A lot can happen in 45 years. Since its broad recognition in 1977, International Women’s Day has served as an opportunity to celebrate, educate, and advocate. And this year’s theme of #BreakTheBias strives to bring greater awareness to strides yet to be made toward women’s equality and the advantages that can come from a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive world.
Undoubtedly, everyone’s voice is necessary to attain the goal of societies free from gender discrimination. Yet some of the most compelling messages come from women themselves, especially female entrepreneurs. After all, they’re in a prime position to help up-and-coming younger women reach their goals in business and beyond.
Are you a woman business leader aiming to boost other ambitious women’s work lives? Take some cues from the ways that some businesswomen are making a difference for other women and touching lives around the globe.
1. They’re supporting mothers with leadership ambitions.
Women who want to add “mother” to their résumés can find themselves in a precarious dilemma. According to data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau, women’s involvement in the workforce declines with the birth or adoption of each subsequent child. This can leave them feeling like they must make the difficult choice between parenting and moving up the ladder or trying their hands at new roles.
The good news is that this problem may be starting to fade. Take Diana Kander’s experience. Kander may be a New York Times best-selling author and innovation coach, but she wasn’t without concerns about her career trajectory when expecting her second child around age 40. Thanks to a chance encounter with a woman executive, her anxiety about whether she could balance those goals vanished.
“I happened to have a meeting with a senior executive at a client’s office,” Kander recalls. “She just radiated competence. She shared her story of being able to manage a successful career and have children past 40, and I left our meeting with the confidence that it was definitely achievable. It was so powerful for me to see an example of someone who had walked the path before me and flourished through it.”
2. They’re flexing their economic muscles.
Women have been inching ever closer to a position of global economic power, according to a Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report: Already, 40% of the world’s wealth is held by women. In the United States, the figure may be as high as 45% by some estimates.
This turning tide is a boon to young women with aspirations of growing their own wealth. Seeing that other women have made the leap to amassing fortunes can be an enormous motivator. Of course, getting funding to launch businesses is still tough. But it’s getting better.
Five years ago, about 2% of investment funding went to women-founded companies, according to Fortune reporting. Since then, the amount has crept upward. Why? As The New York Times explains, female angel investors and venture capitalists are actively targeting women-led businesses. As a result, a wave of momentum is coming over the investment world and heading straight into the business coffers of female entrepreneurs.
Deepali Nangia, venture partner at Speedinvest, believes that the watershed moment for equitable venture capital is inevitable. Notes Nangia in a Forbes interview, “female founders will see more capital once we see more exits and returns and we have success stories and role models to talk about and share.” However, she’s quick to add that everyone can foster more support for women-run enterprises — including men, “given they are 90% of the VC world and 50% of the population! And when that happens, diversity and inclusion will no longer be a category we spend time and effort on but will be commonplace.”
3. They’re being thoughtful about hiring for true diversity.
Women in positions of power are actively boosting their workforces by recruiting from diverse populations, including those with a strong female representation. As mentioned in a Harvard Business Review piece, this type of practice makes financial sense. Increasing the number of female partnerships in venture capital firms by 10% correlated to a 10% more profitable exit.
Another study on the subject from McKinsey & Co. shows that gender-diverse teams outperformed non-diverse counterparts by 20%. Consequently, women who are hiring managers or recruiters have the chance to not just bring more women into the fold, but also to promote the success of their employer organizations.
There’s little doubt that women are eager to snag lucrative promotions. A joint CNBC-SurveyMonkey survey shows that almost 9 in 10 women consider themselves at least somewhat ambitious in their careers. They’re just waiting to be asked to bring their skill sets — and many are finding welcome, open arms from other women.
This March 8, take a little time to reflect on how you can not only recognize International Women’s Day, but also do your part to #BreakTheBias. Then, go out and move the needle. Every little bit counts when you’re trying to erase generations of discrimination.