"We can't move forward with 50% of the population" were the reality-check words from Laura Flores, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Panama to the United Nations during the opening Women's Entrepreneurship Day panel at the United Nations. She's not wrong. Gender inequality is a macro-economic issue--not simply a social or moral or "women's issue". A McKinsey Global Institute report ("The Power Of Parity") released in 2015, indicates that the global economy suffers greatly because of the barriers to women's full participation. How much economic suffering? $12 to $28 trillion or 11-26% of annual GDP, depending on how you look at improving women's participation in the labor force. By any calculation, it's a lot of opportunity and innovation the world is missing out on.
And the time has come to change that.
More than simply a large consumer market to be untapped or talent that could be earning a paycheck, women are a powerful entrepreneurial force. Along with the recognition of the global economic pains caused from holding women back, there are increasing a broad spectrum of resources from micro-loans to venture capital funds, governmental programs to corporate-backed initiatives, which recognize the potential--and opportunity - from investing in women-founded businesses.
But most importantly, there are more women entrepreneurs who are role models.
As Marie Wilson, Founder and President Emeritus of The White House Project, has said, "You Can't Be What You Can't See." From disrupting health care to improving (finally) women's intimate apparel, women can "see how she did it" as they reflect on their own career ambitions and entrepreneurial dreams. And role models are not simply needed for the next generation of female founders and business owners--they are needed to change the views of the out-dated-global-economic-growth inhibitors who are not hiring, promoting or mentoring women.
I agree completely with social entrepreneur Christine Souffrant, Founder & CEO of Vendedy who responded to the question "what's holding women back?" (during a Women's Entrepreneurship Day panel featuring inspiring small business entrepreneurs) by noting that entrepreneurship is hard, regardless of gender and that we (the media) have to stop constantly telling women they have all of these roadblocks in front of them. Men don't hear or see this message because it is not the "male" messaging of entrepreneurship. All entrepreneurs have roadblocks, so switch the messaging up for the women! Highlight the success stories and showcase more women in leadership roles, so the world can see what women are being.
With that in mind, and to motive women on Women's Entrepreneurship Day (or any day) to pursue their passions to the fullest, here are the best quotes I've heard this week from women who are not holding back, and out there building, creating and innovating:
"It's really important to find people who are supportive of your passions and your dreams."--Shazi Visram, Founder and CEO of Happy Family Brands
"I always thought that [empathy] was a 'soft' skill and something that made me more vulnerable, but actually it's my superpower in the workplace." - Julia Hartz, Cofounder and President of Eventbrite
"You are stronger for the people you surround yourself with."--Drew Barrymore
"Tune out the critics unless it [the critical feedback] helps your business."--Christine Souffrant, Founder & CEO of Vendedy
"Think globally, think different and persevere."--Heidi Messer, Chairman and Co-Founder of Collective[i]
"Funding and money is one thing, but you need more than that. You need partners and mentors, and you need exposure."--Christine Souffrant, Founder & CEO of Vendedy
"By focusing on profit, we're able to scale quickly to solve those [social] problems"--Emily Nunez-Cavness, Co-Founder and CEO of Sword & Plough
"I've been an entrepreneur all my life, no one would give me a job."--Wendy Diamond, Founder of Women's Entrepreneurship Day