Although we still have quite a ways to go when it comes to equal treatment and pay for women in business, I tend to agree with Nina Vaca, the Latina entrepreneur and founder of the $1 billion-grossing Pinnacle Group: There's never been a better time to be a woman in business.
Despite the obstacles that still exist, women have more access to business and entrepreneurial resources today than they ever have before in history.
And as a successful female minority entrepreneur myself, I feel a huge responsibility to pay it forward--to offer the same kind of support and guidance to other entrepreneurs that was so instrumental to my own success when I was just starting out.
This commitment is part of why I've started working with Forbes8, a groundbreaking platform that is revolutionizing the ways entrepreneurs all over the world access support, inspiration, collaboration, and mentorship. With a focus on diversity and inclusion, Forbes8 is democratizing the entrepreneurial quest, increasing opportunities and possibilities and delivering global impact.
The goal is nothing less than to empower creative movers and shakers, courageous difference-makers, and visionary world-changers to forge the entrepreneurial future and to enjoy the kind of success that Vaca and I have enjoyed.
After all, if we're encouraging people who grew up in challenging circumstances or are first-generation college graduates or recent immigrants to start their own businesses, yet we're not giving them the resources to succeed, well--what exactly are we doing?
Entrepreneurship and hope
Entrepreneurship can be a lot more than a way to escape the drudgery of a job you don't love.
For many, entrepreneurship is about more than personal freedom. It's about creating hope where there may have been none. It's about the ability to take care of a family, and the commitment to ensuring a brighter future for our children.
Vaca's story is a wonderful testament to this. She was born in Quito, Ecuador, and came to the U.S. as a child with her parents and four siblings. "Like many immigrants, my parents worked hard to create a life for their family in their new country," Vaca says. "They were firmly convinced that the way they'd provided for the family in Ecuador was going to be the way they provided for the family in the USA: entrepreneurship. These principles were instilled in me from an early age."
Thanks to her parents' hard work, Vaca went on to attend college at Texas State University and become one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the country. She grew her business from a one-person IT staffing firm to a global workforce solutions firm that serves major brands across multiple industries.
Bridging the global divide
Now, as a presidential ambassador for global entrepreneurship, she travels the globe speaking with courageous entrepreneurs in countries where there is little to no infrastructure to support their goals, or where people -- by virtue of being female or from a particular ethnic group -- are discouraged from starting their own businesses.
Despite the cultural differences or language barriers, Vaca has always found a way to connect with the business owners she meets.
"The universal language of entrepreneurship connected me with the women and men I spoke with in each of these places. We all shared a common goal and a common mindset," she says. "We've all experienced the highs and lows of starting and running our own businesses. This reaches across cultural divides."
Something else that has the power to reach across cultural divides? Technology.
It's true, of course, that Wi-Fi access and smartphone access vary from country to country, and especially within countries. However, according to the Pew Research Center, 40 to 60 percent of the population has a smartphone in most emerging economies--and that number is continuing to grow.
That's why even platforms like Forbes8 use a smartphone app to deliver groundbreaking content. It's one of the most effective ways to reach people of all different backgrounds, ethnicities, races, and countries of origin with actionable, inspiring information to help them make their entrepreneurial endeavors into sustainable, long-term businesses.
If you're still not convinced of just how important this new initiative is, I'd like to leave you with some of Vaca's insights that speak to the way entrepreneurs can move us closer to inclusivity, equality, and prosperity for all.
"Entrepreneurship provides opportunity to people and communities that have been left out in the cold for generations," she says. "One of the things I like to share with people everywhere I travel is that business is for everyone. This is a powerful message that is not always obvious to all people. Empowering people to create small businesses can be a powerful engine to improve the lives of individuals, families, communities, and the world."
P.S. I shared my own story and lessons learned when scaling my business on Microsoft 365's the Growth Center. You can read my article here: http://bit.ly/bestadvice-15