On Women: Leading, Mentoring and Changing the Face of Business

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March is Women’s History Month. Some 10.1 million firms are owned or co-owned by women, 40 percent of all businesses in the U.S., says the Center for Women’s Business Research. Between 2002 and 2007, women created almost twice as many businesses as men, according to data from the Census Bureau.

There is much written and unwritten about women business leaders, much proposed and assumed, and much left to say. So, I asked eight women business leaders three questions, and I think their answers have a great deal to offer in terms of what this group thinks about being a business owner, and being a woman. (You can find three answers below and answers from Martha Beck, Pam Slim, Nancy Duarte, Carol Roth and Sarah Robinson on AMEX OPENForum)

Lisa Barone is Co-Founder and Chief Branding Officer of Outspoken Media, Inc. She is widely known for her honest industry observations, her inability to not say exactly what she’s thinking

Who would you list as your primary role models when staring and building your business? And why?

Lisa: Vanessa Fox I didn’t necessarily look to her as a role model in terms of starting a business (though she’s done a fine job of that), but more as an example of how I wanted to conduct myself and be seen in my industry. Vanessa is the brain responsible for building Google Webmaster Central, but since then she’s gone off to start her own consulting firm, is ever-present in search, and is just someone who does things *right*. She does them for the right reasons and with her clients’ best interests in mind. And that’s important to me.  It was also important to have someone in my sights who works just as hard today as she did before she became a success.  She’s kept her head and she’s an expert at what she does.  Who wouldn’t look to someone like that for an example?

Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Executive Editor of Small Business Trends and co-autor of Visual Marketing: 99 Proven Ways for Small Businesses to Market with Images and Design

Do you feel you’ve been able to contribute something unique to your business precisely because you are a woman? If so, please elaborate.

Anita: Usually I try not to dwell on gender, but as I look back I think being a woman made me work all the harder, and not give up.  Whether real or perceived, I felt I needed to strive to be better than men in whatever I took on because I was a woman.  Whether I really HAD to be better than my male counterparts or was in fact being treated differently is not the point.  I felt that way — and it drove me.  So much of our success in business starts in the 6 inches between our ears (i.e., in our own minds) that we become a product of what we believe.  And so, because I believed I had to work harder, I did work harder. While I might never have been the most creative or the most brilliant, I can say that I worked harder than many to build my business.

Known as The Barefoot Executive, Carrie Wilkerson is a mentor/coach/adviser to over 100,000 men and women as the Barefoot Executive through videos, podcasts, masterminding, mentoring and live speaking. She is the author of The Barefoot Executive: The Ultimate Guide for Being Your Own Boss and Achieving Financial Freedom

How would you characterize the differences between male and female business owners?

Carrie: I would say that, for whatever reason, men do seem more driven to keep going while women seem to slow down their growth when they think it is ‘enough.’ Other than that, maybe I’m naive, but I don’t see that many differences. I do get the ‘how do I balance work and life better’ question more from women than men. So either men have that figured out or it’s not top of mind for them.


Anita Campbell, Carrie Wilkerson, Lisa Barone

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