Working women of the world: add patting yourself on the back to today’s (probably endless) to-do list. September 22 was recognized as American Business Women’s Day by Congress in 1983 — and again in 1986 — to celebrate the accomplishments of millions of female business owners and workers in the United States.
The date commemorates the 1949 founding of the American Business Women’s Association, whose mission is “to bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership, education, networking support, and national recognition.”
This year marks a high point for female small business owners. Statistics indicate that more than 9.4 million businesses are owned by women. These businesses employ nearly 7.9 million people and generated $1.5 trillion in sales in 2015. Between 1997 and 2014, the number of women-owned firms increased by 68 percent — a rate 1.5 times the national average.
But beyond the numbers are actual women getting ventures off the ground. We talked with three female business owners to find out what’s changed for women in biz over the past three decades.
The Jane of All Trades
Lisa Sutton is a serial entrepreneur. She’s got her hands in the real estate, tech, retail, and food and beverage industries, which includes her businesses Sin City Cupcakes and Sutton & Chase. She also writes for Forbes, hosts Live With Lisa, and has personally seen how women are playing a crucial role in the business world.
“More women are taking a seat at the table,” she says. “In the past, women were relegated to supportive or administrative roles. Today we have the opportunity to be founders and leaders.”
Sutton has seen success in her own entrepreneurial endeavors and knows women have a lot to offer the business world. “I think as society advances, more women will be part of a global conversation in leadership and growth,” she says. “Women-owned companies are a strong asset to society.”
The Entrepreneurial Spirit
Then there’s Maria Sipka, president and cofounder of Linqia. Sipka has always had an entrepreneurial spirit: at eighteen she founded a content marketing agency and later became a founding COO at XING.
“More people are coming to realize and accept that women are more than capable of having a family and successfully running or owning a business,” she says. “The working mother is no longer taboo, and women don’t have to choose between a career and a family.”
Even though business wasn’t always an accessible career option for women, Sipka knows that they will undoubtedly fill more important business roles in the future.
“I think the future is bright,” she says. “Considering the rate of positive change in the tech industry alone — traditionally a male-dominated field — I can only imagine things continuing to improve for women in business.”
Suz O’Donnell is yet another woman revolutionizing the business world. As president and CEO of Thrivatize, she is working to help more women rise into senior leadership by offering development workshops and one-on-one coaching. Her work, she says, came about by the growing need for more women in business.
“I wanted to help more women rise to the top, especially those who have or are planning to have kids,” she says. “I felt like there was something big missing. Women who take the reigns by owning a successful business or rise to the top of their company, not only benefit from their own success, but they are also setting a great example for future generations.”
While O’Donnell believes that women encounter fewer barriers than they did three decades ago, she knows they still face challenges. In doing her part to celebrate American Business Women’s Day, she’s hosting a webinar workshop, “Three Common Career Mistakes Professional Women Make When Planning and Balancing a Family . . . and How to Avoid Them,” and Bluehost Blog readers can attend for free! Just visit RisingCareerGrowingFamily.com and use the code: BluehostBusinessWomen.
Take it from these entrepreneurs, the hurdles women face in the business world aren’t gone. But celebrating American Business Women’s Day — and those who are making strides to change the industry — is a great way to honor how far we’ve come.
Kasee Bailey is a freelance writer who draws on her experience working at one of the nation’s top b-schools to report on education, savvy startups, and the latest business trends.