Economy to Health
Perspectives of Women Business Owners
Perspectives and Parameters
Our discussions on current economic
status under this present economic crisis instantly elicit tremendous
reactions from all sectors and from all parts of the globe. In order to
make a manageable presentation of data, analysis and key trends we have
approached the subject by delineating two phases of discussion. First
the macro view which looks at the state of the US economy, present a
profile of small business, and then look at perspectives of real
entrepreneurs who contribute to the GNP. The second phase is to examine
women owned businesses perspectives and provide a profile, contributions
and success of women in business, discuss their role as decision makers.
Finally conclude with the question is there parity for women
This paper is presenting these issues
through the lens of entrepreneurship in the US and focusing on small
business and particularly women business owners. We acknowledge, of course,
the global audience with a diverse set of experiences and accord due respect
to all. Having stated this we turn to some rhetoric but obvious questions,
such as the one that asks “ if indeed things as bad as we are hearing
”. Yes, indeed they are! Our leaders in finance, banking and politics have
indeed messed up big time. Their decisions have affected every economy,
industry, every company and every individual. We have many questions for
President Obama, and indeed it would be interesting to have a lively
discussion on this alone. Finally, we do not intend this to be a purely
economics paper but an overview of the contributions of women to the
economy. I will be doing this in two phases.
Businesses Is Big Business
All businesses are not the same.
Unfortunately when we speak of business we immediately conjure up the
large face less corporations and image the bad things that have
occurred. We seldom think of the small business.
Small Business is not faceless: they are mom
and pop outfits, families and husband and wife teams. They are real people
who have invested all they have to work hard and long hours: doing
extraordinary things for the economy. They believe in what they are doing.
They are not about profit mongering. Although profit is essential because it
leads to more investment in the business which then creates more jobs!
Small businesses revitalize neighborhoods,
create jobs, and encourage economic growth. They contribute in many ways to
schools, to girl scouts and fundraise for cancer research and support sports
and music and other community events, to name a few . They are the quiet
stalwarts that are the backbone of the economy. But even more important,
they are special avenues for women like you and I to fulfill our dreams and
follow our passions.
Definition of a Small Business:
Majority of small business have less than 10 employees with a significant
number under 50 employees. Yet small businesses are big businesses with a
combined contribution that represents half the GDP.
Small business in US 2008: 29.6 million small firms
over 50 % of all private sector employees.
• Paid 44 % of total U.S. private payroll.
• Create over 50 % of the non farm GDP.
• Hired 40 % of scientists, engineers, IT
• Made up 97.3 % of all identified exporters
• Produce 13 times more patents per employee than large patenting
firms; these patents are twice as likely to be cited among top1 %
Creating new jobs
Of the 119.9 mill jobs in private sector in
60. 2 mill employed by small firms
59.7 mill employed by large firms
20.6 mill employed by firms with fewer than
64 % of net jobs were created by
small businesses = 14.5 m of 22.5 m.
Small the businesses are indeed half the
of Women Entrepreneurs
Within this context women have some very
10.1 million Firms are woman owned
representing 34 % of all firms
13 million people are employed by women
representing 21 % of jobs
$1.9 trillion sales generated by women
entrepreneurs representing 14 % of all sales
Of all women
75 % of women-owned businesses are
majority 51 % or more
7.2 million Firms generate $1.1
trillion in sales.
Women-owned firms account for 40% of
all privately held firms.
Owned by Women of Color
1.9 million Firms are majority-owned
by women of color .
Employ 1.2 million people and
generate $165 billion in revenues annually.
Between 2002 and 2008, these firms
grew faster than all privately held firms.
One in five firms with revenue of $1
million or more is woman-owned.
3% of women-owned firms have revenues of $1
M+ compared with 6% of men-owned firms.
These are numbers to be proud of and a good
healthy step in the right direction.
Hit by the
Recession: The Learning Curve
This recession has been the worst since
the depression on the 1930‘s. The global nature means that it will take
some time for us to find our way out.
There are so many intricacies and
controversial factors of cause and effect .We know that a combination of
poor decision making, mismanagement, irresponsibility and personal greed by
our leaders contributed to the current crash. I’m sure many of you will have
a lot to say about this. Every time I approached this section it I hit a
wall. So I thought I we would take big picture approach. Step back a little
and examine emergent trends.
The changing defines of “normal” .Today
everything we learnt as macro and micro economic theory and practice has
changed. New trends are influencing the new world market place.
Today the buzz word in Industry is the
“changing defines of normal”. Daily we in industry have to take account of
developments and make swift adjustments. Peter Navarro’s analysis off how to
evaluate trends states that we should have seen the recession coming through
the housing market trends in 2006 -2007.
We ourselves started making such changes
three years ago and took steps to soften the impact, through diversification
of industry, product and markets streamlining operations, credit management,
capital investment, production efficiencies and exports.
Reporting on rates of growth and trends of
growth - Joseph Carson, an Economist of New York, was quoted in the article
saying, “What’s going to change is how we generate growth, not how fast we
can grow.” We are learning “Agility and responsiveness to markets is the
emergent trends and growth areas
Is an index of how well the economy is doing. One job in manufacturing
creates 4 jobs in the economy. When manufacturing is curtailed jobs are
lost, resulting in a downward spiraling effecting in the economy and
community. Last year was particularly bad for manufacturers in US.
Manufacturing has been pushed out of the US, with only 12 % done in the
state of California which is the fifth largest economy in the world.
Now there is a sweep to build in the US. The stimulus money is supposed
to help in supporting the creation of jobs. We saw small growth of 3 %
in the first quarter of 2010.
95 % of future markets are in another country so the growth of exports is an
expansion area. Small business is harnessing this and governments are
promoting this by providing opportunities and opening doors. We see this
optimized very well by countries such as China and India. I too have been
active in opening up trade routes to Europe and Latin countries, including
Mexico...thank you! I feel like Marco Polo!
E - Commerce:
is and has been a opportunity for growth of trade and is expanding rapidly.
E commerce is particularly conducive for women, because of the ease of
working from home. Of course women of generation Y are as comfortable as
Well known to be the current and future emollient of all commerce and
communication. Here again we see men and women in this field.
Alternative Energy: Another huge
growth area with the growing awareness of conserving resources.
In each of these areas women entrepreneurs
playing a role in claiming market share.
Businesses perspective: Steering the Economy
So what are small business saying about
Recently President Obama invited key leaders
from business, industry banking, education, housing and health to assemble
and speak our minds and tell him our ideas and objectives for economic
recovery. We were asked how we could grow our business, create jobs and
build back the community and state obstacles in our way?
Picture a room of angry entrepreneurs have
invested all their assets and their lives in providing jobs and products and
services to community and country. Leaders who are proud bastions of
business who take serious responsibility for their employees and families,
certainly the truth comes out.
Most place the responsibility for the
current economic crash fairly and squarely on poor government policies and
lack of foresight and inaction. All of us sent a resounding message
demanding the creation of a “positive business environment “.
Allow businesses to do what they do best without government
interference. Free enterprise will return markets to normal.
Reduce red tape, legal restriction and control: costing 45 % more to
small businesses and does not apply anyway.
Cut payroll tax for employees and tax incentives for small
businesses so that they invest and can grow faster
Increase funding :Loans : make good loans available so business can
Attract more people into business …manufacturing creates jobs.
Enable small business to do business with large companies through
Open public sector to do business with smaller business
Encourage new Technology and encourage Green Jobs
Recognize and celebrate the success of small private enterprise
Reinvent yourself products services markets and methods
Moving Women into Decision Making
Let us first acknowledge and respect the
perennial model of a woman entrepreneur: She is the woman in a village
in India or Africa, the micro business woman who walks in the heat of
the sun to the market place carrying a basket of bananas to earn a
living for her family. Complete with a child in tow!!
Many of today’s entrepreneurs are no
different. We all start in a small way. I am fortunate to have an education
and resources and drove to work. I too had a baby on the hip and 4 year old
in tow. I remember my challenge was to get to work without any baby stains
on my blouse. I too knew little of business and learnt from the ground up
in a male dominated environment.
Why do we go into business?
Women are naturally creative and innovative.
Right from get go we have to make things work. We make something out of
nothing and keep everyone happy while we do so. We have tireless energy to
do what ever is needed and more. So why do individuals go into business?
The foremost reason remains the desire to follow their passion and be in
charge of their destiny It ia also a pioneering spirit. Others may have hit
the glass ceiling in the corporate world - although there is a glass ceiling
in business as well. For some it is a wish to combine work- family and home
balance –the technology today makes this possible. Notably more and more of
the Gen X and Gen Y see this as the only way to go,
Obstacles to entering the world of business
Access to funding/ capital: stereo typing on whether women are good
Knowledge and savvy in business
Use of technology barriers: Applies more to women of my generation
not so much to . Gen X and Y who are way ahead in use of social
Networking in a mans world – in a mans way of doing business.
Credibility and issues of confidence – a gender bias on whether
women can produce results when it comes to competing for contracts.
Time commitment is enormous- working 24-7 at least in the early
Family opposition- because it is a non traditional field and the
Financial uncertainty - steady paycheck v unknown income
Entrepreneurs as Decision Makers
Women are good decision makers. The
world of business and entrepreneurship requires making decisions on a
macro and micro level right from the get go.
Sink or swim:
Decision making and leadership is based on a swim or sink model there is no
wiggle room. Wrong decisions lead to sudden death with instant loss of all
assets and credibility. 10% of firms with employees and 30 % of single
proprietorships fail in first year and about half survive five years.
there really isn’t one because you have to act as though from knowledge.
Customer’s vendors and employees rely on you to make good decisions.
The buck stops with you: you are ultimately
responsible for employees, accountable to customer’s vendors, investors,
bank, the legal compliance marketing, sales and human resources and the
community and government. It is the all encompassing solemn role that most
small business takes seriously.
Our decisions are direct and personal so there is no safety of corporate
anonymity. We affect our employees and their families, whom we see daily.
The Models of
In recent decades women were leading on a male model of leadership. But in
recent years women have become more comfortable in developing their own
styles which is more intuitive and harmonious. It is interesting to note
that Generation Y is particularly comfortable with their own style and men
of this generation are much more accepting of female leadership.
Contributions to Rebuilding the Economy
Women in business are significant
contributors to the GNP’s of their nations. They are key influencers and
decision makers in their own right. Their potential is far greater than
They are working along side with men taking
a shared responsibility – creating a shift in business culture. We now
expected to see women in leadership as CEO’s and as senior management in
private public companies. They are an indelible part of the GNP. So again-
10.1 M firms are women owned
representing 34 % of all firms
13 M people are employed by women
representing 21 % of jobs
$1.9 trillion sales generated by women
entrepreneurs’ represent14 % of all sales
As more recent entrants into the business
world woman have to be more strategic in their advancement. They have catch
up and then surge forward. So we see women doing a number of things to
strengthening the economy and help each other.
Firstly, women are no longer content with
working for someone, they are aggressively opening their own businesses in
all fields including manufacturing, consulting marketing medicine law and
finance and accounting. Coupled with this we are seeing that women
entrepreneurs are providing jobs for women – they are creating pathways and
models of success and enabling economic independence for other women and
Secondly, women have understood the need to
redefine core architecture of doing business. Hence, they have become very
active in public policy and advocacy legislative process and politics. For
example in California I have recently worked legislation that requires
governments to consult small business all matters that pertain to them.
Currently we are pushing for a universal woman owned business certification
in the state of California. I was part of the Testimonial hearings in
Thirdly, women are strengthening their
negotiating power and influence by forming strong organizations such as
NAWBO and WBO – strong business based groups that are now powerful enough
that we are being heard when we speak with one voice. So we have a platform
to negotiating from strength and thus gain more visibility and open doors.
Fourthly, Owner to owner: women mentoring
women on a formal program. As Madeline Albright once said “there is a
special place in hell for women who don’t help each other “
They are opening new Global opportunities
–women are now going on Trade missions such as the first all women trade
mission to Brussels and Netherlands in 2007.
Fifthly, women are aggressively using
technology to succeed-They are using social media to organize, educate
themselves to market and improve public relations and gain visibility. They
are using the technology of social media. They are entering markets that are
now only accessible through the internet and cyberspace. If you want to do
business with the conglomerates, this is the only window of access.
Lastly , Women have recognized the value of
their contributions and were swift in converting the hitherto informal
business into formal ones such as child care - elder care – coaching –
mentoring -catering- event planning- housekeeping etc . These are whole new
industries that have sprung up in the last few decades.
4 Opportunities for Women Entrepreneurs:
We cannot apply the income parity test
in the same way to measure parity with male counterparts. Their
contributions to the GNP are proof of strong visibility and are growing
in their impact. Instead let us look at the changes and special
opportunities open to women only. “Entrepreneurs are in their own
Changes in business culture: Women entrepreneurs not only expect to be
part of the programs they are expected to be present at all business and
economic platforms. Regardless of whether they are bidding for contracts
or at discussions on economic councils or as key managers in
Many business opportunities are being provided exclusively for women in
the form of bidding opportunity for contracts with large corporations
and government. As a woman owned business we have access to special
pricing as well.
Legal frame work of opportunity has been structured so that large
companies are required to do business with small and woman owned
businesses. And through 8A , GSA, SBA Loans
terms of equal opportunity and legal framework we have clear laws
against discrimination in hiring practices. We also have in place a
complex legal framework in place of maternity leave and family leave and
pay and accesses to higher level positions
Special programs- access to Mr. Obama’s stimulus money
Does it make difference if you are a woman?
Yes it does.....Sometimes for the better!
Moving from strength to strength
The way forward is definitely through
strong partnerships: closing the commonly miss-understood divides. These
divides prevent the proper collaboration and partnering that is
essential to progress both locally nationally and globally. Closing the
following divides or at least narrowing them will lead us to a better
future. Each of these examples in themselves merit a complete discussion
in their own right.
Increase women CEOs of public companies which remain at an unchanged
15.2 % -last 2 years.
Public and private- working together to strengthen business environment.
Inter Generational teams- working the baby boomers with Gen X and Y
Special programs – Match making small companies with large companies
Volunteerism – A substantial bridge to jobs of tomorrow: transferring
leadership and skill learnt in volunteerism to real jobs
Informal v formal economy- Straddle over from the informal to the
Over recent years I am delighted to report
the strengthening dialogue and partnership between the public and private
sector and civil society. We are seeing large companies participating more
and more in civil society and providing resources and leadership to
As a concrete example I see this developing
slowly but surely even at the United Nations CSW where there was a strong
representation of private industry even at high levels such as the US
Governmental briefings. The dialogue of women in decision making began at
the CSW about 5 years ago and has been nurtures at the CSW by many of us
here : resulting in the recent creation of the new “women’s entity at the
UN. At UN discussions on Internet and Cyberspace also we see the private
sector welcomed as leaders in partnering humanitarian and advocacy work. A
vision shared strongly at recent high level discussions in the UK.
Together we can create partnerships to
achieve goals of gender equality- “Protecting the future is combined effort
of diverse perspectives”
If you would like further information, please contact me
Shaila Rao Mistry is a Fellow of The Business Forum Institute and is currently the Chief Executive Officer of Jayco Interface Technology, Inc.
She holds a B.S. in Social Sciences from
London University; a Masters in Social Policy & Administration from
the London School of Economics; a Law & Social Sciences double
Masters from Brunel University, London and a Masters in Clinical
Psychology from London University. She is also a Fellow of
the Public Policy Women's Foundation of California Policy
Institute. She has spoken on a variety of issues at United
Nations Summits in Geneva, London, Ottawa, Perth, Tunisia and New
York. She has also addressed the House of Commons (Parliament)
in London, United Kingdom. Recognitions include the prestigious
Marco Polo Award as Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Asian
Business Association of Orange County. Top 20 Women to Watch
recognition Orange County Metro; South Asian Business woman of the
year award from the South Asian Business Association Network. She
has also been featured in several prominent journals in America and
Europe. Shaila speaks eleven languages; she was born in India,
educated in England and now resides in California in the United
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