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Archive for the ‘Small Business’ Category

BPW/NC Provides Grants to Women Veterans

Posted by YWM on July 17, 2014

NC grantsIn 2014 BPW/NC launched a grant program to provide funding to women veteran professionals or business owners in North Carolina to be used for training, startup capital or business related expenses. During BPW/NC’s recent convention, $500 grants were awarded to MSgt Barbara J. Bozeman, USAF (Ret.) and Tina Smith, USA (E-4 Specialist).

Ms. Bozeman joined the Air Force because she knew she wanted a career and ended up staying for over twenty years. The most important lesson she learned in the military was that regardless of the circumstances, she was never alone, and that she was responsible to and responsible for everyone with whom she served. This gave her both a great sense of freedom to grow as an individual and as a leader. She plans to use the Women Veteran Grant to create a more professional display for her photography business, Sights and Hounds Photography.

When Ms. Smith was in the 9th grade she knew she wanted to be a soldier and enrolled in the Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps program. She has gone on to obtain a Bachelors of Science Degree in Human Service and a Master’s of Science of in Organizational Management Leadership. Her career goal has always been to use her degrees to help others out. She plans to use the Women Veteran Grant to help boost her business, Germacide Cleaning Solutions.

 

Posted in Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Small Business, Uncategorized, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

National Small Business Week May 12-16th

Posted by Crystal Williams on May 12, 2014

Business and Professional Women’s Foundation has always been a supporter of small business owners especially since many of our supporters and legacy members are women small business owners. We have been strong supporters of legislation to level the playing field for small businesses, have conducted research to better understand the needs of small businesses and just recently one of our Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® mentees testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business about how the Mentoring Plus program helped her when she was starting her business.  So join us in saluting all small business owners and check out the various activities and resources offered by the Small Business Administration this week.

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Benefits of Mentoring for Women Veterans

Posted by YWM on May 7, 2014

Testimony of Dawn Smith, Joining Forces Mentoring Plus mentee, before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Small Business, May 7,2014.

Dawn SmithMr. Chair, Madam Ranking Member, and members of the Committee, thank you for the opportunity to be here today. My name is Dawn Smith. I am the Founder and CEO of Mystic Reme Teas in Greenville, South Carolina, and testifying today on behalf of Business and Professional Women’s Foundation.

As a woman veteran who recently started my own business, I hope my experiences can be helpful to the committee as you examine which government and nonprofit programs can best assist and meet the unique needs of women veterans as they transition back to civilian life.

I am very proud of my military service. I served in the Air Force for eight years and was deployed six times to Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey and Germany. My expertise in the military was logistics, which means I was responsible for making sure that the movement of both troops and cargo got to the right place and were on time. In both Iraq and Afghanistan I was a Terminal Operations Manager responsible for processing and loading more than 7,000 passengers and directing the shipment of hundreds of thousands of tons of cargo. My work was consistently recognized for meeting excellent delivery and departure standards. I also earned my MBA while in the military.

Because of my advanced logistics experience and MBA, I really didn’t think I would have a problem finding a rewarding career when I left the service. But when I returned home to North Carolina to raise my children on my own, I was not even considered for management jobs; instead, I was offered positions like a warehouse worker, which I did not think utilized my skills, education and experience. For a couple of years I took various jobs that did not fit my background including working as a high school teacher and secretary since I needed to feed my children. These jobs offered neither the career I was seeking nor the salary commensurate with my experience.

BPW JFMPlogo.lowWhile working, I continued to look for a more rewarding and financially secure position. I returned to school to begin a master’s program in accounting. But looking for a job while managing the demands of work, school and motherhood, I became discouraged. I knew I needed help, so I turned to the internet to see what career resources might be available for a woman veteran. I was very fortunate to find Business and Professional Women’s Foundation, a non-profit organization that runs a free career mentoring program for women veterans, Joining Forces Mentoring Plus®. What attracted me to their program was that working women volunteers mentor women veterans (like me) to help us navigate a path to successful civilian careers, and even pursue entrepreneurial opportunities. Participants can access a free “high-tech/high-touch” internet community that includes experienced women mentors as coaches, navigators and supporters.

I immediately signed up and was assigned a wonderfully accomplished mentor, Sandy Smith. Sandy worked with me one-on-one and was persistent in offering advice and support on everything from interviewing skills to resume development. She pushed me, checking on how many resumes I sent out each day. She helped me create a new mindset that gave me the courage to apply for positions that previously I wouldn’t have thought possible. In 2012, I was hired as an auditor by the U.S. Defense Contract Audit Agency. I am happy to report that my salary at this job was twice what I had been making previously. After landing the job, Sandy, my mentor, did not leave me on my own but coached me on office etiquette and protocols necessary to successfully navigate the civilian sector workplace. All of Sandy’s mentoring and coaching paid off: I love my job and feel my career is now on very solid ground.

But even though I love my job, I have always dreamed of owning my own business. With Sandy’s encouragement and sustained mentoring last year, I started an online store that sells my own brand of tea. I am very excited that Mystic Reme Teas is currently in the final selection round to appear on Shark Tank. If I am chosen, I will be seeking funding to open my own tea bar.

I truly believe none of this would have happened without the personal mentoring and wide array of career resources offered by BPW Foundation. It was so successful for me because it was designed by and for women. Generic veteran-based employment and career development programs too often miss the unique elements and needs that matter most to women veterans. We need awareness and guidance about available support and employment resources, and programs that support and recognize the multiple roles impacting women veterans and their access to jobs.

I can attest to the fact that women leaving the service often face unique challenges including single motherhood or care giving for family members, including wounded warriors. Also women veterans often do not identify as veterans and don’t know they can access a wide array of benefits. We are frequently looked at differently from our fellow male veterans. Women who served in war zones are often not afforded the same level of prestige as their male counterparts.

Thanks to the generous support of BPW Foundation and its partners such as Alliant Credit Union Foundation, Booz Allen Hamilton, Cengage Learning, Citi, CVS Caremark, and others, there is no cost to participate in this mentoring program – it’s absolutely free for the women who participate.

Thank you for this opportunity to share my story and tell you about the resources that helped me begin my successful career and start my business. I hope that other women veterans will benefit from my experience and that the committee will support programs that are tailored for the challenges and needs that our women veterans face as they seek meaningful lives after our time in the military

Click here to read Dawn’s full testimony

Posted in Career Advancement, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Small Business, Uncategorized, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

BPW Foundation Welcomes Diane Polangin to Board of Trustees

Posted by sherrysaunders on November 25, 2013

DPolanginBowie City Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem, Diane Polangin has been elected to the Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) Foundation Board of Trustees. “Councilmember Polangin brings strong leadership skills, a broad knowledge of BPW Foundation history and policy issues, and a deep personal commitment to the challenges facing working women, that will greatly enhance BPW Foundation’s strategic programmatic capabilities,” said Roslyn Ridgeway, BPW Foundation Chair.

“Her long standing commitment to public service and community action, which includes her service as president of BPW/USA , BPW Foundation’s former sister organization, president of BPW/Maryland and CFO of the Business and Professional Women’s Education Foundation of  Maryland will be particularly relevant to her new duties on the BPW Foundation Board of Trustees,” Ridgeway said. “In addition, her serving as a mentor for S.O.C.S. (SomeOneCareS), a program for young women from Bowie High School and serving as chair and mentor for the Huntington Community Center’s Choices and Challenges Program, will be particularly valuable as BPW Foundation continues to expand our Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses Mentoring Plus® efforts.”

“As a long time supporter and worker for women’s rights, a small business owner and an elected official, I am excited to have the opportunity to put my skills and talents to work for an organization that I greatly admire and have supported for years. I am grateful to the board for electing me and I look forward to supporting the BPW Foundation programs on behalf of working women across our country.” Councilmember Polangin said.

Polangin is the owner/operator of Total Tax Service in Bowie, Maryland. In this capacity, she provides services for businesses and individuals, including income tax preparation. She also is a notary public and teaches income tax preparation.

Previously, Polangin was a partner in a southern Maryland-based builder/developer company which developed over 1,000 acres with moderately-priced homes and two office buildings. For many years, she was administrator of an architectural firm where she was responsible for business development, contract negotiation and zoning matters, financial and personnel management, as well as client relations and the development of complex projects.

She is a member of the American Institute of Professional Bookkeepers, National Society of Tax Professionals, Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce, Soroptimist International of Bowie-Crofton, Business and Professional Women of Laurel and Maryland Business and Professional Women.

Diane has received awards from the city, county, and state government and from several national organizations for her community service and her national advocacy of women’s issues, such as domestic violence, equal pay for equal work and other family issues. Councilmember Polangin was elected to the Bowie City Council in 2007 and re-elected in November 2009, 2011 and 2013.

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Survey of Women Small Business Owners Highlights Need for Financing, Importance of Mentorship

Posted by YWM on September 3, 2013

As women continue to start businesses in this country at ever increasing numbers, it is imperative they have the right tools to be successful. But do they? Results from a recently-conducted Business and Professional Women’s (BPW) FoundationWomencontractors survey to gauge the current environment for women entrepreneurs and small business owners addressed this question. In the executive summaryReady to Grow: A Snapshot of Women Small Business Owners some of the critical findings on topics such as the importance of technology, the role of mentorship, financing, barriers to entry, and gender impact are examined. Most survey respondents said they are not using outside financing to run their businesses. Not surprisingly, financing was also cited as one of the top barriers to entry/growth. Half of survey respondents indicated that mentorship is important to their success as small business owners. The results also indicated a correlation between women’s decision or choice to run their own businesses and their perception of gender impact. Among the women veterans who responded to the survey, it is clear that available targeted benefits are under-utilized. The full survey summary results are available at www.BPWFoundation.org.

This survey was conducted among approximately 500 women, current and former small business owners and entrepreneurs who posted a range of success rates for their businesses, and included questions specifically targeted to women veterans and military/veteran spouses. BPW Foundation CEO Deborah L. Frett presented the preliminary results in June at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) America Annual Meeting. Results from this survey will help BPW Foundation define areas of further research as well as fine-tune program resources for women small business owners. T

The following organizations distributed BPW Foundation’s Women in Small Business Survey to their members and networks: Alliant Credit Union; California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls; Dell & Intel; National Association of Community College Entrepreneurship; National Association for the Self-Employed; National Council of Women’s Organizations; U.S. Black Chamber of Commerce; and Women Impacting Public Policy.

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Expanded Technology and Entrepreneurship Resources for Women Veterans and Military Spouses

Posted by YWM on July 2, 2013

Dell IntelDell & Intel and Business and Professional Women’s Foundation are partnering to provide free technology assistance and entrepreneurial tools to guide and support the expanding community of women veterans and military/veteran spouses served by Joining Forces Mentoring Plu who are interested in starting and/or growing small businesses. These Dell-Intel resources will be accessible to all members of BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces Mentoring BPW JFMPlogo.lowPlus® online employment mentoring platform.

Dell & Intel’s technology and entrepreneurship expertise will strengthen the “Working Women Helping Women Work®” mentoring component of Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® and supplement the program’s employment/career resource library. These important new resources recognize the growing number of military women who want to start their own businesses and are looking to gain the expertise and skills needed for success. Dell & Intel will offer individualized guidance to educate and guide these women as they evaluate their job-seeking and professional hardware and software needs. Dell’s Center for Entrepreneurs will supply tools for Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® military women-launched businesses, and the company will enlist mentors and subject matter experts to advise and meet the specific needs of this targeted audience of women.

“BPW Foundation is pleased and proud to welcome Dell & Intel into the Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® community,” said Deborah L. Frett, BPW Foundation CEO. “Their support of women in the workplace, as employees and employers, aligns with our goal of creating work environments that are inclusive and value the skills and contributions of working women. BPW Foundation applauds their specific focus in this partnership to help provide women veteran and military/veteran spouse entrepreneurs with the tools they need to succeed in their new businesses, and in their civilian lives.”

“Research indicates that women veterans’ civilian entrepreneurial career progress is hindered by obstacles they face translating their skills and their lack of hands-on career support. Similarly, military spouses’ workplace success is often compromised by frequent moves, lack of job transition guidance, caregiving and single parent childcare issues,” said Belinda Matingou, Business Development Director at Dell who focuses on diverse small businesses, including those owned by women and veterans. ”Dell is proud to support the Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® online platform to build on the existing framework of Dell’s Center for Entrepreneurs that provides resources and information to entrepreneurs everywhere.”

Dell & Intel’s technology and entrepreneurship resources are an important addition to the growing list of free tools and information available to women veterans and military/veteran spouses via BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® internet platform, which connects volunteer working women mentors and subject matter experts to support success in the civilian workplace. The program’s “Working Women Helping Women Work®” philosophy builds on a workforce development model to help women veterans and military/veteran spouses navigate their individual challenges as they find and succeed in civilian careers.

BPW Foundation identified employment and career mentoring as a critical need of transitioning women veterans during its inaugural Joining Forces for Women Veterans National Summit in October 2010. First Lady Michelle Obama recognized this “mentorship gap” in the White House’s selection of BPW Foundation as the lead organization for a large-scale mentoring initiative to benefit women veterans and military/veteran spouses. BPW Foundation has since forged partnerships with more than 55 corporations and non-profit organizations to fulfill this mandate, and at the recent White House Champions for Change: Women Veterans event The First Lady recognized BPW Foundation “for the exceptional work that they do every day for women veterans.”

Posted in BPW, Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Mentoring, Military Families, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

BPW Foundations Joining Forces Mentoring Plus Spotlighted at Clinton Global Initiative

Posted by YWM on June 14, 2013

Debbie 2012 head shot revisedCEO Deborah L. Frett returned to the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI) Meeting this week to report on Business and Professional Women’s Foundation’s Commitment to Action, Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses Mentoring Plus®, recognized by CGI America “as an exemplary approach to addressing challenges faced by women veterans in the small business arena.”

Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® provides free employment tools and connects women veterans (all branches, eras, ranks) and military/veteran spouses with volunteer working women mentors and subject matter experts. The program, framed around “Working Women Helping Women Work®, meets these women where they are and helps them translate their military skills and build self confidence to find and keep meaningful civilian careers or start and grow their own businesses.

In the words of one woman veteran mentee: “I was empowered by the first phone call, and the connection with this organization that has the experience and professionalism to support me in facing some snags on my way toward my career goals. My first need was to build self-esteem to feel inspired to face the challenges that used to get me down and make me feel hopeless.”

Expanding upon last year’s CGI Commitment to Action and the formation of over 50 private and public sector partnerships, BPW Foundation is now enlisting new partners to build the “high-tech, high touch” program’s financial literacy, entrepreneurial, and small business resources, as well as expand mentoring capacity to serve the current audience of 2.2 million women veterans and two million military/veteran spouses.

“Recent BPW Foundation partnerships with Alliant Credit Union Foundation, Dell-Intel, and Booz Allen Hamilton will guide the expanded commitment.  These partners contribute expertise and organizational resources that address the needs and requests of those we serve,” she added.

In another part of the CGI America program, Ms. Frett will share the results of BPW Foundation’s recent survey of more than 500 women small business owners. This baseline data includes motivators, barriers to entry, the influence of gender, the impact of technology, as well as financing experiences and mentoring relationships. The cornerstone for future research and program development, a follow-up report will be presented at CGI 2014.

CGICGI America is an annual forum for leaders from the business, foundation, NGO, and government sectors to develop solutions and prompt others to take action, preparing Americans to be competitive global citizens and rethink current models that shape our economy and society. BPW Foundation CEO Deborah L. Frett took the CGI America stage to share the updated Joining Forces Mentoring Plus® commitment on Friday, June 14th.

The Clinton Global Initiative (CGI), an initiative of the Clinton Foundation, convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. Established in June 2011 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) addresses economic recovery in the United States. CGI America brings together leaders in business, government, and civil society to generate and implement commitments to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, foster innovation, and support workforce development in the United States. Since its first meeting, CGI America participants have made more than 211 commitments valued at $13.6 billion when fully funded and implemented. To learn more, visit cgiamerica.org.

Please tune in to follow CGI America 2013:

Twitter at @ClintonGlobal and the event hashtag #CGIAmerica

Watch video highlights on the CGI YouTube channel

Follow CGI America on Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative

Posted in Joining Forces, Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Military Families, Small Business, Uncategorized, Women Veterans | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

What Influences Women’s Leadership and Career Decisions? Take the Survey

Posted by YWM on September 18, 2012

By Sherylle Tan and Claudia Raigoza, Claremont McKenna College

The number of women entrepreneurs has been on the rise for the past two decades (Jome, Donahue, & Siegel, 2006). According to the US Census Bureau (2007), women owned 7.8 million nonfarm U.S. businesses, an increase of 20.1 percent from 2002. This accounted for 28.7 percent of businesses in the United States. A relatively new trend in entrepreneurship is the idea of the “mompreneur,” defined by Entrepreneur.com as “a female business owner who is actively balancing the role of the mom and the entrepreneur.” However, at the same time that women are venturing into entrepreneurship, the media is claiming that many professional women are opting out of the workforce to take care of their children at home[i]. In 2003, Lisa Belkin first drew substantial attention to the “Opt-Out Revolution” in her appropriately titled article published in the New York Times Magazine.

Subsequent research on women leaving the workforce has suggested that women experience many pushes and pulls that result in some women exiting the workforce[ii]. A primary pull factor for many women has to do with family responsibilities, whereas push factors often have to do with workplace challenges that women experience which include hitting the “glass ceiling,” slow career advancement, and lack of work schedule flexibility.[iii] Interestingly, many of those same family pulls and workplace pushes are the same reasons that women enter into entrepreneurship[iv].

While the reasons that women enter in entrepreneurship are similar to the reasons that women choose to leave the workforce, it appears that the relationship is not so linear. There appear to be more complex reasons that account for why women make the career transitions that they do. The career decisions and transitions that women make during the course of their lives vary and are influenced by women’s life-stages.  With the increasing number of women becoming entrepreneurs and seeking leadership through non-traditional career paths, it is important to identify and understand the important influence of life-stages in the career and leadership decisions that women make.

The Kravis Leadership Institute at Claremont McKenna College is interested in developing a better understanding of this issue. Please participate in our study, by taking our online survey. Participation is completely voluntary and confidential. The online survey takes about 20-25 minutes to complete. In gratitude, you will be entered into a drawing to win a prize of a Kindle Touch upon completing the survey. Please go to this link to start our online survey:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/womenandleadershipsurvey

If you have any questions or would like to learn more about the Kravis Leadership Institute, please feel free to contact Dr. Sherylle Tan (Director of Internship and KLI Research at the Kravis Leadership Institute) at stan@cmc.edu or go to our website: http://kli.cmc.edu/.


[i] Belkin, L. (2003). The Opt-Out Revolution. The New York Times Magazine.

[ii] Hewlett, S.A., Luce, C. B., Shiller, P., & Southwell, S. (2005). The Hidden Brain Drain: Off-Ramps and On-Ramps in Women’s Careers. Harvard Business Review Research Report. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.

[iii] Stone, P. and Lovejoy, M. (2004). Fast-Track Women and the “Choice” to Stay Home. The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, 596, 62-83.

[iv] Buttner, E.H. (1993). Female entrepreneurs: How far have they come? Business Horizon, 2, 59.

Jome, L. M., Donahue, M. P., and Siegel, L. A. (2006). Working in the Uncharted Technology Frontier: Characteristics of Women Web Entrepreneurs. Journal of Business and Psychology, 21(1), 127-147.

Hewlett, S. (2007). Off-ramps and on-ramps: Keeping talented women on the road to success. Boston: Harvard Business School Press

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Misbehavin’ Notification: BPW Foundation CEO Participating in Clinton Global Initiative America Meeting

Posted by YWM on June 7, 2012

Deborah L Frett to Focus on Small Business, Girls, Women, Women Veterans and
Military and Veteran Spouses

Business and Professional Women’s Foundation CEO, Deborah L. Frett has been invited to participate in the 2012 Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) meeting in Chicago this Thursday and Friday, June 7 and 8.

CGI America is an annual meeting bringing together leaders from the business, foundation, NGO and government sectors to develop solutions that address unemployment, prepare Americans to be competitive global citizens and rethink current models that shape our economy and society. This year President Clinton has called on participants to strategically integrate the lens of girls and women throughout the program. This approach is called the Girls and Women (G&W) Champion model. Champions are asked to represent the G&W lens in their respective Working Group

Frett, who has been named a Girls and Women Champion, is part of the Small Business Working group.  She also spoke at the Girls & Women in America: Pre-Meeting Strategy Session on Thursday, June 7th between 8-9:30am. As head of the first foundation to conduct research about working women, Frett brings unique perspective and background to her role of looking at workplace ideas and solutions through the Girls and Women’s lens.

On Thursday evening Frett will attend the “Championing Veterans: America’s Next Generation Leaders” event that will bring together a broad range of CGI Working Group representatives who have an interest in or focus on veterans. Frett will share information about BPW Foundation’s Joining Forces for Women Veterans and Military Spouses Mentoring Plus™.  This ground-breaking program connects women veterans and military and veteran spouses with working women mentors and subject matter experts (SMEs).  Participants receive career development support and guidance that will enable them to find and keep meaningful employment.

About BPW Foundation
BPW Foundation supports workforce development programs and workplace policies that recognize the diverse needs of working women, their families, communities and businesses.
BPW Foundation attributes much of its success to programs built upon evidenced-based research.  Joining Forces Mentoring Plus™ is the result of a commitment BPW Foundation made in 2005 to better understand the employment transition of women veterans. BPW Foundation is a 501 © (3) research and education organization. To learn more, visit http:www.bpwfoundation.org.

About CGI America
President Clinton established the Clinton Global Initiative America (CGI America) to address economic recovery in the United States. CGI America brings together leaders in business, government, and civil society to generate and implement commitments to create jobs, stimulate economic growth, foster innovation, and support workforce development in the United States. Since its first meeting in June 2011, CGI America participants have made more than 100 commitments valued at $11.8 billion. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will improve the lives of three million people, create or fill more than 150,000 jobs, and invest and loan $354 million to small and medium enterprises in the United States. To learn more, visit cgiamerica.org.

About the Clinton Global Initiative
Established in 2005 by President Bill Clinton, the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. CGI Annual Meetings have brought together more than 150 heads of state, 20 Nobel Prize laureates, and hundreds of leading CEOs, heads of foundations and NGOs, major philanthropists, and members of the media. To date CGI members have made more than 2,100 commitments, which are already improving the lives of nearly 400 million people in more than 180 countries. When fully funded and implemented, these commitments will be valued at $69.2 billion.

CGI’s Annual Meeting is held each September in New York City. CGI also convenes CGI America, a meeting focused on collaborative solutions to economic recovery in the United States, and CGI University (CGI U), which brings together undergraduate and graduate students to address pressing challenges in their community or around the world. For more information, visit clintonglobalinitiative.org and follow us on Twitter @ClintonGlobal and Facebook at facebook.com/clintonglobalinitiative.

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Posted in Joining Forces for Women Veterans, Mentoring, Military Families, Misbehavin' Notification, Small Business, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

We Are Not Amused

Posted by YWM on March 26, 2012

Our guest blogger is Ann Sullivan, President of Madison Services Group and head of Government Relations for Women Impacting Public Policy, the nation’s largest women business owners policy group.

Those of us who are involved in advocating for the success of women-owned businesses are used to the challenges that come with running a successful business. Access to credit, complicated taxes, high healthcare costs, employing a talented workforce in a down economy – these challenges require strong women who are eternally optimistic. We are responsible for meeting a payroll and running a profitable business – no one else holds that responsibility for our businesses.

Women business owners follow economic news and economic policy. The changes we seek have to do with business. We leave the social debates to someone else. Although we certainly have opinions about social issues, we unite behind a business agenda and push for changes that affect the bottom line. A key element of being effective is being bipartisan or nonpartisan, if you include independents. The ability to work across party lines to achieve legislative results is a hallmark of women’s business organizations, such as Women Impacting Public Policy and organizations that join together under a common policy umbrella.

This year, however, the climate changed for women in this country and, looking back, it has been in the works for some time. Gender bias is shockingly accepted in the media and political discussions in this country. If our daughters voice their opinions about their health, some in the media feel completely free to call them names. And then the apologies, which are certain to follow, say the comments were an attempt at poor humor. In politics, some suggest that women are incapable of making decisions about their health care while others in politics suggest that women should be making these decisions alone – without their partners. Gender bias, which we felt certain was at least a generation behind us, has crept into state legislature discussions under the guise of talking about reproductive choice.

It feels like everyone is talking about us but no one is talking to us.

There is simply nothing funny about trivializing women and telling them to sit down and shut up. And for those women who have chosen to take their families’ economic well-being into their own hands by running a business, that attitude is nothing short of distressing. But it may explain why women business owners have to make many attempts at finding financing for their businesses before finding operating or growth capital. It may explain why the government awards less than 5% of all of its contracts to women-owned businesses. It might explain why, until recently prohibited by law, our insurance rates were higher.

Almost as upsetting, is that the political parties are having a heyday at our expense. The partisan emails, from both parties, are trying to exploit this nasty name calling to garner our votes. This is an example of how vitriolic is the partisanship which has invaded the Nation’s Capital and state legislatures. It is a by-product of the political atmosphere where anything is fair game. The breakdown in respect for differing opinions allows ignorance and bias to thrive.

But there is a way to fix this. We can start by electing more women to the U.S. House and Senate and in the State Capitals. We can insist that the media refrain from perpetuating gender bias, and we can refuse to support companies that sponsor those who perpetuate it. We can band together in large coalitions to demand a stop to the insults without being beholden to any political party.

There is a direct connection between how society views women and the success of women business owners. Gender bias affects us at all levels – whether we are trying to secure a loan, buy a property, get a contract or buy insurance. How can women business owners expect to get a seat at the economic table if they aren’t afforded the respect that they should come to expect?

It’s time to speak up and it’s time to get active.

For more on the WIPP effort visit the Talk To Us Facebook page

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