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Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO) was founded in 2013 to focus attention on the global need to inspire and empower the 4 billion women around the world. November 19th is a day when women of all ages are encouraged to become active participants in the economy; igniting women leaders, innovators, and entrepreneurs to initiate startups and drive economic expansion. WEDO was founded in 2013 by women’s international advocate and author Wendy Diamond. Wendy was inspired by her volunteer work on behalf of the Adelante Foundation, an organization that provides microcredit to locally impoverished women in Honduras.
A global platform focused on helping female entrepreneurs around the world, WEDO recognizes that while women perform 66% of the world’s work and account for 85% of consumer expenditures, they only earn 10% of the world’s income. Women’s Entrepreneurship Day follows National Women’s Small Business Month (WSBM), which was established in 1972 to celebrate women-owned businesses and the outstanding progress female entrepreneurs have made over the years.
When WSBM was founded, just 4.6% of businesses in the United States (U.S.) were owned by women. As of 2019, women now own 42% of companies in the U.S. and women of color account for almost half of all female-owned businesses. According to a report from the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy’s “Women’s Business Ownership Survey,” the overwhelming majority of female-owned businesses are deemed small businesses with less than 500 employees. The 11 million U.S. women-owned businesses employ nearly 9 million people and generate $1.7 trillion in sales annually.
The progress for women in business is encouraging, but many women seeking careers in both large and small businesses find it difficult to navigate an environment that is still biased towards male counterparts. Successful female CEOs believe that remaining true to professional and personal goals and objectives will establish new expectations of women in business. “Be yourself, and have confidence in who you are,” said Hilary Genga, founder and CEO of Trunkettes. “You made it to where you are through hard work and perseverance, but most importantly, you’re there. Don’t conform yourself to a man’s idea of what a leader should look like.” Many female CEOs continue to find male-dominated industries or workplaces that do not want to acknowledge women’s leadership capabilities.
“I was more than willing to put in the work to create my own reputation for being a hardworking, honorable businessperson in my own right,” said Allison Gutterman, CEO and president of Jelmar. “To overcome this, I have had to learn to build my confidence and overcome my negative self-talk.”
At 31, and pregnant, Jaime Schmidt began her career as an entrepreneur in 2010 making natural deodorants in her kitchen and pouring it into jars that she then sold at farmers markets throughout the Portland, Oregon area. Her hard work and innovation spawned 400% year-over-year growth from $1.5 million in sales in 2015 to nearly $25 million in 2017. The company was later sold to Unilever for nine figures. “Don’t obsess over the obstacles”, says the founder of Schmidt’s Naturals. An entrepreneur’s road to success is filled with challenges and obstacles that need to be overcome and circumvented, and the journey nearly always encounters a significant share of those looking to steal the dream. But perseverance and an unshakable attitude of staying the course can and often does prevail.
Women in business continue to be recognized for the contributions they make. The Forbes list of the richest, self-made female entrepreneurs, executives, and entertainers in the U.S. now tops 100, up from 80 just a year ago. Organizations like WEDO and WSBM are helping women overcome the cultural biases and systemic challenges that remain for females across all business sectors. Michelle Ruiz, president and CEO of Ruiz Strategies, says, “We need to get women to the point where they aren’t apologizing. It is time to take ownership of our success.”