A Golden Opportunity
"Dare greatly...lead boldly," Hillary Clinton told an enthusiastic, cheering crowd at the AOL Makers conference in California. She continued, "Despite all the challenges we face, I remain convinced that the future is female." During Women's History month, Hillary's view has a particularly appealing ring. A new female momentum is sweeping the nation. "Can you afford inequality in your business?" A Forbes article challenges. Even during bleak economic times, women-owned firms have done disproportionately well: an American Express OPEN-commissioned report found that at the highest end of reported earnings (more than $10 million in annual revenues) the number of women-owned firms has grown by 56.6% since 2002—fully 47% higher than the 38.4% increase among all $10M+ firms regardless of gender.
It isn’t just in terms of growth that women are driving success; a report by the Credit Suisse Research Institute showed that ‘those firms dominated by men have recovered more slowly since the 2008 financial downturn than those with a more balanced male-female ratio.’ The same report stated that companies perform better when they have women directors: shares of companies valued at more than $10 billion that had female board members outperformed comparable businesses with all-male boards by 26 percent worldwide over a period of six years.
There's no turning back now. Millions all over the world showed up for the Women's March on Washington in January. Incredible passion was unleashed; great momentum was created. The challenge is to channel it into policies and politics that give us equal pay, equal voices in decision-making corridors. For the girls and young women we serve, take heed. There are many vital lessons to be learned and key points to be made during these challenging times. First, life doesn't always bring you what you want, but that doesn't mean you ever give up. Actually, if you're a leader, what you do is strengthen your resolve. Hillary's not stopping because she lost the election. The things you believe in are the things you believe in, no matter if you win or lose. Next, in defense of politics, we always have an opportunity to speak out, to protest, to advance our message. Especially when your side loses. Democracy means different views are allowed and even encouraged to be voiced and respected. Lastly, remember and take heart from those who have gone before us to change the world by standing up for what they believed in: Rosa Parks, who refused to give up her seat on a bus; Malala Yousafzai, a champion for girls' education from Pakistan who was shot in the head by the Taliban for her belief that girls should be educated, and congresswoman Barbara Jordan, civil rights leader and leader of the Democratic Party, mentored by Lyndon Johnson, and central in the Watergate prosecution. Leaders rise up in times like these. They have the vision and tirelessly pursue it without getting sidetracked. They are proactive and remove obstacles that get in the way of achieving that vision. They don't waste energy on the negative; they never belittle, criticize or degrade a colleague. They keep their eye on the big picture and build up rather than tear down. They don't succumb to the darkness of the times; they strengthen their resolve to do better, to do more. The momentum is great and the time is now.
Forbes, Entrepreneurs (September 12, 2013)
Ekaterina Walter, Contributor