I recently went to see RBG, a documentary about an intelligent, determined, tiny woman blazing a trail to reach the absolute apex of her profession. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s response to the discrimination she faced in her career was to make a quest for equal treatment of women in the workforce her life’s work.
It’s no coincidence a movie about Ruth Bader Ginsburg is in theaters in 2018, a year that is being called the year of women. Everywhere we see women exhibiting a strong desire to be heard. Record numbers of women are running for office—and winning. The number of women business founders, especially women of color, has been increasing nationwide for several years. Women are demanding accountability as they never have before.
2018 is the year for women to raise the bar
In this context, our firm, Frazier & Deeter, decided to offer a forum to support women executives and business owners in their push forward. Not just because we like the idea, but because supporting women drives economic growth.
Just ask Jackie VanderBrug, the first speaker at our Women’s Impact Forum.
VanderBrug is an investment strategist with the U.S. Trust division of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. She is also the co-author of Gender Lens Investing, and the statistics in her book are eye-opening. Companies with a female founder performed 63% better than those founded by men (First Round Capital 10-year study). Teams with more women make better decisions (Harvard Business Review). Businesses with women on their boards bring in 26% higher return on equity (Credit Suisse study). Women make the majority of consumer purchase decisions, and this impact increases with age because women live longer than men.
The statistics demonstrate that executive teams with diversity of thought and experience at the top are more successful, presumably because they better understand today’s diverse consumers. Unfortunately, women entrepreneurs have a much harder time gaining access to capital than male founders.
Helping women entrepreneurs accelerate their businesses
Enter Bernie Dixon, founder of LaunchPad2X. Bernie has some RBG-esque achievements of her own. She was a leading member of the first class of female officers of the U.S. Army Signal Corps. She went on to achieve great heights in technology within the private sector, serving as Chief Information Officer to Fortune 100 aerospace, industrial and defense electronics companies.
Dixon has spent the past several years helping women business founders get their businesses up and running and past the initial hurdles, via LaunchPad2X. Not surprisingly, LP2X alumni are out-performing their peers substantially.
Dixon’s over-arching message to our Women’s Impact Forum attendees was to be confident and aim high. She discussed studies that show women are less likely than men to apply for jobs for which they are equally qualified, and when they take a new job, women are less likely to negotiate salary. They consistently undervalue themselves when compared to similarly qualified men.
Beyond being confident, having a support community is a second key message Dixon shares with women entrepreneurs. For entrepreneurs, meeting and learning from other successful business owners provides enormous value, as does developing an ecosystem of providers for services like financial advice, legal advice and sources of capital.
Women business founders making their mark
Our Women’s Impact Forum featured Agatha Achindu and Mary Parker, two business founders who gave generously of their time and shared their lessons learned from the front lines. They talked about growing a business, overcoming challenges, balancing their lives and sharing their blessings with the community.
Parker’s life story reinforces Dixon’s point about confidence. Born into a large family in the rural south, Parker started her career as a security guard in the auto industry. When she lost her job years later, Parker decided to market her expertise via her own company rather than just finding another job. She has since grown ALL N ONE Security to a multi-national business with hundreds of employees. Then she started a charitable foundation that gives back to the community, and along the way she raised her daughter and became an ordained minister. Listening to her speak, you can see the confidence that Parker brings to every situation and how it has helped her move ahead again and again.
Achindu, a native of Cameroon, exudes positive energy, humor and confidence. She started her company, Yummy Spoonfuls, in reaction to the lack of healthy snack foods for her own children. As she recognized the market potential, she made the jump from IT professional to entrepreneur. She has now become an advocate for children’s health who has contributed to media including the Washington Post, the Today Show, Forbes, Fortune and People magazine, among others. Her products are for sale with major chains like Target and Whole Foods, and she speaks with both humor and determination about grappling with challenges along the way.
How successful women overcome obstacles and achieve success
Achindu and Parker joined Dixon and VanderBrug for a panel discussion. Among their comments:
Don’t hide failure; wear it as badge of honor.
Fail “up”—share your information to help others.
Hire experts. Build a strong team so you can step out of today’s role and into the next one as the business evolves or your life’s priorities change.
Share and seek information. Don’t go into negotiations blindly.
Look for money when you have some; don’t wait until you are desperate to seek capital.
Understand your own truth. Do not lie to yourself.
Don’t let your age be a barrier. You can start a new venture at any age.
If you are one of the millions of women seeking to “up your game” in 2018, absorb the wisdom of the speakers from the Women’s Impact Forum. Like RGB, they aim high and support other women as they move forward in life. Let’s follow their exceptional leads.
Adelle Starr Erdman is the Executive Director of Marketing for Frazier & Deeter, and the producer of the firm’s women’s programming. The Women’s Impact Forum was produced by Frazier & Deeter, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Burr & Forman and U.S. Trust.