By Jill Calabrese Bain
Bank of America has a long history with the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) – both with the national chapter and more than 50 local chapters from coast to coast – and has been the presenting sponsor of its annual conference for the past five years.
From Oct. 15-17, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to join fellow Bank of America teammates at NAWBO’s annual conference. More than 800 women gathered in Minneapolis to celebrate the 42nd anniversary of an organization that is the voice for more than 10.1 million female business owners nationwide. During an empowering and inspiring few days, we heard from notable speakers such as Erin Brockovich and SBA Administrator Linda McMahon, as well as a diverse and knowledgeable group of business owners.
This year’s conference theme of ‘together we dare’ really stuck with me. We know that it takes tremendous heart to be a woman business owner. You must dare to follow your dreams. You must dare to be bold and take risks. And, my favorite, you must dare to fail. Above all, you must dare to succeed.
We know that women are succeeding! Women have made significant strides in the upward climb toward equal opportunity in the workforce and in business. We’re slowly but surely chipping away at the gender pay gap. And, according to our latest Bank of America Women Business Owner Spotlight study, women business owners are feeling more optimistic that we’re on track to level the playing field in the next 20 years when it comes to these four things: pay equity, executive leadership, representation in the STEM fields and, yes, small business ownership.
During the conference, I met with women from the United States and around the globe – daring women linked by their willingness to blaze their own trails and strive for excellence. One of my favorite breakout sessions focused on “daring leadership,” and we heard from women entrepreneurs who have annual revenues exceeding the $1 million mark. The four panelists hailed from a wide range of organizations – a staffing company, niche cookie company, law firm and international branding/multi-media company. Despite their varied backgrounds, their advice was the same – engage experts, stay true to your core strengths (even if it means watching business walk out the door), always trust your intuition, and don’t be afraid to take risks.
It was amazing to see such extraordinary women daring to succeed each day by being leaders in their businesses, communities, and role models for future generations of female entrepreneurs.
I’m beyond proud of Bank of America and my teammates who support women entrepreneurs day in and day out. And that was really at the heart of NAWBO’s annual conference. We are all here to support the missions of all women who have dared to dream… dared to be bold… and dared to succeed – despite the odds.