March 1, 2023
There are 114% more female entrepreneurs than there were 20 years ago. Moreover, 42% of all U.S. businesses today are owned by women. I almost fell off my chair when I heard these statistics.
Sure, I know things have changed dramatically over the past two decades. I recall those days from personal experience, in the first few years of my PR career. I remember:
I don’t resent where we’ve been, but I’m sure glad this generation of women in business don’t have to fight quite as hard. No one should have to beg for parity. Though we’ve come a long way, there’s still work to do.
In honor of International Women’s Month, I’ve answered a few questions I received about women in business from a curious colleague of mine (shout out to Kayla Hannemann for asking, which is a piece of advice I give below).
If you could change one thing about the way that people view “women in business”, what would you change?
This is a bit funny, given the topic of this discussion. I wish people would see the accomplished businessperson first and the woman second.
Like men in my position, I enjoy talking business. Vision, growth, projections, hiring, performance, development and best practices excite me.
When people “see” gender first, it becomes the first thing they want to talk about. Sometimes it becomes the only thing. It would be wonderful if it was one piece of a much larger, more dynamic conversation.
What was the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I wasn’t given the advice directly, but I learned it by watching people I admired. Ask for what you need!
Curious about your career path? Ask. Unsure what to do first on a project? Ask. Want to work on an account? Ask. If you don’t speak up, the person who was willing to do so might land where you hoped you’d be. Why? Because they asked. Clarity and confidence can take you a long way.
What advice could you offer women beginning their careers?
Don’t let who you are, or who people think you are, today define who you are tomorrow. Mindset matters and where you begin isn’t the end.
Master skills from the bottom up. Be curious. Take risks and try things before you are ready.
I learned how to be a PR account executive by learning the basics, and with no reward in mind. The very act of doing so reframed how others thought of me. Before long, they saw me as a PR executive.
I became an agency owner by observing others around me who were doing it already. I read books about entrepreneurship and talked to and hired people who had skills I didn’t. I said “yes” to opportunities before I could see the whole path ahead. In time, I became the person I wanted to be.
You can’t wait to have it all in place or wait for others to reward you. You have to imagine who you can grow into next – and then you’ll become it.
Reflect on the female role models that you’ve had throughout your career.
I’ve had so many strong female role models and I’m grateful for every one of them. At the first agency I worked at, two women, Kathleen McMorrow and Catherine Carbonaro, observed me putting in the work. They saw me arriving early, staying late and taking on responsibilities beyond my job title. They shared this with their boss and that advocacy led to my promotion. I learned to use my voice to help others by the power of that example. Both of them also taught me to talk about money, to seek out opportunities and to never sit on the sidelines.
Another role model who influenced me greatly is friend and mentor Jennefer Witter. I freelanced for her after New York City agency life and when my children were younger. When I thought about starting my own PR firm, she was 100% in my corner. She told me all the things she wished she knew when she was starting out. She also told me to consider her to be my first account. I take that powerful example with me. I always extend a hand to anyone who tells me they’d like to start a business and could use some advice. After all, we’re stronger together and isn’t that what International Women’s Month is all about?
PS – Kayla, mentioned above, shared this incredible line-up of women in business blogs, focused on building the business and the life that you want. Check them out, below.