Florida International University’s Center for Leadership recent survey, The Women Entrepreneurial Leaders Report, showed that “while both men and women are equally likely to desire business growth, women are less likely to measure success by the size of their firm. Instead, women business owners tend to pursue a balance between economic goals, like profit, and goals that are not strictly about economics, such as product quality, charitable work or community involvement” (“FIU Report: Women-led Businesses Find Value in Social Responsibility”).
Most studies show that although women are starting their own businesses at twice the rate of men, those businesses are not as likely to grow as fast or as big. Reasons for this include women having more difficulty getting startup funds than men do as well as having to constantly battle a patriarchal system, both outside ourselves and within our own heads (see “Talking Ourselves out of Success”). According to traditional thinking, these women-owned businesses would be classified as less successful. But is that accurate?
Sociologist Mary Godwyn provides a more nuanced explanation based on her research: “Many women we interviewed identified with their businesses as a vehicle for self-expression and a means to serve underserved populations. In the entrepreneurship literature, that is sometimes discouraged or even disparaged. You’re told not to get too attached. But these women think about the larger implications of their business in the world community.”
In other words, in the new business model women are creating and leading, size does matter, but not in the way you might think. True, sustainable success isn’t in the size of your business or your growth. It’s in the size of your impact and your personal growth.
Perhaps this is why this new trend toward socially responsible, environmentally conscious businesses who give back to their community is being led by women in midlife and beyond, a time when many people turn inward to sharpen their priorities and focus on what really matters to them. Studies have shown that successful women-owned businesses are usually started by women over 40, after they have switched careers two or three times (“Some Facts about Women Entrepreneurs”).
They are at a stage where they’ve decided to take their personal fulfillment into their own hands and create a future that is aligned with their values, their passions, and their desire to live out their soul’s purpose in everything they do.
But does this really mean choosing purpose over profit? Meaning over money? The statistics seem to support this, but I don’t believe the future’s statistics will, and I’ll tell you why.
According to Cone Communications’ 2010 Cause Evolution Study, 90% of consumers want businesses to tell them how they are supporting outside causes (90%!). And as I’ve mentioned before, the Boomer Values Realignment Study has shown that the Boomers are more likely to use their $2.1 trillion in consumer spending power to patronize business that are in line with their own values.
In other words, women are pioneering a business model that is likely to surpass the old one simply because of good old supply and demand. The demand is there for entrepreneurs who are using their businesses to make a difference in the lives of others. We can fulfill the demand by supplying what we all want from our lives and our work—purpose.
How can you have the most impact on the lives of others? How do your vision and purpose intersect with what the world needs?
Image credit: Photograph by Bo Hansen.