It was not until 1988 that Congress passed the Women’s Business Ownership Act, which eliminated the laws requiring a “male relative” as a co-signer on business and lending documents. A male co-signer could be anyone from a husband to an uncle to a son. This subjugated women from starting a business on their own. 1988 is not that long ago. Unraveling the layers of the past takes time. Within thirty years the number of women-owned businesses rose from 4.1 million to 12.3 million, placing women as owners of four out of ten businesses in the U.S. How far we’ve come should be celebrated, and these statistics only tell part of the story. Most women-owned businesses are small businesses and there are still many internal and external barriers that women face.
Business veteran, Kym Gold co-founded True Religion Jeans in 2002 and launched her latest business Style Union Home in 2020. She has been in business for over thirty years and has seen a major shift. “Wow, women in business have evolved drastically in the time I’ve been in the business world. In the earlier part of my career, I faced all kinds of discrimination. As the owner, designer, and major stockholder of True Religion, I was unappreciated and undervalued. My ideas were constantly dismissed or vetoed by the all-white male board of directors. Even worse was the multiple times men would whisper comments like “is she on her period?” It is inconceivable that even happened. Since then members of the board have apologized, which shows an evolution and that we have come a long way. I too have evolved. I no longer feel the need to be loud to have my voice heard and my current company is full of diverse people.”
Michelle Cordeiro Grant, Founder & CEO of LIVELY and GORGIE adds, “In the early 2000s, there were still not many “seats” for women, so I think that made women feel insanely competitive and cutthroat. It felt like survival of the fittest versus supporting each other and raising the whole group. That has since subsided because there is more of a sense that the more we uplift each other the more we all thrive.”
The past paradigm was to lead predominantly through masculinity. Previously women felt they had to cut off their femininity to fit into a male-dominated system. Times have changed and in today’s reality, this kind of leadership is not the most effective. Society has evolved beyond strict adherence to the role of whatever gender we were born into. We are now moving into a balanced dynamism that integrates masculine and feminine traits (not gender) in each individual. Having the ability to access both qualities creates multidimensionality and greater adaptability. For more insights on feminine and masculine qualities visit Feminine and Masculine Work Dynamics.
There has been a genuine effort to amplify women in entrepreneurship and women are still breaking into the social structures which were historically designed asymmetrically for men. It will take a joint effort between men and women to redesign social structures that fit both genders’ needs. As we change the tides to one of equity, awareness of the entanglement of our past and patience for the future we want to create are needed. An equitable future is still being pioneered. It will take both women and men to build this prosperous future. Equity is knowing that different people have different experiences, needs, and gifts to offer. We must stop trying to be like each other and start embracing equality by celebrating our differences. Every step we take to acknowledge and respect the efforts of people based on merit rather than bias is essential. We must all persist in pushing the needle to one of balance.