There’s a national conversation in play about women in the workplace and the challenges they face with regard to pay equity and advancement opportunities. But that conversation is centered on women who work for someone else. Shift the focus to women who work for themselves and the whole dynamic changes—which is one reason why more women are exploring the opportunities they can create as small business owners.
“I don’t see that there are any ceilings once you become an entrepreneur,” says Susan Rittscher, president and CEO of the not-for-profit Center for Women and Enterprise. “Capital is a little bit more challenging at times, but we help women through that. The other thing is that many women who are on a corporate ladder have decided that they don’t want a corporate lifestyle. They opt for becoming an entrepreneur so they can have more flexibility and have a better work-life balance.”
Choice is one of the perks of entrepreneurship. Women who need to juggle business ownership with other priorities can turn to organizations like Rittscher’s to learn how to manage and control small business growth. Others find that with the right management structure, they can pursue more ambitious profit and growth goals. As entrepreneurs, they’re in the driver’s seat.
That can prove especially true where you might not expect it: in traditionally male-dominated industries in which women are underrepresented. Those who are strong in areas such as science and math or industries like technology or construction may discover that they have a competitive advantage. “Large corporations have to set aside a certain portion of their spend for contracting to women and minorities,” Rittscher says. “If a woman gets into those areas, is very good, and understands contracting, it can be very lucrative.”
With that in mind, she encourages women to look into getting their enterprises certified as woman-owned businesses. The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) grants certification through local organizations like the Center for Business and Enterprise. Among her clients who have completed the certification process is a marketing and promotional materials company that “really learned how to use the process well and now has contracts with six or eight Fortune 500 companies,” she says. “So it does work.”
Women who work as consultants and sole proprietors can land clients in those tiers, as well, either on their own or through subcontracting. And given that 92 percent of woman-owned businesses generate less than $2 million in revenue, opportunities of that magnitude can propel them to unprecedented levels of profitability and growth. “It’s not necessarily easy, but I find that women are quite resilient and able to do a lot more than we think at times,” Richter says.
Visit the WBENC website for more information about the benefits of certification, which begin with access to a list of supplier diversity and procurement executives at corporations and government agencies. The site also offers a walk-through of the certification process and the documentation required.
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