Women’s Small Business Month: Balancing Leadership in the Workplace

October is National Women’s Small Business Month, dedicated to celebrating the contributions and successes of our nation’s female small business owners. It is a valuable time to discuss how fundamental small business is to our economy and the role women-owned business plays in gender equality and advancement.

As a certified Women-Owned Business, Beyond Definition has celebrated women entrepreneurs since our inception over 17 years ago. We recognize the need to support women in business and want to take the conversation one step further, challenging our industry to recognize the value women bring to leadership positions.

“Learning to respect the characteristics that both males and females bring when working together is really where the big win is, in my mind.”- Debbie Bates-Schrott, Founder & CEO of Beyond Definition

Despite the obvious business case for equality, the gender gap continues to grow. According to the Female Quotient, organizations that have at least 30% of women in leadership roles are 12x more likely to excel financially. Over the course of seventeen years and a rebrand, we have emphasized internal growth opportunities. Beyond Definition currently has five female directors, who have each played different foundational roles in our agency’s growth.

As Jen Fose, Beyond Definitions Creative Director said, “Rising through the ranks within the same organization has made enduring and trusted client relationships possible and has deepened my knowledge of the industries in which we focus our attention. As our agency’s first female creative director, I hope I’ve contributed a unique perspective and helped illuminate a path for future leaders.”

In a year marked by obstacles and uncertainty, the leadership decisions companies make right now will ripple through their organization for years to come. The 2020 Women in the Workplace Study, collecting data from 317 companies and 40,000 people, shows how women have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. As McKinsey wrote in their data recap, “Women—especially women of color—are more likely to have been laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis, stalling their careers and jeopardizing their financial security.”

The 2020 Women in the Workplace Study also comments that more than one in four women are considering downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce completely. As a result, companies are currently at a high risk for losing women in leadership positions. Think about that for a moment. Imagine a workplace without a woman’s perspective – it sets the business world back a few decades.

Building a More Empathetic Workplace

If companies accept these issues and work to address them, building a sustainable environment of balanced leadership is achievable. Not only will this help employees navigate a difficult time, but also create a better workplace of the future for women and men to excel in leadership positions side by side.

Here are a few ideas to support women entrepreneurs, small businesses, and a balanced leadership team:

1. Encourage community involvement

Joining a professional group connects women in business with other inspiring and innovative entrepreneurs. These organizations will provide you with invaluable networking opportunities, in addition to discounts, access to events, and other prospects.

By joining a professional group, you’ll meet women business owners who share your entrepreneurial spirit.

Check out organizations such as your local National Association of Women Business Owners chapter or American Business Women’s Association. The Small Business Administration may also have a chapter in your area.

2. Acknowledge the challenges women face in the workplace

Education is critical in creating a balanced workplace. Publicly committing to the advancement of women internally and externally through social media, public relations, or blog content legitimizes your organization’s commitment to action. This is the first step in fostering the workforce of the future – one that neutralizes gender bias and ensures  everyone in your organization understands the unfortunate reality that  women traditionally face different performance standards than men.

3. Increase employee transparency and communication

Open and frequent communication with employees is important. Not only does it build long-term trust, but promotes organizational health and stability. For some, employers have been their main source of stability during COVID-19. Beyond the pandemic, informing employees about company outlooks, both financially and culturally, is a way to open the floor for important – and often, necessary – questions and dialogue.

4. Make mental health and wellbeing a high priority

For many remote workers, the line between their professional and personal lives has been permanently blurred. Mothers who are employed full-time may be facing a heavier workload than usual. In fact, they’re 1.5 times more likely than fathers to be spending an additional three or more hours per day on housework and childcare.

Decades of research shows that women do more housework than men, in addition to increased caregiving. Single mothers and mothers with young children. Communicating the importance of mental breaks and leniency towards childcare can calm some of this anxiety.

Equality is not a women’s issue. It is a social and economic imperative.

This is the time to think about your post-pandemic organization and how you can build a more balanced leadership team. If companies make significant investments in a more flexible and empathetic workplace, they can retain the employees most affected by today’s crises and nurture a culture in which women have equal opportunity to achieve their potential. Here’s your first action item; consider sending internal surveys –gather feedback on where your organization stands and what it can do to improve – and make changes.

Let’s keep the conversation alive beyond October and make sure the next decade furthers the advancement of women in business.

Debbie Bates-Schrott's headshot

Debbie Bates-Schrott

Debbie Bates-Schrott, Founder and CEO of Beyond Definition, has 25+ years of experience in branding, print and digital and marketing strategies. Her visionary perspective on cutting edge brand experience initiatives positions the Beyond Definition team as growing thought leaders in the media landscape.

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