The recent news that over 50 percent of American women are now the breadwinners in their households is exciting. Women are starting businesses faster than men. Many of these breadwinners are entrepreneurs. Yet women who have established businesses don't have a place to gather. As a small business speaker and mentor, I've worked with dozens and women who are changing the game in just about every business you can imagine.
One of these women is also the former First Lady of the State of Nevada, Dawn Gibbons. She recently told me, "I believe in the power of small business to change a woman's life. I arrived in Reno broke, driving a limousine past wedding chapels. Three years later, I owned all of them." Clearly, she achieved "breadwinner" status even before she was elected as a state legislator.
No Place For Us
For her and women like her, reaching this milestone isn't the end of the journey, it's the beginning. And many women are discovering that what matters most at this stage of the game is finding women like them to network with, in order to grow not just professionally, but personally.
Calanit Atia owner of Owner at A to Z Events: "It's very difficult to find women of your caliber. Most women's events are more geared to women in the start up phase of their business. Today, we have more stress, fewer employees, fewer dollars and more headaches -- and we need each other like never before."
But where do we find each other? Where do we find "women of our caliber?"
Men, it seems, have never had a problem with this. Businessmen have networked since the beginning of time -- why do you think they call it the Good Old Boy Network? They've long held a monopoly on those organized high-level, outside-the-office interactions that have helped them cement their dominance over the economic landscape and become the presidents and CEOs and chairmen of just about everything.
Power in Numbers
Men understand there's power in numbers. Well, we need that power too. We need a network.
And we don't just need it to inspire our businesses. We actually need it to fund them. With women owning 10.6 million businesses and creating 19.1 million jobs and over 2.5 trillion in sales, the vast majority does not get capitol. A recent article in Entrepreneur Magazine stated that 73 percent of the funding for women's businesses came from the women or their families. Forty five percent of these women owed are in the service sector and ignored by investors.
Rochele Lawson , prominent businesswoman owner of The Health, Healing and Wellness Company told me, "Finding capital has been so difficult, I testified about it on Capitol Hill. Most women just front their businesses on their credit cards and have given up looking for capital."
Any businessman will tell you, networking is the ideal way to find capital -- no AmEx required.
It's true that this is the 21st century -- and women are now usually more than welcome to join the Good Old Boys as they network with each other. But according to a recent Wall Street Journal article, this may not always be our best option. The article focused on Simmons College School of Management, an MBA program with a strict women-only policy. According to dean (and former Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Chief) Cathy E. Minehan, the school exists because in the classroom, "male leadership roles remain unchallenged, and women are left with 'play the game our way, or go home.'"
If this is the case in the classroom, is it really any different in the real world?
I don't need to tell you that we women are different. We think differently, we run our businesses differently, and we face different challenges, like balancing work and family, expressing our authority and just getting by in what still is, in many ways, a man's world. So it makes sense that we also network differently. For us, it's all about collaborating together and inspiring each other, not necessarily competing with or one-upping each other.
For us to get the most out of networking, no offense to the boys, we need an opportunity to get together without them around. We need a chance to play the game our way.
And yes, there are also plenty of women-only networking opportunities. Those events are focused to women who are just starting out in business and looking for support, encouragement and advice. They are wonderful. I support each and every organization that empowers women -- and men.
Where Can We Find Each Other?
A consistent problem remains. Women who have established businesses, and who are looking for what comes next, don't have a place to congregate. Where is a peer-to-peer networking opportunity for established women business owners? It's lonely for women small business owners.
Clients look for those events and didn't find them. We decided to invite 50 elite entrepreneurs together to solve this problem.
League of Extraordinary Women
Fifty extraordinary women from all across America to join together for a weekend at a luxurious Las Vegas resort to connect with, inspire and engage each other in new ways -- and to raise money for Women for Women (5 percent of the proceeds go to this great organization). When women come together we are catylsts for incredible good. The outpouring of support for fellow HuffPost blogger Alicia Keys article shows what we can do when we come together. So far, the response has been incredible -- we have women joining us from New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Orlando, Seattle, Mississippi and Canada. If you are a woman business owner looking for others to share with let us know! We want to support you.
We see the great good that emerges from amazing women (and some very smart men) getting together in one place. I'll be back in a few weeks with a report on the outcomes we created together.
Do you feel like a lone ranger as a woman business owner?
How are you accessing capitol for your business?
Where do you go for peer to peer networking?
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Eli Davidson is a nationally recognized motivational speaker and executive coach. Her book, "Funky to Fabulous: Surefire Success Stories for the Savvy, Sassy and Swamped" (Oak Grove Publishing) has won three national book awards. Check out her blog atfunkytofabulous.blogspot.com.