringing up their children and taking care of the household, and it will always remain the same. Thus, in order to thrive in business, females have to balance between family and business, which is definitely not an easy thing to do. Men are allowed the luxury of entirely concentrating on the companies they lead, while women’s time for developing their businesses is limited. It demands higher motivation and goal orientation.
Julie Aigner Clark confessed, “When my company started really growing, I didn’t have any help in my house at all. I had the upkeep of my daily life, I had a one-year-old and a three-year-old, and I had my house. So, I had to prioritize.”
Indeed, “prioritize” is the word that best describes the everyday life of women who decided to get involved in business.
- Lack of investors funds
Men are more likely to get financial help for developing their businesses than women. The reason lies in the traditional way of thinking: men are stronger, more reliable, and responsible, so investing in them will surely bring some income. The situation is changing, though. Persistency and confidence are two keys for women to overcome fears and doubts. In due course, those who strived to succeed get their reward.
“People don’t take opportunities because the timing is bad, the financial side unsecure. Too many people are overanalyzing. Sometimes you just have to go for it.” – Michelle Zatlyn.
- Lack of confidence
In some countries, such as India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and others, women’s rights are still severely restricted. They are not allowed to get an education, they get no respect at all, and they don’t feel confident, being ruled over by men. Religious beliefs rob women of the opportunity to take part in social life, let alone get involved into economy.
However, in more developed countries, the problem of lacking confidence exists as well. “Next time, ask: what’s the worst that will happen? Then push yourself a little further than you dare. Once you start to speak, people will yell at you. They will interrupt you, put you down and suggest it’s personal. And the world won’t end…And the speaking will get easier and easier. And you will find you have fallen in love with your own vision, which you may never have realized you had. And you will lose some friends and lovers, and realize you don’t miss them. And new ones will find you and cherish you…And at last you’ll know with surpassing certainty that only one thing is more frightening than speaking your truth. And that is not speaking.” – Audre Lorde. These words perfectly describe the necessity to overcome social barriers and make a choice. It is the way to grow your confidence and thrive in business.
Inspirational quotes of top women entrepreneurs
Below there are some truly brilliant quotes about women in business. Check them out and see for yourself how powerful they are in motivating and infusing courage, optimism, and inspiration to either start or develop your business:
- “You’re not in competition with other women. You’re in competition with everyone” (Tina Fey);
- “The thing women have yet to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it” (Roseanne Barr);
- “The difference between successful people and others is how long they spend time feeling sorry for themselves” (Bara Corcoran);
- “Leadership is the ability to guide others without force into a direction or decision that leaves them still feeling empowered and accomplished” (Lisa Cash Hanson);
- “One of the most important things I have learned is that businesses don’t fail, entrepreneurs give up. Now sometimes, giving up is the right decision. But usually you just need to dig in and figure out how to make things better. Remember: Every day is a new opportunity to get up and do it better than yesterday!” (Adda Birnir);
- “Build something you’re passionate about. As an entrepreneur, you have to have the passion and drive to stay the course” (Alexandra Chong);
- “Making the decision to not follow a system, or someone else’s rules has allowed me to really dig into what my own strengths and gifts are without spending time feeling jaded or wasteful” (Ishita Gupta);
- “You never lose in business, either you win or you learn” (Melinda Emerson);
- “I am not satisfied in making money for myself. I endeavor to provide employment for hundreds of the women of my race” (Madam C.J. Walker);
- “It is within everyone’s grasp to be a CEO” (Martha Stewart);
- “What I learn from talking to so many women around the world: If you can empower them with the right things, the right tools, they can lift up their family. And that ultimately lifts up their community and their society” (Melinda Gates).
The top 5 most influential businesswomen in the world today
In order to observe and document the evolution of women’s role in business, experts create lists of the most influential women in business. Such researches are prepared annually to illustrate the rates of women’s rising authority. In 2017, the world’s number one woman is Mary Barra, followed by Indra Nooyi, Marillyn Hewson, Abigail Johnson, and Sheryl Sandberg. These top five women are CEOs and COOs, presenting the evidence of highly estimated women’s positions in the modern workspace.
Each year the number of female CEOs increases. What does it mean? Women are getting more influential and valued, finally getting on equal terms with men.
Margaret Thatcher sarcastically said, “If you want anything said, ask a man. If you want something done, ask a woman.” Thus, women have proved themselves as great leaders, and nobody can deny it!
Betsy DeVos family business
Elisabeth Dee DeVos, worldwide known as Betsy DeVos, is a famous American politician, the United States Secretary of Education. However, she is mostly respected for her generous support of schools. Together with her husband, Dick DeVos, a son of Amway founder, they initiated their Family Foundation in 1989. Aiming to support American education, the Foundation donated almost $140 million to schooling, medicine, and arts. Half of the funds covered Christian organizations, private Christian schools, and High School Associations in particular. DeVos family is one of the most remarkable American charity givers. At the same time, DeVos family business presents a great example of how prosperous and powerful women can become.
Successful young women in business
Well, nobody denies that being a businesswoman is cool. But you need to be mature and obtain a profound experience first. In fact, there are a lot of striking examples of multi-million-dollar businesses run by truly young ladies, even by girls in their teens! The crucial thing is that they are confident enough and eager to accept the challenge. Judge by yourself:
- Sarah Prevette (28 years old) – online community business;
- Ashley Qualls – created her website at the age of 14, today’s revenue counts as much as $1.5 million;
- Catherine Cook (22 years old) – initiator of the online platform that became the most popular website for teenagers, which now brings nearly $24 million;
- Alexa von Tobel (26 years old) – director of her own LearnVest company that aims to assist women with the right financial guidance, with total revenue of almost $6 million;
- Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss (29 and 26 years old respectively) – owners of the Rent the Runway company, providing their customers with brand clothes and accessories for rent, making $15 million revenue;
- Maddie Bradshaw (15 years old) – annually gets $1.6 million for her M3Girl Designs company, selling necklaces.
Women keep assuring the society in their high and true potential, initiating their own companies and expanding them into family businesses. Among numerous successful small family businesses examples, there is one that attracts mass attention. That is Kate Middleton family business.
In 2011 Catherine Middleton (more known as Kate Middleton) married Prince William. Since then, the Middletons have received a lot of attention. Carole and Michael Middleton set up their family business in 1987. It turned out to be quite successful, and in 8 years the family moved to a luxurious mansion worth £6 million. The Middletons’ Party Pieces company specializes in selling party accessories, bringing £l30 million in revenue. Essentially, Party Pieces business was started by Carole, which once again proves the fact that women possess truly exceptional leadership abilities. Naomi Simson, a thriving entrepreneur and blog writer, gives young women three key pieces of advice on how to behave in the business sphere:
- Don’t be hush, but express your thoughts, ideas, intentions;
- Be laconic: don’t write lengthy emails to your business partners, but strive to be specific and short-spoken;
- Don’t feel uncomfortable while negotiating financial issues; that is don’t underestimate your business interests and personal value.
Thus, you are the first and the most powerful factor that determines your future success: you either aim to become a great businesswoman and learn how to do it, or you give up and fail.
Scholarships for women in business
In order to encourage women to study Business Administration, obtain an MBA degree, and build a brilliant career, there are numerous scholarships available. Check out the following examples and try your best to win one of them:
- AAUW Career Development Grants (given to students to obtain their MBA);
- AG Bell Scholarship;
- AICP Scholarships;
- C200 Scholars Award;
- Ford Business Scholarship;
- Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Scholarship Awards;
- Forte Foundation Fellowships;
- Cronk Opportunity Scholarship;
- Little Family Foundation MBA Fellowship Award;
- AARP Foundation, Women’s Scholarship Program;
- American Business Women’s Association;
The associations listed above provide scholarship winners with the necessary funds that can cover studying expenses or assist in establishing a business. Such support for women in business motivates more and more participants to pursue education, letting women be independent, financially and socially protected.
Grants for women in business
Getting a grant for starting a business is not an easy task to fulfill. Governments don’t issue grants, as they focus on nonprofit companies only. However, there many private organizations that offer such options:
- Amber Grant ($500 for one woman per month, later awarded with $1,000);
- IdeaCafe Grant ($1,000 per person);
- InnovateHER Challenge 2017 ($70,000 for a winner);
- FedEx Small Business Grant ($250,000 awarded since 2013);
- The Halstead Grant ($6,000 for a winner).
Obviously, businesswomen have bright opportunities for building their business carriers. So, design your business plan, visualize your goals, and go ahead!