In the ’90s, if you asked most women business owners what their dreams were, they’d say they just want to be able to support themselves and their families. The times have changed: Today, women have bigger dreams and seek to grow their businesses to the maximum level. However, many are still saddled with an outdated perception about their roles in business and contributions to the economy, despite tremendous growth over the past decade.
The old perception is that women-led and -owned businesses are micro-enterprises; companies run out of the home with fewer than five employees. But most women outgrew the “cookies and crafts” niche a long time ago, and have their sights set on bigger goals. Some have even found success in “nontraditional” industries – like tech, mining or construction.
Progressive thinking is being pushed forward by new data that showcases the undeniable impact of women-led and -owned businesses on the economy. American Express OPEN’s latest Growing Under the Radar report details just how strong these businesses have been over the past decade. Perhaps the most surprising data is that women-led and -owned businesses experienced 57 percent growth in revenue of $10 million or above.
The Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), a nonprofit peer-advisory group for women, is actively working to quell the misconception as well. The WPO membership itself accounts for more than 130,000 jobs, stemming directly from its 1,600-plus female business leaders.
The WPO’s mission is to empower women in business, not just in the U.S., but also around the world. The organization has chapters abroad in Lima, Istanbul, Cape Town, throughout Canada and a recently opened chapter in Mexico City. There are plans to launch chapters in MENA and Johannesburg later this year as well. As perceptions change in these growing markets, women leaders are becoming more and more influential and pooling their resources to help each other succeed.