Most of us are all too familiar with the statistics on women in business: In Fortune 500 companies, 14% of corporate officers, 17% of boards, about 8% of top earners, and 4% of CEOs are women.
I’ve discussed in previous posts some of the reasons for this (e.g., Talking Ourselves out of Success) and the potential outcomes for companies and our economy if more women held positions of leadership (and not just in the corporate world but in politics and academia as well).
- Profits in emerging markets increased for 34 percent of companies who’d made empowering women a priority.
- Companies with women board members outperform those with all-male boards by 42% to 66% in terms of returns on sales, equity, and invested capital.
- In developing countries, women reinvest 90% of their income in their families and communities (men, only 30% to 40%).
- If just the U.S. employment rate for women (not even taking into account leadership) were to become equal to that of men over the next 10 years, we would likely see an increase of at least 5% in our GDP.
Nicholas D. Kristof, in a New York Times op-ed, “She’s (Rarely) the Boss,” added another benefit to this list: “But we need more women in leadership positions for another reason: considerable evidence suggests that more diverse groups reach better decisions. Corporations should promote women not just out of fairness, but also because it helps them perform better.”
He suggests that businesses implement systemic changes to recruit, promote, and retain women as well as to encourage women (and men) to have families knowing they won’t be jeopardizing their career path. I agree wholeheartedly that these changes need to be made, but I see yet another solution, especially for women who don’t have the time or the desire to wait for this system to change: Bypass it entirely by starting your own business.
Women are already doing this, starting their own companies at twice the rate of men. And they are succeeding. According to the Center for Women’s Business Research, “If U.S.-based women-owned businesses were their own country, they would have the 5th largest GDP in the world, trailing closely behind Germany, and ahead of countries including France, United Kingdom and Italy.”
For the coming generations of young women, we absolutely need to continue fighting for equality in the workplace, in the halls of Congress, in academia. But for those already hitting the glass (or silver) ceiling, one of the best paths to promotion is to promote yourself to the head of your own company, one that can be run on your own terms and based on your own core values.
Why wait for leadership to be given when your leadership is a gift you can give—to yourself, to other women, and to the world.