Women In Business: The Decade in Review

BlogHer Original Post

The past decade has seen steady growth in opportunities for women in business and one spectacular bright spot of opportunity on the internet. Let's take a look at some of the highlights and moments from the past decade.

Business School

Allow me to begin with inserting myself in the narrative. I graduated with an MBA in May, 2000 helping to set the stage for the needle finally moving on the percentage of women in business school. For the first time in decades, this past decade saw several top schools approaching or reaching 40+ percent female enrollment.

Corporate CEOs

From the classroom to the boardroom, the number of female CEOs is finally growing, as well. The world of consumer packaged goods where I went to work after business school is a prime example as women helm two of the largest companies in the world - Pepsi and Kraft. From 2000 to 2009 the number of women Fortune 500 CEOs increased from 3 to 15, including 3 women of color (Indra Nooyi of PepsiCo, Andrea Jung of Avon Products and Ursula Burns of Xerox).

Business Owners And Entrepreneurs

Women are rocking the world of small business as well. "[A] new study by the Center for Women’s Research, which included this remarkable point: If women-owned businesses were a country, they would be the 5th largest GDP in world." In the United States, growth of women-owned businesses has more than doubled the overall rate of business startups.

Women-owned businesses tend to be small, however. For example, "while women-owned firms account for 40% of all privately held firms, only one in five women-owned firms [in the U.S.] has revenue over $1 million." Globally, micro loans have been used to facilitate women's entrepreneurial development and economic empowerment.

One striking example of the type of small business and entreprenurial women's growth over the last decade is illustrated by the rise of Etsy. Women are estimated to make up to 90% of Etsy sellers and some have hustled their way to six-figure incomes selling their creative handcrafted wares.

Billionaire Business Women

There have long been spectacularly wealthy women who inherited their riches from husbands and fathers. Increasingly however women have risen to the ranks of the world's billionaires through their own business acumen. Now television network mogul Oprah Winfrey, former eBay chief turned Republican candidate for California Governor Meg Whitman, and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling are just a few examples of women who crashed that particular boys club.

Opting Out

One of the hot debates of the decade was about the perceived "opt out" movement where successful women chose to leave the business world to stay home and raise children. The hype was shown to be an "overblown myth" and women of color found that their experience did not match that of the primarily white women originally profiled.

The Web and Social Media

Women constitute a growing presence on the web and in social media communities and have created or helped create many popular spots in cyberspace like Kirtsy and Flickr. Powerful women help run some of the dominant internet and social media destinations like Facebook and Google. Companies co-founded by women like Six Apart help us share our voices on the web. Those of us who spend time in cyberspace have our experiences increasingly shaped by women.

The explosion of social media and the growing presence and dominance of women on the web and in community spaces might be attributed to some to the greater use of collaborative work styles by women. BlogHer itself is a prime example of all of these trends and it is an understatement that its creation is one of the shining highlights of the past decade of women in business.

The Future

I think the next ten years will see much of the same growth we saw this decade; i.e., women will increasingly start, run and lead businesses of every size. We will continue to see incremental growth at the highest levels of corporate America but we will still be far from parity or satisfaction. Women will continue to be nickled and dimed and earn less than men for the same work. However, I am optimistic that opportunities for leadership, innovation and equality will continue to increase rather than decrease for women in the decade ahead.

Related Reading

United States Small Business Administration: Women-owned Business Economic Research

Lahle Wolfe at About.com: Women in Business: Accomplishments of Black Women in Business of the Decade

2000 Catalyst Census of Women Corporate Officers and Top Earners and 2009 Catalyst Census: Fortune 500 Women Board Directors

In 2009, women held 15.2 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies, the same as 2008. In both 2008 and 2009, almost 90 percent of companies had at least one women director, but less than 20 percent had three or more women serving together.

Cindy Krischer Goodman at The Miami Herald: Local women business leaders strive to lead way to recovery

For the past decade, women like Walker have seized on opportunity in every niche of business in South Florida, placing this region at the leading edge of the nation in the number of women-owned start-ups. Today women business owners pump millions of dollars into the South Florida economy, employing thousands of workers and diversifying its business base.

Women here lead banks and universities. They are attorneys and surgeons and engineers; chief financial officers and executive vice presidents.

Their decisions help shape our community -- though not necessarily in traditional ways.

Fortune: Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, 50 Most Powerful Women In Business and 25 Highest-paid Women

Jone Johnson Lewis at About.com:Women's History: Powerful Women of the Decade 2000-2009

Excelle at Divine Caroline: We Can Do It: The Best and Brightest Women of 2009

Women 2.0's Female Founder Successes of 2009

George Phillips at OilPressure: Significant Events Of The Past Decade

The Women of Indy: Although Janet Guthrie raced three times at Indy in the seventies and Lyn St. James raced five times at Indy in the nineties along with her final appearance in 2000; history may show that it was this decade when the female driver was actually taken seriously as a legitimate threat to win. Unlike Guthrie and St. James who were on the backside of their careers when they came to the Speedway, Sarah Fisher burst onto the Speedway in 2000 as a 19 year-old. She had a successful background in Sprint cars and was a crowd favorite – not so much as a statement for her gender; but because of her likeability, her talent and the fact that she had paid her dues along the way. She ultimately ran in eight Indy 500’s in this decade. She is now an owner-driver in the series.

taz at Sepia Mutiny: Desi Women of the Decade

Desi women are running for office, going to space, starting and directing non-profits, and running companies. I am so proud of to be a Desi woman of this decade, to be a part of a community giving the next generation of Desi girls role models to look up to.

Chrysty Beverley Fortner at Women On Business: You Go, Girl!

So, beginning in 2010 if every woman of power made a concerted effort to encourage every other woman at every opportunity, the world would be a stronger, richer and more graceful place by 2020.

BlogHer CE Maria Niles blogs business at Fizz from ConsumerPop.


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