|Female entrepreneurs are gaining ground in the business world, but challenges remain.|
Female entrepreneurs still face significant challenges when it comes to accessing capital to launch new businesses, and men still outnumber women as business owners and high-level managers. But women have made significant progress in balancing their home and professional lives, and their earning potential continues to increase.
So says ForbesWoman publisher Moira Forbes, who, along with several other high-profile national and regional speakers, discussed the state of professional women at the Louisiana Women Leaders Conference on Small Business Entrepreneurship earlier this month.
“Never before has there been a more robust dialogue about the role of women in the workplace,” says Forbes, who has interviewed diverse eminent women for her column and video series. “The definitions of power have changed. There are unprecedented opportunities to have a role and be a change agent.”
Forbes points to social media and to the recession as powerful forces that have quickened the pace of progress. Social media has helped women launch small businesses and connect to new markets, mentors and partners. The recession has been a watershed event that has inverted the male-female earning dynamic in many families.
The Conference on Small Business Entrepreneurship was one of several leadership summits and conferences hosted over the last several years by the Louisiana Center for Women and Government at Nicholls State University, a nonpartisan organization that promotes the involvement of women in business and public service. It included two days of seminars on business financing, legal issues, technology, health care for small businesses, and the question of nonprofits' orientation around ideals of social change.
Former Good Morning America host Joan Lunden spoke about women reinventing themselves at any age, and Forbes spoke about the different traits and experiences among successful women and the single common challenge that still plagues them: confidence.
“Leadership is gender agnostic, but women sometimes lack confidence in their decision making,” she said. “They often question whether or not they've made the right decision.”
In ForbesWoman, Forbes has pulled from the broad continuum of issues that affect women's lives daily, including shoes. Star stylist Stacy London weighed in on one of Forbes' online interviews about how to affordably spruce up a professional wardrobe. Forbes has also covered serious issues, including the perpetual challenge of women's rights in the Middle East despite the Arab Spring last year.
Local organizers of the event included longtime Baton Rouge activist and businesswoman Elizabeth Dent, who became involved in the Center for Women and Government 15 years ago. Dent has worked in the management consulting business she and her late husband, Fred, started in the 1980s, and is a conservative activist. Her mother-in-law, Lucille May Grace, was the first woman to attain statewide elected office in Louisiana.
Dent became active in the left-leaning Center for Women and Government in part to bring a conservative perspective and has remained part of its Baton Rouge advisory board. She was named to the organization's Hall of Fame in March, an annual event that honors up to four Louisiana women leaders statewide.
“I think that women have gained a lot, but we still have a long way to go,” said Dent between sessions. “As a woman gets more successful, she thinks she needs to think like a man, but we should really be who we are. Nothing takes the place of good communication and having the skills and creating the synergy to move an organization forward.”
Dent agreed that technology will continue to level the playing field for new entrepreneurs.
“This is an exciting time,” she said. “It's like the Renaissance, squared.”
The Center for Women and Government's next event is the Louisiana Girls' Leadership Academy, June 10-12 at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux.
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