What Works for Women?

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The economic contributions of women-owned firms continue to rise at rates higher than the national average — with even stronger business formation rates seen since the recession.
At least half of the country has accepted the idea that a woman could be president and in November we’ll find out if we actually elect our first woman president. While numerous other developed countries have had or have a woman leader, the U.S. has been starkly lacking in promoting women to the highest offices in the country. Think Germany, Argentina, Denmark, S. Korea, Poland and Croatia — all have elected women leaders. The number of women who are top political leaders around the globe has more than doubled since 2005.
But in the U.S. women in leadership roles is sorely lacking: out of 535 seats in Congress 19.4 percent are women. That percentage closely represents women elected to the U.S. Senate and houses and senates throughout the country. Yet women are the majority of both population and voters in the U.S. There are 162 million women and 157 million men. 43 percent of female citizens 18 and older reported voting in the 2014 election. By comparison, 40.8 percent of their male counterparts reported voting.
The big question for 2016 — will the United States break with history and elect its first woman president? Electing a woman as U.S. president could change the balance of power in the world — or certainly the balance sheet on global female leadership.
When it comes to improving the economy, women have more than generated their share of revenue. Employment in women-owned businesses has increased by 18 percent since the recession, while among all businesses employment has declined 1 percent since 2007. Between 2007 and 2016, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45 percent, compared to just a 9 percent increase among all businesses.
There are now over 11 million women-owned business in the U.S. who employ 9 million people and generate over $1.9 trillion in revenue.
However, women are still paid less than men. Like the rest of the nation, Oregon has a gender pay gap: the typical woman in Oregon earns about 82 cents for every dollar that a man earns.
The causes for this pay discrepancy is complex. To some extent, the gap reflects the fact that most women still serve as the family’s principal caretaker — raising children, caring for an elderly parent or caring for a family member who has fallen ill. Those duties continue to take women out of the workforce.
The gap also reflects, in part, that employers have not valued the labor of women as highly as the labor of men. Unfortunately it reflects, to some degree, an undertone of gender discrimination.
There are steps that Oregon policymakers can take to even the playing field. These include investing in affordable, quality child care to expand access, strengthening fair pay standards and ensuring that workers have opportunities for flexible work schedules. By helping eliminate the gender pay gap, lawmakers can increase the economic security of Oregon families and advance gender equity.
Women are gaining in financial wealth and influence, now being the majority owners of 38 percent of the country’s businesses, up from 29 percent in 2007. But more notable is that they control nearly 60 percent of the wealth in the United States. There are more than half a million women with personal incomes of $100,000 or more. 45 percent of American millionaires are women. And just in case you wanted to give credit to the men in their lives: 60 percent of high net worth women have earned their own fortunes. Some estimate that by 2030, women will control as much as two-thirds of the nation’s wealth.
Women are now surpassing men in receiving advanced educations. According to the U.S. Department of Education, in the 2005-06 school year, women made up 57.5 percent of all students earning bachelors degrees, nearly 60 percent of students earning masters degrees and 48.9 percent of students earning Ph.Ds.
While quietly gaining in finance, education and the workplace, in general women have not been given the accolades they deserve for being inventive and playing leadership roles in the workplace. But if you look back over history you’ll find women have conceived clever concepts and products that have changed the way we live.
You can’t give Steve Jobs all the credit for advancing technology. Ada Lovelace is essentially the first computer programmer due to her work with Charles Babbage at the University of London in 1842. In fact her notes were key to helping Alan Turing’s work on the first modern computers in the 1940s. Some of the telecommunication technology developed by Dr. Shirley Jackson include portable fax, touch tone telephone, solar cells, fiber optic cables and the technology behind caller ID and call waiting.
Women often focus on safety. The lifesaving Life Raft was invented by Maria Beasely in 1882. The fire escape was invented by Anna Connelly in 1887. We owe our thanks to Margaret A. Wilcox who invented the car heater in 1893. The medical syringe which could be operated with only one hand was invented by a woman by the name of Letitia Geer in 1899.
The electric refrigerator was invented by Florence Parpart in 1914 who also invented an improved street cleaning machine in addition to the refrigerator. The dishwasher was invented by Josephine Cochrane in 1887. Before her time, she marketed her machine to hotel owners and opened her own factory.
Solar heating for residential housing was invented by Dr. Maria Telkes in 1947. Dr. Telkes was a psychiatrist in addition to being a solar-power pioneer.
On the just fun side, the ice cream maker was invented by Nancy Johnson in 1843. Her patented design is still used today. The popular board game of Monopoly was designed by Elizabeth Magie in 1904, originally called the Landlord’s Game. The purpose of this game was to expose the injustices of unchecked capitalism. Her game was ripped off by Charles Darrow who sold it to Parker Brothers 30 years later. Parker Brothers later paid Elizabeth $500 for her game.
Because women live longer than men, they will end up in charge of much of the $41 trillion expected to pass from generation to generation over the next 50 years.
As business owners and managers what does all this tell us: according to Diversity Best Practices & Business Women’s Network, women are responsible for 83 percent of all consumer purchases through a combination of their buying power and influence. If women make up a significant portion of your customer base, they should be represented on your management team. Research shows that companies with gender-balanced teams have a higher ROI.
If our country is to have continued economy success it needs to promote a series of modern policy reforms encouraging the creation of a more dynamic, innovative and flexible workplace for American women and men.

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About Author

Pamela Hulse Andrews CBN Publisher/Founder, Bend, Oregon

Thanks to getting fired 20 years ago by a previous publication, Pamela Hulse Andrews became the founder and publisher of Cascade Publications Inc. which publishes both the print and online versions of Cascade Business News and Cascade Arts & Entertainment. Pamela’s diverse business background gives her a broad perspective on the arts and business community. She has championed the growth of the arts in the high desert region and played a leadership role in connecting the dots between arts and economic vitality. She writes an assortment of monthly and weekly columns on local arts, politics, business and the economy, creativity and developing entrepreneurship.

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