This fall, I spoke at a leadership conference in San Francisco and was fortunate while I was there, to reconnect with a dear friend, Nancy Hayes. Nancy served as an executive in IBM for many years and is now the co-founder of MoolaHoop (www.moola-hoop.com) - a company whose mission is to help women owned businesses and entrepreneurs gain the tools and resources they need to grow their businesses. Nancy's efforts are not only purposeful but they are also timely. Women owned businesses represent 30% of all new businesses in the US each year and they are growing at twice the rate of male owned businesses. Yet, when you look at funding, they get only 5% of venture capital funds and 12% of investment banking.
I asked Nancy how she and her partner actually help their female clients and she said, "I think we help women have a breakthrough by helping them figure out how to talk about their business/goal/mission in a way that others can relate to and then we show them how to build a community of following (social media/customer set) that will help grow their business. Helping people to clearly communicate is one of the biggest advantages you can give them."
As a woman who has been both an executive in corporate America and an entrepreneur/woman business owner for the past twenty years, I know first hand that women face roadblocks and obstacles along the way; however, in my experience, what makes the difference between success and failure is having the right support system, like MoolaHoop, at the right time.
Successful women entrepreneurs know that they need to have a bold vision, take risks, leverage their personal brand, seek and learn from feedback and then...move forward! When I speak to young entrepreneurs, or aspiring young women in organizations, they usually have their leadership goals and career plans already laid out. They just need a "Board of Directors" - the coaches, mentors, advocates and sponsors who can help them get from here to there!
I asked Nancy if she saw any parallels between the women entrepreneurs her business supports and the women she mentored at IBM. She said, "The parallels are pretty striking. Almost everything I know about leadership for women in corporate America has a parallel for entrepreneurs. They actually share some of the same success factors."
In essence, I think Nancy is implying that the same "sticky floors" that stop women from achieving their career goals can also stop entrepreneurs from forming and sustaining a successful business. And while you might not have a business like MoolaHoop, to help you advance in your career, you do have a host of business leaders who are willing and able to assist you. You just need to identify exactly what you need and then reach out to the men and women who can best help and ask for their support.
There are a number of roles these folks can play for you - from being a coach, to being a mentor, to actually sponsoring you. In our work at SHAMBAUGH, we realize that all of these roles are important; however, we also know that having a sponsor can have the most significant impact on your professional growth and career success. Most of us are more familiar with the idea of coaches and mentors than we are with the term sponsor. Sponsors are individuals with power and influence in the organization who are 100% committed to their sponsee's advancement and are willing to put their reputation on the line to create greater visibility and specific opportunities for that person. After helping a number of organizations to implement sponsorship initiatives, the good news is that SHAMBAUGH is seeing that greater visibility and this kind of unique advocacy from sponsors is resulting in more women advancing faster in the leadership pipeline.
So, while entrepreneurs have MoolaHoop to help them, women leaders in corporate America need to help each other. No matter where you are in the course of your career or profession, you should always be thinking of how you can support and "pull up" other women.
Last week, I had the good fortune of being awarded the Women Who Mean Business Award and what's amazing is that fellow honorees are already supporting each other and helping each other grow their businesses. Don't underestimate the value of women helping women - it's a powerful force that can make a difference!
Becky's talk at TEDx: It's Not a Glass Ceiling, It's a Sticky Floor