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The 5 Best Cities Globally for Female Entrepreneurs

The 5 Best Cities Globally for Female Entrepreneurs

As more women trailblaze into what were once considered traditionally male careers like business and leadership, more cities are becoming global hotspots for female entrepreneurs. But no two cities are created equally; some have an ideal environment that female business women may want to consider for optimal success and networking. One list that highlighted some of those cities is the Dell Women Entrepreneur Cities Index.

As a New York-based entrepreneur and woman, it certainly wasn’t easy building my own business. But I often wonder how much more difficult it could have been elsewhere. And as someone who has been there, I try to do what I can do advocate for young women looking for a foothold. One way to do so is by highlighting regions with politics and environments that help women succeed.

Here’s a close look at the 5 best cities for female entrepreneurs:

New York City:

I may be biased when it comes to New York, but just so you know that it’s more than an anecdote, the Big Apple and self-proclaimed “Capital of the World” is touted as the best city in the world for female entrepreneurs on Dell’s list. The city also ranked first in the Index’s top five entrepreneurial cities for culture, capital, talent, and market.

Thanks to the abundance of cultures, resources, and myriad of different businesses and organizations to work with, New York is definitely the place to be. City government has also made a point to support women-run businesses and ideas. New York’s Department of Small Business Services, for example, recently announced the launch of the Contract Financing Loan Fund, which gives minority and women-owned businesses to apply for low-interest financing loans of up to half a million dollars. Interest rates on the loan will be capped at 3%, which will give all kinds of women the opportunity to expand or embark on new projects.

Bay Area:

When most people think of startups, their minds spring immediately to Silicon Valley—and not without reason! Like New York, the Bay Area on the West Coast also placed in the top five for capital, market, and talent. The overall area includes various cities like San Francisco, Napa, and Santa Clara. The area also includes Silicon Valley, which encompasses an area filled with all kinds of startups and widely successful technical companies like Apple, Google, and Facebook, which make it ideal for getting new ideas off the ground.

London:

Despite fears of how changes like Brexit will affect business in the future for the United Kingdom, London is still an international city and the largest metropolitan area throughout all of the United Kingdom. It’s also one of the most important financial areas in both Europe and the world.

It competes with cities in the United States in that 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies have offices inside of London. That makes it easier to find funding and organizations to collaborate with for entrepreneurial purposes.

Stockholm:

This Swedish city is a hotbed of nascent potential. It’s one of the richest regions in the European Union and also one of the fastest growing cities. It also ranks as number one on Dell’s Women Entrepreneurial Cities Index as the best city for tech.

Sweden is also listed among the top five in Forbes’ “The 10 Best Countries for Women” list from 2012. Other aspects of Stockholm that make it promising for curious female entrepreneurs looking outside of the United States? It’s home to various organizations, including the Professional Women’s Network, a federation of over 24 professional networks that promote gender equality. This makes the city, and country an ideal place for women who prefer a welcoming environment.

Singapore:

Though most of the best cities on the Dell Women Entrepreneur Cities Index are dominated by US- and Europe-based locations, Singapore is definitely a location to consider for the future of women in entrepreneurship. The Southeast Asian city ranks third on Dell’s best cities for tech and fifth in the top five cities for culture.

Recent developments made in the city include the country’s push to create a multi-million dollar fund to help innovative companies in an effort to boost future economic growth, according to Bloomberg. Several websites have also highlighted Singapore as an ideal location in Asia for women’s access to capital and equal rights. Moreover, it’s currently touted as the best places in Asia for women owned businesses to thrive.

This city seems to be ideal for anyone who constantly does business in Southeast Asia, or is considering overseas collaborations that don’t always include Europe or the United States.

It’s great to see so many cities global embracing and supporting female entrepreneurs. Just remember: success isn’t always a physical state as much as a state of mind. While cities like these will give you a boost, your own drive can make a world of difference, too.

Leaning In, Then and Now

Leaning In, Then and Now

Women have been leaning in since before the phrase was coined, and we’re finally seeing some real progress. Since I entered the workforce as a secretary in the 70s and forged a name for myself in the 80s, a lot has changed, and overall the trend is a positive one. Though battles remain for women far and wide, my own experience serves as a reminder of the hurdles we’ve collectively overcome.

Others have said it, but it bears repeating, that we are finally entering a golden age of female entrepreneurship. This new age will give the economy a boost and help increase employment opportunities for a diverse range of people—men included! If developments in the next thirty years are as significant as those in the past, our future is most certainly a bright one overflowing with female empowerment.

But don’t just take my word for it; listen to my story and those of other women who have been there. I think you’ll find that what we’ve experienced is illustrative of progress made, and progress still to come.

Growing up: Unprecedented goals  

As the daughter of an immigrant butcher, monetary success did not always seem like a goal in the cards for me. I often say that the best thing my father did was be poor: he would get up at the crack of dawn and work 14-hour days, a demonstration of hard work and perseverance. Though my own hardships are nothing compared to those of my parents, who survived the Holocaust, I credit my all of my grit to them.

A drive to live my life on my own terms has dwelled within me since I was a child, when I desperately wanted to be respected, successful, and financially independent someday. For a man, this kind of ambition was all but assumed. For a woman, it was virtually unheard of.

How many little girls are told they can do anything they want by people who believe it? I like to think that in the 21st century, it’s most. Today, business skills are nurtured in children of both genders, through smart parenting as well as toys that promote entrepreneurship. Though progress is not always linear, young girls have better odds of success than ever before.
Growing up, there were no iconic female leaders I could model myself after or see myself in. I’m certain other girls my age didn’t realize entrepreneurship was an option available to them for this very reason. But this, too, has changed dramatically. Young women today can look to female leaders–both in the public and private sector–and emulate their successes.

Entering the workforce: Unchartered territory

After graduating high school in 1974, my real journey began. I landed a job as a secretary late that year at a real estate management firm for a small salary of $115 a week. This role was a learning opportunity and the first of many stepping stones, though it turned out I was better suited for management. I stepped into a role as property manager, and started Bach Realty Inc., an all-female real estate brokerage, after college. I became the first woman to own a commercial firm in New York City at the age of 23.

As a young professional woman I was definitely an outlier, and felt this fact keenly in an industry full of men. Today (as I’ve written about before) ambitious young women are no longer anomalies. Girls are no longer expected to stay at home, and though gender stereotypes still persist when it comes to career development, most women are prepared to enter the workforce after school.  

Opting out of the workforce in today’s economy is rarely a realistic option. Career expectations are placed on both men and women, meaning there is more competition, but also greater equality. That doesn’t mean things are easy. When I started working I was following my dreams, while many of today’s young people are following the motions just to get by, and if they’re lucky, discover where they fit into a changing economy.

Entering the workforce can be a struggle for anyone, but today’s young female professionals, at the very least, benefit from having female peers and a culture that values their worth.

Launching a business: A test of strength

When I started at Bach, I borrowed 2k from a friend and made $100k in my first year. All of a sudden, I was off and running. A lot of hard work, persistence, and a little luck helped me achieve my goal of entrepreneurship and succeed beyond my wildest dreams.

But the 80s weren’t the easiest time for a woman to launch a successful business. As Sheryl Sandberg discussed in her 2013 book “Lean In,” ambition was (and often still is) viewed as a negative trait in women. As Sandberg describes, the trip to the top for a woman is more like a jungle gym riddled with obstacles than it is a ladder. I was determined not to be shaken by this. Instead, I made being the only woman a positive and used it to my advantage.

Just as I lacked female role models as a child, I didn’t have any women to emulate when I was building my business. Even better, there are support groups today specifically for women that provide invaluable resources and connections for female entrepreneurs.

Next steps: Crunching numbers, breaking barriers

The past 40-odd years have blessed us with more than just anecdotes like my own; now, we have the numbers to prove why it matters. Today’s women not only have example of successful female entrepreneurs, but the data to support their worth.

For example, research has shown that startups with female leadership outperform those with men at the helm by 63%. Studies also indicate that female leadership has an edge when it comes to overall effectiveness, emotional intelligence, communication, and teamwork.

In addition, the barriers to entry for female entrepreneurs have been significantly lowered. In the 70s and 80s, the entire world was a barrier. This is no longer true! Part of this change is thanks to technology, which has cut the costs of launching new initiatives, and the changing nature of work, which allows for more flexible solutions like freelancing. There are also more funding opportunities for women than ever before.

Still, implicit bias could linger for a very long time. This is evident in the fact that women still only comprise just 4% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies, and are subjected to double standards in and out of the workplace. While this could take years to overcome, I have great faith in how progress is unfolding.  

I look forward to a future filled to the brim with female success and representation, and if you want a robust economy, you should too. Let’s break that glass ceiling together and discover just how much we’re capable of achieving. Progress may not always be a straight line, but if the trajectory continues upwards, the sky’s the limit.

Why Female Entrepreneurs Excelled in 2016

Why Female Entrepreneurs Excelled in 2016

More women-owned businesses, more money raised to grow those businesses, and peer recognition prove that 2016 was a great year for female entrepreneurs.

Last January, Forbes magazine declared that 2016 would be a great year for women entrepreneurs. Forces would align, they predicted, and women would prosper. Reasons cited included marketplace trends, low interest rates,  leadership training, and the positive press that surrounds the story of a successful business woman.

On the surface, 2016 may not have shaped up to be the historic year for women that many had hoped for—a shortcoming felt most keenly following Hillary Clinton’s loss of the US election this November. But when you dig a little deeper, especially in the private sector, it looks like Forbes got it right: not just because of the overall business landscape, but because of the actions of women themselves.

There are three ways women excelled as entrepreneurs in 2016.

First, they got in the game.

In 2015, 9.4 million businesses or firms were owned by women. In 2016, that number grew to 11.3 million according to the 2016 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, commissioned by American Express OPEN.

The number of women-owned businesses has grown by 45 percent since 2007, which is five times faster than the national average.

It takes careful attention to market opportunities to get started on a viable business. For example, entrepreneur Katerina Schneider realized, after taking a closer look, that too many vitamins have outdated formulations. A savvy business woman with a background in both the investment and entertainment industries, Schneider launched Ritual, a vitamin company. The business landed a spot on Business Insider’s “Top 17 Start-Ups of 2016.”

Start-ups aren’t relegated to big cities. Women all over the country took skills, often learned working for others, to start their own businesses, from restaurants to retail stores and financial firms.

Then, they got the funding.

“Don’t let money run your life, let money help you run your life better.” This quote by John Rampton, CEO of Due, applies to businesses even more than to daily life.

Women-led businesses consistently receive less outside funding than other businesses, but that didn’t stop scores of women from getting the money they needed.

Mary Apple, founder and creator of Pretty Pushers, a line of maternity-specific hospital gowns, struggled to get business loans ever since the inception of her business in 2008.  But the need to develop a line designed for, and sell directly to, hospitals drove her on, and this year she secured financing through alternate means: securing a loan through the online “matching” platform Kabbage.  

The result was a line of credit that allowed her to move forward.

Karla Fried, CEO and co-founder of NVoicepay, secured her sixth round of venture capital funding in 2016. She’s been so successful at raising money, she wrote an article for The Huffington Post that offers advice to other women.

Finally, they got recognized.

From the prestigious Stevie Awards to more local awards, like New Jersey’s Leading Women Entrepreneurs top 25 list, women were recognized for their innovation and contributions to the world of business.

The types of businesses ranged from tech, to online retail, to real estate, the service industry and just about every other realm imaginable.

For instance, in 2008 Jessica O. Matthews imagined a world where playing would generate power, and that power would change lives. At the time she was working on a class project at Harvard University, and helped invent the SOCCKET ball, an energy-harnessing soccer ball. Matthews co-founded Uncharted Play, a company that “makes energy generating products that power and empower communities worldwide” according to the website. From its launch in 2011 until now, Uncharted Play has used their proprietary MORE technology (scalable, multi micro-generator energy systems) to turn “anything that moves” into a source of power.

In 2016 she was named a Gold Stevie Award winner, and a female entrepreneur of the year. In Matthews’ case, it’s not her first award. As her company grows, so does her list of accolades.

Suji Park earned a Silver Stevie Award for Suji’s Korean Cuisine.  The company, based out of Omaha, Nebraska is part of Food Dreams Made Real, “a tight-knit family of professionals who know the food cultures of both Korea and the United States.” Suji’s Korean Cuisine products are marketed in the U.S., where the demand for Korean food is growing.

So, as 2017 begins and goals are set both personally and professionally, remember that the horizon for women in business is a bright one. Get in the game, get your funding in place and someday you, too, could be successful and earn the praise of your peers.

How Entrepreneurs Can Accommodate for Religious Holidays in the Workplace

How Entrepreneurs Can Accommodate for Religious Holidays in the Workplace

As entrepreneurs grow their companies, maintaining a positive work atmosphere and boosting employee morale is a must. Doing so may involve recognizing an employee’s need to take time off for religious reasons — in fact, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission requires all employers to accommodate the religious beliefs and practices of both applicants and employees. This is mandated under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on religion.

For company founders running small or large teams, it’s important to understand that all employees have a life outside of work and may have obligations that interfere with the standard scheduled work week. Since non-Christian holidays are often not paid time off days, many Jewish employees will be requesting time off for Hanukkah celebrations, Passover, and Yom Kippur and are available during Christian holidays.

My Jewish faith and heritage is a big part of my identity, so I’ve always been grateful to have the ability to observe holidays on my own time. Now that I’ve built a successful business of my own, I make sure that I recognize the needs of associates and encourage other entrepreneurs to do the same.

Here are some ways I recommend that entrepreneurs accommodate for religious holidays in the workplace:

Provide Flexible Scheduling Options

While many Christians go to church on Sunday, some employees may need to leave work earlier during a weekday to attend services at a synagogue or other place of worship.

In an entrepreneurial environment, you have the opportunity to build a flexible culture. Still, many startups are by nature of the venture quite demanding. Whatever stage your company is at, you can work to provide flexible scheduling options.

Consider giving these employees the flexibility to make those days a little shorter and make up the time on another day so they can take care of their personal commitments without any stress. You can have employees request scheduling changes several weeks ahead of time or on a monthly basis to coordinate projects or delegate tasks if needed.

Coordinate a Holiday Party

Even if you practice a different religion, you can show respect for associates who are observing a religious holiday by sponsoring a holiday party around the celebration; for example, I celebrate Jewish holidays, this has not kept me from respecting and even celebrating the holidays of my teammates.  

Whether it’s Hanukkah or Passover, there’s no rule that you need to host only a Christmas party during the holiday season for your team. If your company has the ability, it can work with human resources to organize holiday events and celebrations that honor all religious beliefs.

Keep Communication Lines Open

Accommodating religious requests is not the same as excusing work responsibilities. If employees are working non-standard working hours, they should make up time for time they take off — the same goes for those who are taking partial days while working on a big project with other team members. This requires great communication.

These employees need to have a point of contact when they are not able to get in touch with their immediate supervisor during non-business hours and may need to be open to receiving work-related emails and phone calls when they take time off during a standard work day.

Make sure to set expectations and keep the lines of communication open so everybody stays on track and there is less room for mistakes during a team member’s absence.

Set Expectations on Requests for Time Off

Make sure employees are clear on when they can request time off for religious reasons or otherwise. You may need to review requests at least three or even four weeks in advance to accommodate for all your scheduling needs, depending on your industry and business. Young startups with smaller teams will need to be especially diligent in this regard.

Let employees know you are more than happy providing time off for religious holiday celebrations but need to know what days they need off at least a few weeks in advance. This ensures they know they can take time off for religious purposes as long as they follow company policy.

Be Prepared for Conflicts

No matter how organized you are and how well you schedule everybody’s time off requests, you may run into some scheduling conflicts where some employees are not granted the time off requested. You need to be well-prepared for these situations and be careful that you are not violating any laws that require you to accommodate for employees who are requesting modifications to their schedule for religious reasons.

Again, clear communication is key and you can take steps to offer alternative days off if you were unable to accommodate an associate’s request. Allowing everybody to have the time off they need at the same time when you are already short-staffed may not be feasible so both employees and employers need to be prepared for that.

Anything entrepreneurs can do to honor an employee’s requests for time off or schedule changes for religious reasons will help the organization as a whole. For me, having the space to practice religion has helped shape my professional identity in a way that compliments my personal one. We are all multi-faceted humans with varying beliefs — when entrepreneurs are open and accommodating to these differences, it makes us all stronger.

Why Is the Public Sector More Welcoming to Women Leaders Than Business?

Why Is the Public Sector More Welcoming to Women Leaders Than Business?

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

While women make up more than half of the U.S. population and nearly 52 percent of these women hold professional-level jobs, only 14.6 percent end up as executive officers, according to the latest statistics from the Center for American Progress. This figure tells us what many women already know: In spite of gains in the workplace, plenty of today’s career-oriented woman are still struggling to break the glass ceiling.

To understand why, it helps to take a closer look at how female leadership roles develop and evolve in both the private and public sector. Are women better off exploring leadership positions with the government or working for private firms and corporations? With Hillary Clinton gunning for the most executive position in the country, the outlook is not all that bad. Even so, it’s clear that challenges remain — both in the government and the private sector.

Elle Magazine’s list of the 10 most powerful women in Washington featured women, who have overcome many challenges in the White House and beyond, providing us with inspiration on what it takes to succeed in an otherwise male-dominated sector. Author Rachel Combe emphasizes how many of these women are key players, leading their teams and colleagues to great levels of success.

It’s not news that women have the skills needed to excel, though opportunity is a different story. According to the International Federation of Business and Professional Women, women tend to have the chops to become transformational leaders.

These leaders inspire people to follow them by working on gaining their trust and respect before attempting to persuade or change their views. They encourage a mutual relationship among everyone they work with, regardless of role or status. The experts at Business Professional Women’s (BPW) International point out that women have a tendency to encourage participation and collaboration when running an organization. Unlike men, they rarely use threats to change behavior, instead focusing on improving performance. They also have the ability to work with a clear vision, and earn people’s trust because of that.

All of these traits and characteristics allow them to play a pivotal role in both private and public sector jobs. But to what extent? Women in top management positions and on corporate boards are stalling,according to the Center for American Progress, with only nine percent of women remaining in top management positions.

Overall, it appears women have excelled more in the public sector than in the private.

Women make up 34.4 percent of senior executive services (SES) in the federal government compared with 14.6 percent of senior leadership roles in the private sector. The study highlights the fact that women have filled more leadership roles within the public sector than in the private sector — a trend we see more of at the federal level.

There are few skills unique to men or women, but the argument that men are better leaders innately has been definitively debunked.

In fact, the same skills that are rewarded in men can hinder women, and traditionally feminine leadership traits are downplayed in spite of their importance in a professional workplace. For example, a recent study showsthat female executives outshine their male counterparts when it comes to fostering a collaborative environment. Collaboration, along with other traits, such as compassion and honesty, are cornerstones of good leadership. Unfortunately, popular opinion still regards men and stereotypically male traits as superior. Due to this discrepancy, some organizations are taking a stand to level the playing field.

Anne Abraham, founder and CEO of LeadWomen, says, “The Commonwealth has successfully achieved significant levels of women in political leadership in some regions. The same emphasis must now be placed on women in senior leadership roles in public and private offices.”

More women are taking the lead on representing their female colleagues and counterparts in board meetings; leading critical planning and development discussions; and serving as key decision makers for an organization. However, women are still underrepresented, regardless of industry and fail to meet anywhere near the employment level of their male counterparts in executive and leadership positions.

So what’s it going to take for more women to fill positions of power in the private and public sector? While it appears that more leadership job opportunities within the federal government are available — or accessible — to women, women who are pursuing career growth in the private sector, may have a more difficult time. As I’ve written about before, it is up to leadership to recognize female talent and to provide the opportunities to excel.

Women can also consider working with a mentor, or furthering their education, to explore high-level management positions. Some companies offer formal mentorship programs for internal employees so they can partner with an experienced executive and learn the ropes to get ahead in the organization.

Another option is to develop stronger interpersonal and team-building skills to serve as a leader at every opportunity within the organization. This can encourage managers to take notice and increase the chances of a promotion.

Women are still struggling to break through the glass ceiling in many organizations, but many do find rewarding leadership opportunities both in the private and in the public sector. While many firms and corporations in the private sector encourage women to join the organization and grow their careers, others are finding opportunities to excel working for the federal government.

At the end of the day, I believe we are amidst a cultural shift toward better inclusivity. It took much more effort for the women before us, and it will take extra effort for women today. But someday our hard work will pay off for the women of tomorrow.

Women & Success: The Real Estate Industry

Women & Success: The Real Estate Industry

After ages of institutional disadvantages, women today are quickly gaining power in the workplace. Time and again, they’ve proven their worth in academic and professional settings, and in all tiers of business have made clear the importance of female representation — leadership included.

When I began as a secretary in the 1970s, I was among a minority of women in the real estate industry. With hard work and luck, however, I was able to climb the corporate ladder and build a successful business from scratch, forging the way for a new generation of female entrepreneurs.

The environment in which I did that — New York City — has always been a progressive microcosm. Here, where the country’s best-paid family-leave law was just passed, some of the nation’s finest female leaders and entrepreneurs are flourishing, thanks to a combination of ambition and diversity and growing cultural support for equality.

Still, as a born and bred New Yorker, I admit that the rest of the country remains a bit of an enigma to me. In fact, I have come to realize that my own success in the real estate industry may be an outlier. According to a survey of female members of the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a multidisciplinary real estate organization with more than 37,000 members, there exists a deficit of women in our industry’s executive roles.

Women in real estate

My wish is for all women to have the opportunity to advance in the workspace if they have the talent and desire. But, according to ULI’s survey, there is still a clear gender imbalance, especially when it comes to leadership.

The survey found that women make up about 25 percent of ULI members but represent just 14 percent of CEOs. Female leaders are also more likely to be at the helm of smaller firms than larger ones. ULI speculates that this is likely because roadblocks in larger organizations box them out of senior roles, leading them to either start their own businesses or leave for smaller firms where less bureaucracy prevents their advancement.

Fortunately, the women surveyed displayed great optimism about their careers: 70 percent said they felt they were on track in their career advancement, or else were moving even more rapidly ahead than expected.

Supporting women’s career growth

Clearly, women in real estate are ambitious, talented and hungry for advancement: Roughly 68 percent of those surveyed said they aspired to hold executive positions in their companies or own their own business. In New York City, I’ve found, conditions are right to encourage such female success.

But the fact is that many women still face obstacles in seeing their ambitions come to fruition. That is why I believe we need the right support to develop their talent, to carry them forward unhindered by “gender” limitations.

ULI makes some astute suggestions for real estate companies to help women in the industry not just succeed, but earn positions at the top of the totem pole. Here’s what they propose:

Accelerated learning
One of the most important requests by women surveyed was the provision of visible and challenging assignments to accelerate on-the-job learning. When high-profile assignments and job openings arise, organizations should think and act with an eye toward both talent and diversity, then challenge those with potential.

Giving female employees responsibility and testing their ability to act under pressure opens doors for those that might not be obvious choices, giving them the chance prove their worth and exercise their skills.

Culture creation
Another important factor is an inclusive workplace culture, within which both men and women have the tools to succeed. Inclusivity starts from the top, with leaders taking actions to include women as mentees and to demand the same quality from all, regardless of gender.

Already, many millennial women report being paid and treated as equals with their male counterparts. Since mid-career women are more likely to report their careers stalling, it is imperative that this culture extend to women of all ages.

Talent mindset
According to women in the industry, having managers who coach them on the job is more beneficial than formal female leadership programs. Programs as stand-off interventions — while potentially helpful — aren’t considered as important to career growth as internal attitude and mentorship.

For example, a senior-level executive advocating for a woman goes much further than a simple HR training session. Managers should practice objective hiring and mentorship to challenge those with raw skills and ability.

Flexibility for all
The ULI survey found that the women surveyed indicated workplace flexibility as a sign of trust by senior leadership. These women wanted to be trusted with flexible working hours while also being measured on results; in the survey, this goal was even more important than family leave.

Work flexibility allows both women and men to dictate their own schedules, to optimize work time and family time without sacrificing quality in either. As long as these offerings don’t put an undue burden on other colleagues or lower the performance bar, those able to take advantage of it will have ample room to thrive.

Mentorship
Internal mentorship can be crucial in allowing women to hone their leadership skills.. But challenges persist in regards to gender dynamics that may impede coaching’s efficacy: For example, a male superior may feel uncomfortable critiquing or bonding with a female inferior, and vice versa.

Women may want to turn to female superiors, then, for advice. But as long as men occupy leadership roles, they shouldn’t hold back from offering support. Organizations can also offer women the opportunity to form external networks fostering professional relationships with men and women outside their firm. Both outsiders and insiders can become future work connections and provide valuable feedback to working women.

What’s next?
Women in the real estate industry have reason to be both optimistic about and hopeful for the future. Progress comes when culture shifts, equity is sought,and respect is earned; every year, more women are earning advancements due to organic change. I’ve witnessed this first-hand, and am confident that women around the country are capable of the same success.

Is there more to accomplish? Certainly, which is why ULI’s suggestions should be used as guidelines to accelerate the processes.

Overall, the macro trend is one of rising inclusivity and equality. So long as industry leaders continue to push forward and prioritize the elements that help women excel, I believe talented female leaders will emerge to both earn and flourish in executive positions. Take a leaf out of New York City’s book — trust me, it makes a difference.

This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com

Why Philanthropy is Important to Reaching Success as a Businesswoman

Why Philanthropy is Important to Reaching Success as a Businesswoman

As a businesswoman in the commercial real estate industry and a philanthropist in the New York City community, I’m well aware that philanthropy can amplify one’s success and crystalize the vital relationship between giving back and enhancing business performance.

When intelligently coupled, business and philanthropy build upon each another to produce both social and financial impact.

This occurred to me again when I read a report by the Urban Land Institute, about women in the real estate industry and smart work policies. I was struck that the majority of the women ULI surveyed, who held CEO or other executive positions, served on community nonprofit boards; so did nearly half of all women surveyed. As a woman who’s had years of involvement in both real estate and philanthropy, I found that those statistics resonated.

Why? Because women young and old in our industry are not only proving that they care about more than just the bottom line, but are developing important skills from their philanthropic endeavors. Now, I don’t know if ULI’s figure is true for other industries — but I am quite certain that the skills and mindset philanthropic involvement instills are useful across a range of professions.

Wrote ULI: “Many women leverage these external leadership experiences, which often make them better prepared for leadership roles within their own organization. Support for employee involvement in external organizations demonstrates the active role firms are taking in their communities.”

Indeed, community boards and nonprofit organizations provide excellent experience for the corporate world. Leadership roles on nonprofit boards are especially beneficial, as they allow women the ability to demonstrate and build confidence in executive roles. Such experience feeds into career advancement.

Involvement in philanthropy, though, is much more than a resume builder — just as charity is more than simply writing a check. While all levels of charitable involvement are beneficial, the more complex the role, the better the payoff. For example, community involvement in a woman’s early-stage career can help her earn positions of leadership, or even grant her the know-how to build her own business. Once she has executive power, a wealth of new opportunities in philanthropy may well open up for the causes she cares about, and for business success too.

At the helm of her own business, she’ll have the freedom to develop partnerships or even launch unique organizations alongside her company. She can use these initiatives to build relationships with clients, align her business brand with important social values and deliver competitive returns all the while.

According to CECP chairman Doug Conant, philanthropy can act as a type of research and development for businesses. “Much like R&D,” Conant wrote in an article for McKinsey, “philanthropy allows companies to make thoughtful investments in sectors where the return profile is typically more speculative.”

In other words, philanthropic initiatives can act as an incubator for new business strategies, where leaders can test innovative methodology in an attempt to optimize impact, solve problems and learn what works best. Such experimentation, Conant says, can “help companies reduce business risk, open up new markets, engage employees, build the brand, reduce costs, advance technology and deliver competitive returns.”

Finally, philanthropy that ultimately does good — whether for the planet or the community — reflects positively back on a business and its leadership. Some may think that this credential is solely about reputation, but it’s much more than that. When a community is lifted by charitable endeavors, this boosts the company, and perhaps its profits, as a result. The reciprocal nature of the relationship between philanthropy and business means that doing good and doing well become one and the same.

It’s no wonder, then, that the most successful businesswomen and female entrepreneurs have long histories with philanthropy, from big names like Oprah and Beyonce to fashion gurus like Sara Blakely and Tory Burch.

The best part is that female business women tend to support more women through their organizations, lifting a new generation of female breadwinners and their future endeavors, both charitable and corporate.


This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com

Does New York Lead in Gender Equality? Almost, But Not Quite

Does New York Lead in Gender Equality? Almost, But Not Quite

Though referred to snidely by a Texas Senator, “New York values” aren’t a bad thing. In fact, our state and city’s values that have provided opportunities to those that enter our country spanning centuries. In my experience, New York–and New York City in particular–has been a beacon of hope for the underdogs where people of any gender and race can succeed. As a woman and New Yorker, I’ve earned great success here and watched others do the same.

But does New York actually lead the country in equality, and gender equality in particular? It’s certainly a progressive state, but it’s worth investigating how the rest of America stacks up in comparison.

After doing research, New York to me still stands out as an important trailblazer, championing woman-friendly policies throughout history–apparently, so that other states might do even better under more hospitable conditions.

Here are 6 facts that show where New York and New York City have stood out in regards to gender equality, and what it means for American women.

1. The first and largest efforts for women’s suffrage were led in New York

In 1848, three hundred people attended the first convention to discuss women’s rights in Seneca Falls, New York. There, 69 women and 32 men signed the “Declaration of Sentiments” which included the first formal demand for women’s right to vote.

Though women in Wyoming were the first to gain this right in 1870, the suffrage movement roared on the loudest in New York City, which held the first suffrage parade in 1910 and the largest ever suffrage parade of 10,000 marchers in 1913. After many failures, New York became the first Eastern state to fully enfranchise women.

2. The largest female-led strike was in NYC, which improved worker conditions

In 1911, a terrible fire struck the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City, killing 146 workers–mostly women, including young teens. The result was the largest-yet female strike, which resulted in better protective legislation in New York and across the country. The American Society of Safety Engineers was founded later that year.

3. The movement for birth control began in New York City

Starting in 1914 in New York, political activists including Margaret Sanger began the movement campaigning to increase the availability of contraception through education and legislation. Sanger opened the first birth-control clinic in 1916, which was shut down promptly and followed by her arrest and conviction. After serving 30 days in jail, the New York Court of appeals decided to permit contraception if prescribed by doctors. She opened the second birth control clinic in 1923, the first legal clinic in the United States, by which the controversy had fizzled.

4. New York City has a unique Commission on Gender Equity

The first of its kind, this Commission advocates not just for women but for transgender and intersex people who may face discrimination in the workplace based on gender or sexual orientation. The goal is to make New York City more economically mobile and inclusive for women, girls, and nonbinary individuals.

5. New York has the best family leave policy in the country

In March of 2016, New York passed what is widely considered the best family leave policy in the country. The policy will allow both men and women a guaranteed 12 weeks of paid family leave for all full- and part-time employees working for a company at least 6 months starting in 2018.

Though great for both genders, this will be especially helpful to women who still tend to be primary caregivers for children or sick relatives. With the 12 weeks, women can devote much-needed time to family matters without the fear of losing their jobs or income.

6. New York still isn’t the best — but it’s close

In a 2015 ranking by WalletHub based on 11 key metrics ranging from executive pay gaps to unemployment rates, New York was number two out of 50, trailing only Hawaii. Unfortunately, 2016 saw that ranking drop from second to 16th, while Hawaii moved to #10 and Minnesota, Vermont and New Hampshire snagged the top three spots.

New York was ranked eleventh in economic and social well-being and the 5th in life expectancy at birth out of 50 states. That’s not the best, but it’s certainly not bad. And considering that New York is far larger and more diverse than many of the states that beat it out, combatting inequality is especially challenging.

According to another analysis by the Institute for Women’s Policy, New York ranks #1 in work and family, 6th in employment and earning, 7th in reproductive rights, 12th in poverty and opportunity. Since this data is from 2011-2013, though, it’s certainly subject to change–hopefully in the right direction: upward and onward.

30 Years of Female Entrepreneurship: From Anomalies To Assets

30 Years of Female Entrepreneurship: From Anomalies To Assets

Over the last several decades, successful female leaders have transitioned from cultural outliers to pioneers of a wildly successful entrepreneurial force. As women increasingly lead U.S. companies with stellar results, their economic contribution is as critical as it is valuable.

Today, powerful and driven female business leaders have begun to shatter the glass ceiling, paving the way for future CEOs and founders from all walks of life. Unfortunately, women still have to tiptoe around the shards, meaning there’s still room for growth.

How did the growth of women as business leaders come about, and where are we now? Here’s a look at how female entrepreneurship has changed over the last 30 years.

1980s: Doors opened, deals closed

Prior to the 1980s, the job market was less than receptive to sole female providers looking for work, especially post-divorce. So many women turned to entrepreneurship — these efforts began to pay off when several women were recognized for building sustainable businesses that contributed competitively to the economy. For example, Barbara Bradley and Patricia Miller launched feminine luggage company Vera Bradley in 1982; by 1987, it had grown from a $500 investment into a fully-operating business on the verge of multi-channel distribution.

Before long, female entrepreneurs owned 25 percent of all U.S. firms; soon after, federal programs were launched to provide the resources that would help assist female entrepreneurs. Notably, the formation of the Women’s Business Development Center came to fruition in 1986; shortly after, Count Me In was founded. Both programs helped curate educational seminars, assist with government programs, and provide training opportunities.

When Congress passed The Women’s Business Ownership Act in 1988, it legally ended discrimination in financial lending and eliminated state laws that required married women to have a husband co-sign for all loans.The Act also gave women-owned businesses a chance to acquire bigger government contracts. The very next year, President George H. W. Bush appointed the first woman to head the Small Business Administration, Susan Engeleiter.

1990s: First some pain, then more gains

After the recession in the late 80s and early 90s, many educated women were laid off. As a result, many turned to entrepreneurship out of necessity — to feed their families, pay mortgages and bills. Whatever the reason, it led to a surge in innovation. Female-led startups blossomed at two to four times the general startup rate.

By the mid ’90s, the landscape had changed dramatically. Wells Fargo Bank launched a $1 billion loan fund for women entrepreneurs in 1995 and raised it to $10 billion the next year. Following that, Key Bank, Goldman Sachs and other institutions increasingly launched financing initiatives to help aspiring women entrepreneurs. The 90s also saw the rise of entrepreneurial celebrities including lifestyle powerhouse Martha Stewart. In the span of one decade, Stewart published her first issue of Martha Stewart Living, began a TV show, and formed Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, making her a billionaire on paper by 1999.

The dawn of computers and the Internet was another aspect that worked to women’s advantage this decade, amplifying their efforts and providing new opportunities for growth and marketing.

2000–2013: Breaking barriers, not the bank

Technological innovation enabled female entrepreneurs to grow their businesses faster in exponentially growing industries. With the advent of innovations like wireless internet, cloud technologies, and intelligent mobile devices, entrepreneurs could work flexibly and collaborate seamlessly.

Business models began to adjust. The ability to grow a business online and market products or services on digital platforms amounted to female-led ventures like Birchbox (Katia Beauchamp) and Flickr (Caterina Fake).

Even a cursory glance at statistics is proof of a boom in female entrepreneurship. For example, an American Express study found that, from “1997 to 2013, the number of women-owned companies increased by 59 percent, while revenues from those companies grew by 63 percent.” And that’s not all — around the globe, they lead one in five startups around the globe.

Small businesses were also able to generate greater production and reach wider audiences in ways that weren’t available before. This is partially thanks to legislation like the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 and theWomen’s Equity in Contracting Act, which helped businesses headed by women earn more government contracts.

Female entrepreneurship today

Today, companies across the world are seeing the benefits of gender diversity in the workplace and female business leaders have proven that through the massive growth of top tier corporations. The growth of a once sidelined audience has led to both individual business success and collective industry advances as a whole.

Experts predict that by 2018, female-owned businesses will create over half of the new small business jobs and overall, one-third of the nation’s total new jobs. Research also suggests that the U.S, is the best place to be a female entrepreneur, followed by Canada and Sweden.

Women hold nearly a three-to-two majority in undergraduate and graduate education, and it’s beginning to show outside academia: over the past 30 years we’ve seen women in business evolve from having limited corporate rights to operating 22 leading S&P 500 companies at CEO positions.

From inspirational leaders like Susan Wojcicki and Sheryl Sandberg to media giants like Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey, the landscape for female entrepreneurship is more promising than ever.

Of course, many challenges remain: Women still struggle more than men to raise capital, and in spite of educational prowess, are less likely to be promoted to positions of leadership. Women-run businesses also earn just 25 cents for every dollar of a man-owned counterpart; in Silicon Valley, only 10 percent of entrepreneurs are women — a sad statistic compared to the general figure.

As always, change comes with time, and with the economic and social value of female entrepreneurs becoming clearer every day, the tides are already turning fast. Here’s to hoping for even more shattered ceilings in the future, and some sweeping beneath for a less hazardous climb.

This article was originally published on Entrepreneur.com

The 10 Most Successful Woman Entrepreneurs of the Decade

Susan_Wojcicki_at_TechCrunch_Disrupt_SF_2013The era of male dominated businesses is well over. Given recent breakthroughs led by these successful women and more, there is surely a need for gender diversity in corporate America.

Women have quietly been major players in the world of entrepreneurship and we’ve come great lengths in overcoming gender-focused obstacles across all industries. Women currently occupy 22 CEO positions at S&P 500 companies and female owned businesses account for $2.5 trillion in sales.

Businesses led by women are some of the top performing organizations at a global level and here are ten individuals who contribute to that monumental success.

 

Business and Technology:

 

Susan Wojcicki – CEO of YouTube

Susan Wojcicki - CEO of YouTube

Susan Wojcicki has been with Google since 1998 but took over the lead position at YouTube in 2014. Wojcicki has been the driving force behind a couple of Google’s biggest services including Google AdSense. She also spearheaded Google’s YouTube acquisition and she’s helped the growth of the video platform that brings in $4 billion in revenue.

 

Sheryl Sandberg – COO of Facebook

Sheryl Sandberg - COO of Facebook

Sandberg’s contribution to the technology space has gone unmeasured. Her vision of Facebook becoming a pioneer in the digital advertising sector came to fruition behind her hard work. Facebook’s profits almost doubled in 2014, to $2.9 billion, and mobile ad revenue now comprises 76% of its total ad sales. With the purchase of Instagram, Sandberg plans to grow the hundred-million user base there as well.

 

Mary Barra – CEO of General Motors

Mary Barra - CEO of General Motors

In her second year as the head of the nation’s largest auto-maker, Barra has led the $156-billion-in-sales company out from behind the dark cloud of their 2014 ignition-switch recall. Barra was also one of the few female CEO participants in the viral #ilooklikeanengineer Twitter campaign, to help invite women to the tech industry.

 

Indra Nooyi – CEO and Chairman, PepsiCo

Indra Nooyi - CEO and Chairman, PepsiCo

Nooyi is having the definition of a successful decade as she’s in her ninth year atop the $66.6 billion PepsiCo. She lead the company to see an impressive 4% organic revenue growth in 2014. But Nooyi’s biggest changes have been towards maintaining a healthier product.

She removed aspartame from Diet Pepsi this year and reached a truce after a 2-year feud with activist investor Nelson Peltz which is a great feat for the food and beverage giant.

 

Tory Burch – CEO of Tory Burch

Tory Burch - CEO of Tory Burch

Tory Burch is the CEO of Tory Burch, a US-based fashion line launched in 2004. Since, the Tory Burch brand has grown to 125 free-standing stores and their line is sold in 3,000 department and specialty stores. Burch does her job to give back too, as an active philanthropist, the Tory Burch Foundation was created to support women entrepreneurs.

 

Entertainment and Media:

 

Beyonce

Beyonce

Beyonce’s extreme success has been destined since she lead the women’s singing group Destiny’s Child in the mid-1990s. Since then Beyonce has started a beautiful family with successful music artist and business owner Jay-Z. She’s grown to be a massively supported solo artist and in 2014 she was named #1 on Forbes’ celebrity list.

 

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey continues to make huge leaps with the media empire she’s built which has now ventured into the film production industry.

But every avenue for Winfrey is proving profitable, her OWN network has seen considerable growth and she even leads an education initiative for women around the world called the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls.

 

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington launched the Huffington Post in 2005 and later sold the digital publication to AOL in 2011. Although Huffington still is the editor-in-chief of the business and hopes to expand the readership to more of include more of an international focus.

 

Real Estate and Healthcare:

 

Zhang Xin

Zhang Xin

Xin is the co-founder of SOHO China, which is a prominent real estate development firm in China that went public in 2007. Xin has shown that she can lead SOHO China towards double-digit growth and profits in her time with the firm.

 

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Shaw founded Biocon, an Indian biopharma company and since it’s inception, Shaw has done a spectacular job growing the business from humble beginnings. She began Biocon out of her garage and grew it into a globally company. Biocon became only the second Indian company to reach $1 billion on its first trading day when they went public in 2004.

 

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