2011-11-16

Co.Exist

The World Needs Female Entrepreneurs Now More Than Ever

Women can slowly change corporate culture from the inside, or they can change the world by starting their own companies.

Over the past 100 or so years, we have been solving the problems on our planet as if they are linear, independent, and containable--in other words, as if they are largely technical challenges. And in most if not all cases, our solution is another technical intervention which often creates a new set of problems. Examples abound: The focus on making cars more energy efficient with fossil fuels slowed the introduction of true electric vehicles by decades. Or the current discussion of nuclear as the solution to fossil fuels. It’s technology trumping technology with not nearly enough attention to the unintended consequences for future generations.

I have nothing against technology. But if, as Einstein said, the problem-solving skills that get you into a mess are not the skills you need to get out of that mess, we need more people with a different perspective on the problem and a new set of skills and abilities.

What’s needed now is a better grasp of (and comfort with) relationships of all kinds. And this is the kind of thinking and problem solving that is most natural to women:

  • Women are intuitively systems-thinkers
  • Women seek balance
  • Women care more about solutions than who gets credit
  • Women are the worlds’ experts on collaboration
  • When they are passionate about something, women never give up

While I am supportive of any and all efforts to move women into the C-Suite, the boardroom, and the President’s office, it’s hard to ignore the fact that in these traditional places, women are making slow progress, if any at all.

But something began to crystallize as I interviewed hundreds of women entrepreneurs for my book and website The SmartGirls Way. No matter what business they were creating and running, I found that there was a thoughtfulness and intention to their design and operations approach that was different. These women entrepreneurs were intuitively creating businesses that would be better for themselves, their families, their employees, their communities, their customers, and the world.

Take Amra Tareen, a successful venture capitalist, entrepreneur, and a mother of two boys. Her passion and integrity to address the media bias she saw in the world led her to found AllVoices.com, the world’s largest citizen-journalist website. And there’s the story of Michelle King Robson, whose personal health challenges led her to found EmpowHER, an online community promoting women’s health issues so that no woman would ever have to suffer the same way she did.

These aren’t entrepreneurial myths; they’re real-life examples of women-led ventures taking shape right now. The beauty of it is, unlike with getting women into corner offices of corporations, these ventures don’t require any shifts in corporate culture. In the developed world, the rule of law supports women’s rights to pursue their efforts and maintain the wealth they create.

The Dalai Lama definitely had it right when he recently said "Western Women will save the world." And my money is on the entrepreneurs.

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31 Comments

  • harvey lacey

    The power of the entrepreneur is over estimated in any society.  It is blown completely out or proportion to its effects in developing nations.  That's because successful entrepreneurs are rare, not as rare as hen's teeth, but almost.

    Yeah, I know.  We see successful entrepreneurs everywhere.  But they are minuscule statistically because the vast majority of us aren't capable of being a successful entrepreneur.  And those who suggest that entrepreneurship is the answer for developing nations are either on drugs or they can't think out of the box.

    If we want to change the world then we need to find ways to provide jobs for women in developing nations.  The first thing that needs to be looked at what's failed to see why it failed.  There are many of us that are doing just that and what we are finding is that entrepreneurship as the answer is snake oil. 

  • G. E

    As of 2009, women-owned firms had an economic impact of $3 trillion annually that translates into the creation and/or maintenance of more than 23 million jobs - 16 percent of all U.S. jobs! These jobs not only sustain the individual worker, but contribute to the economic security of their families, the economic vitality of their communities and the nation. If U.S.-based women-owned businesses were their own country, they would have the 5th largest GDP in the world, trailing closely behind Germany, and ahead of countries including France, United Kingdom and Italy. th largest GDP in the world, trailing closely behind Germany, and ahead of countries including France, United Kingdom and Italy. www.womensbusinessresearch.orgG. Erowele, PharmDCareNovate, LLChttp://www.carenovate.comhttp://www.facebook.com/cnovate

  • $20097559

    Absolutely! With more Carly Fiorina's serving as CEOs, utopia can't be far off!

  • Guest

    If this is the type of nonsense women bring to the table then I say the best thing women can do for the world is to go make me a sandwich.

  • $20097559

    And who will be granting that "empowerment?" That's right. The guys who want their sandwich.

  • Butterfly

    When women are empowered more, you will be making your own sandwich, hahaha!

  • Yvonne

    Well said! Isn't it interesting that the US has not had a woman president while other so called "old fashioned" countries have had women leading the way? It is a sad state of affairs when Angela Merkel chastises the us leaders telling them to stop acting like little boys and grow up and make the necessary decisions to move the country forward!

  • Zbskloezeman

    I like the article as I do agree that an increase of women participation in the corporate world might change the way things are done. The only issue I have is that it is hard to predict the consequences of an increased amount of participation of women. It is a pitty that qualities of women are being generalized in this article, as it is depending on the individual. In order to make women participate in the corporate discours, it is important that women learn to share experiences as some behaviors I have observed working in empowerment of women entrepreneurs is hindering this as well. The impact of increased participation of women cannot be easily measured altough it will have a positive impact on their personal lives and direct social environment. With all this women empowerment it is important also to identify the role of men in all this. If men and women can work together and share their different approaches, that would be a solution for many issues. Men need women, but women also do need men, this should be recognized as well as the way men and women approach issues and find solutions is different.  

  • Gloria Sweida

    I agree with Gina Dammer. Not only do we need women entrepreneurs we
    need growth oriented women entrepreneurs. As a researcher of this
    phenomena I can say that women are making tremendous strides forward on
    the entrepreneurial front. According the the Center for Women's Business
    Research women are starting
    businesses twice as fast as men. But they are not growth oriented,
    employment producing businesses. A transformative and participative
    leadership style is not enough! Women need to learn the skills necessary
    to overcome the barriers they face in this endeavor such as raising
    capital to fund growth. Further more they need role models of growth
    oriented women entrepreneurs. It is disheartening to see popular media
    representation of entrepreneurs as Machiavellian males. The majority of
    case studies women analyze in their entrepreneurship and business courses are predominately of men. Women entrepreneurs and would be entrepreneurs need women role models and mentors.They don't need to be relegated to yet another role of care giver and nurturer.

  • adrialvarez

    I love your article, I would just like to ask if the description you are making of women, couldn't be considered gender driven. I feel that the fact that we are "balanced", more peaceful, that we tend to integrate people, etc, its just a gender stereotype as we women should be more inclusive than men because we are women, we are nurturing, we need to please others, etc. 

    I ask this as I am often troubled about where is the line drawn on what aspects women can bring to the table that can improve companies, and what aspects are just gender characteristics that we feel we have to comply with. 

    I would love to read your comments on this. 

  • Guest

    A number of my clients are women entrepreneurs. They're great and I love working with them.

    I have to agree though, that this article is sexist drivel and cheapens the great job they do running their businesses.

  • crevnew

    I like this article because it addresses the power in opportunity. And an aspect of opportunity is timing. With our "New Now" economy, or our innovation economy for the next many years, its prime time for the female start-up and/or corporate leadership. Male, female - it doesn't matter. Both need balance of gender to accomplish their business goals so collaboration occurs naturally anyway. Get out there ladies - you're already equally equipped - you just may not realize it!!

  • koann

    During my 20 years in a corporate career, moving up from an entry level position to be an SVP of a billion dollar multinational, I never fully felt the difference of being a woman in business. It was not until seeking to start my own venture did I truly realize how different we are in our priorities and approach. It's not that we don't have the same appreciation for outcomes. It's that our measures of success are so much broader (and more challenging.) We are, by nature, equipped for the Triple Bottom Line challenge. In fact, I think we simply by nature assume that's the goal, though admittedly we can get sidetracked by the attempt to play a game whi's rules have largely been established by men.

    We, both genders, and all people's, each have an equally valuable role to play, but I agree it's time for a bit more of a women's voice in leadership. We have something important to offer the moment!

  • Gina Danner

    Women do approach problems with a different set of expeiences, in general. The reality, like it or not, women are still playing catch up. Jobs and Gates came up in a world where boys were focused on math and sciences. We still don't have a solid approach to attracting and engaging young girls in the sciences.

    As a growth oriented entrepreneur, that happens to also be a woman, I see women of all types struggle with years of societal constraints they are trying to overcome. We need to encourage, engage, set examples and continue to foster the role of women entrepreneurship towards growth. Women do need to think BIGGER about their businesses and their goals.

  • Douglas Wolf

    charlotteparler -Women in biz are not a threat to anyone. But do not kid yourself, men will go to extreme lengths to compete and win while women want a completely different business experience. (Mary Kay and Ms. Walker sold products, by the way not airy-fairy services.)  Jobs was and Gates and Ellison are jerks. I would be proud to be in their company. 

  • Douglas Wolf

    Maria Villacreces -FYI Gates did not marry until his fortune was made-in his forties. Ellison has never married. Lobs was more complicated, he had a child and denies paternity for 10 years. 

  • Magatte Wade

    I do agree with the author that women could play a huge role for a better world. We will always need wonderful innovation in technology and anything that can help us lead more productive and safe lives. But where I believe women are best positioned to make a much needed difference is in the quality of our lives and bringing deeper meaning to our lives.
    Do Well and Be Well. We know how to do well, but we still still have a long way to Be Well. And I have the intuition that women will lead the way in that type of entrepreneurship for a world where Meaning will be the New Luxury. Magatte of Tiossano 

  • Amrita Mathur

    Sure, the
    world DOES need more women entrepreneurs, but I cringe each time i read
    something like this. Because the reasons you give don’t make it any easier on
    us. Not all women are "systems thinkers", not all women "care
    about solutions and who gets credit" etc etc.

    Women are
    just as diverse and varied as men. And we often come with our own set of issues
    and idiosyncrasies. We don’t need to be treated differently, just equally.

    So as much as
    I appreciate your attempt to encourage the world to think of women as assets,
    you are doing exactly the opposite. Please stop.