By Julie Godshall Brown, President and Owner, Godshall Recruiting
I trust that I won’t alienate my peers as I tell you that I don’t see myself as a Female Business Owner. I see myself as many things: wife, mother, daughter, colleague, sister, friend, fan and yes, second-generation business owner — who is female.
There is a distinction here that many would make, but the designation is not pronounced for me or one with which I identify. I’ve never uttered the words “girl power,” yet as I write about this issue, I’m forced to think about what it is that makes us different. I am not referring to supplier diversity or preferential treatment, but we as business owners have real power, the ability to empower, encourage, set a stage or trench a path. Where do we as female and minority business owners have real opportunities that others do not? Can minority- or woman-owned businesses provide an example to those outside of our own businesses?
We should share informal mentorships with those who may doubt that they, as minority men or women, can lead or start a business. We are in a unique position to demonstrate that the same hard work and smart work wins regardless of race or sex. Can we take credit for success while maintaining the humility that causes us to be a positive example to others in our community?
I recently read that the glass ceiling could also be considered a mirror. A downfall of many who don’t have an example is that they fall victim to feeling unworthy of success. Positive role models, particularly those who look like us, can be powerful in overcoming impostor syndrome.
Can we encourage and empower those who work in our own businesses? Recently, I’ve heard the term “sponsorship” and understand the importance of this, particularly in organizations with very few or no minorities and females. Many organizations, even in 2020, seem to find that women and minorities don’t often rise to the top ranks of leadership. Do we not have the power to create an environment where everyone, regardless of sex, race or national origin succeeds on their own merits? Amid the many challenges of running a business, my team will always be treated as the valuable members of our work family they are. We are in a unique position to understand these real or perceived barriers.
Can we approach issues and provide solutions with a creative and collaborative spirit that might be unique to those who are not in the majority? My goal is to build my team with complementary strengths. If an organization truly seeks input from all, having a diversity of thought seems always to yield a better decision. Are minority- or woman-owned business leaders more likely to hear answers from those who often may not be asked?
Can we accept leadership roles in the nonprofit community to support those organizations’ desire to demonstrate their commitment to diversity? No one wants to be a “token,” but we are created to shine. Do we need to thoughtfully say “yes” or carefully say “no” to these opportunities to be in the spotlight?
Can we take the time to invest in others, by forming alliances, personal or business, to support others who may be in a more disadvantaged situation than our own? To our peers: Let’s make the commitment to give of our time, our expertise and our influence to help others. Though there is a great deal of support available for woman- and minority-owned businesses, our failure rate is higher. Most woman- or minority-owned business remain very small if they survive. Research demonstrates reasons ranging from access to capital to lack of networks. We can not only contribute to the success of our own businesses but take the real opportunity to benefit others who are willing to put in the work to succeed.