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ClIMATE Companies that have women in leadership positions are more successful than those that don’t. So why are women still underrepresented in business leadership? And what can you do to change it? BY SARA L. COCHRAN
illennials (those born from 1982 to 2003) began graduating from college and entering our workforce in 2004 and will continue to make up the bulk of college graduates until about 2023. Women make up the majority of college students, yet they're the minority in many programs: entrepreneurship; science, technology, engineering, and math (or STEM) fields; and some areas of business. And beyond college, women are under-represented in senior leadership of organizations and make only 79 percent of the wages of men, according to the American Association of University Women. But research shows that women-led Fortune 1000 companies perform more than two times better than the S&P 500 and have greater societal impact. What’s the answer to this problem? How do we get more women in leadership roles and maximize their potential? By creating a climate for women in business.
THE STUDY As an entrepreneurship educator, I’ve spent several years working with undergraduate business students. I love the drive and energy I see in these young adults and can’t wait to see the world in their hands. However, I continue to see a disproportionate number of men in these programs, a sentiment that’s echoed by colleagues from around the country. Mid-
way through my Ph.D program, I interviewed a female student who said, “My entrepreneurship program is the first place I’ve ever felt like I belonged.” I left that meeting inspired — I knew I wanted to focus on women entrepreneurship students. I’m near the end of my program now, and I’ve had the opportunity to study the role of gender in higher education for my dissertation, for which I conducted a qualitative case study of an entrepreneurship program through the lens of Joan Acker’s theory of gendered organizations (that organizational structures are often built around men at the expense of women). For this case study, I traveled to a four-year institution and conducted a focus group and individual interviews with 10 undergraduate women students ranging in age from 19 to 28, interviews with faculty and staff members, class observations, and an analysis of documents and artifacts. The women who participated in the study were in years two to five of their schooling, pursuing degrees ranging from management to manufacturing, and involved in the entrepreneurship program. (I’ve changed their names here to protect their anonymity.) Through my research, I’ve come to some enlightening conclusions about how we create a climate of women in business in order to close this gap and provide an opportunity for organizations to thrive under women’s leadership. COLUMBIABUSINESSTIMES.COM 71
WHAT I LEAR NED According to my research, many women in business feel they have to prove themselves, feel they’re treated differently than men, and feel isolated. These women are often in a male-dominated environment, making it difficult to have a sense of belonging or find role models who look like them. On top of that, they feel the need to compensate for being a woman: to work harder, dress nicer, and find the right balance of everything. This constant concern about doing things “just right,” and the constant balancing act it creates, distracts women from focusing on things they should be focused on, like their work. One participant, Elizabeth, verbalized this by saying, “I just feel like females have more responsibility being in the business world, because I feel like I have to prove something — that I can hang with the boys.” Many of the subjects felt they have to work harder to fit in because their ideas are often subtly devalued by their male peers. They reported that their male co-workers dominate conversa-
these women take on the details and logistics, do the bulk of the work, and see that the project is completed (many of the participants described this as their role). Their professors said that these students come to class more prepared and earned better grades than their male classmates. The participants’ success seems to be advanced by relationships. Relationships are key to their experiences, including those with peers, mentors and role models, and family members. Women are often encouraged to become involved by their peers or by a faculty member, and once in the program, they thrive from a supportive environment where women encourage one another and support one another’s endeavors, even when they’re opposed in the same competition. One participant, Georgia, said: “We’re all really close. We’re all extremely supportive of each other. If somebody gets a win or if somebody makes a stride toward something, we are all just really excited for each other. And we express that and we show it. That’s a really nice culture to be a part of.”
Women seeing other women’s progress makes the work less intimidating. And, by acknowledging their great work, you’re also creating a culture that encourages workers to be supportive of one another. One person’s success is everyone’s success. tion in team meetings, and women are left out of conversations on group projects. As another participant, Nicole, said, “When they talk to each other about the project, they’ll often talk amongst themselves, and then I’ll be sitting over here and I’ll try to put my input in, and it’s kinda like, ‘Hello?’” Understanding the struggles women in business face makes one wonder about the women who succeed despite these challenges — what do they have in common? These women work hard and take on a great deal of responsibility. The students I talked to are the kinds of people who have taken on leadership roles their entire lives; many of them study, work multiple jobs, take heavy course loads, lead campus organizations, and even care for family members. In group projects, 72 APRIL 2017
The women also persist because of the encouragement and mentoring of faculty and staff members. Emily, talking about the impact of a professor, said: “It just showed me that I really need to continue on. So I’ve been slowly working at it since then. Yeah, I have a lot of ideas now. It’s like this litany of ideas of what I should be doing with it. Before it was like nothing — now it’s a litany.” These relationships create a sense of belonging and camaraderie and give students an increased belief in their ability to be succeed.
First, highlight women. Feature women who are doing great things and who are serving in leadership roles. This could be in small ways, such as acknowledging their great work in front of the team during a staff meeting, nominating them for an award, or asking them to take on leadership of a project. Women seeing other women’s progress makes the work less intimidating. And, by acknowledging their great work, you’re also creating a culture that encourages workers to be supportive of one another. One person’s success is everyone’s success. Traditional gendered organizations explicitly or implicitly demonstrate what roles are “appropriate” for women and men. Change it up. Put a man in charge of office birthdays. Ask a woman to head up the office basketball tournament. When you assemble teams, be sure they are gender diverse and assign roles so that the women don’t always take on the “housekeeping” tasks and leave men to the strategy. Hold each team member accountable for their contribution to the project. Create a system in which everyone speaks at a staff meeting. And, as I said before, promote relationships. Create ways for employees to get to know one another at work. Using work time for play time will pay off as you build a sense of community, which leads to more productivity and teamwork. Specifically give women an opportunity for mentoring by pairing an up-and-coming leader with two people already in leadership roles: one man and one woman. That brings me to my last point: incentivize the use of resources. Make it clear that the resources you have available are for everyone, not just the men and not just leaders. Encourage question-asking and knowledge-seeking. Some women don’t even see their own potential, so encourage them to take the next step: apply for funding, enter a contest, apply for a training program, or nominate them for an award. Be an advocate for success, be approachable to help, and serve as a resource. Is it possible these tactics may be helpful for men too? Absolutely. But for those areas where women are underrepresented, it’s important to create a climate for women to thrive — because that helps your company thrive too. CBT
NEXT STEPS So what do we do with this knowledge? We use it to create a nurturing environment that attracts and retains millennial women into the workforce. I have a few suggestions.
Sara L. Cochran is the entrepreneurial programs manager at the UM System; a Ph.D Candidate studying higher education at MU, and the owner of Pomegranate Enterprises LLC.
We Believe Women Empower One Another … Especially when they share a passion for collaboration and hold one another to the highest standards We are skilled at helping our clients understand the “language” and context of their portfolios. All five of us truly want to make our clients as financially savvy as possible. By forming strong emotional connections and understanding their struggles, goals and values, we create an environment of trust and assurance. As financial advisors, we are both analytical and intuitive, which helps develop relationships that withstand the test of time and unpredictable markets. Investments & Services We Provide • Retirement & College Savings • Stocks, Bonds & Mutual Funds • Life & Long Term Care Insurance
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OR G A N I ZAT I ON AL H EALT H
STRATEGY #2 Tune-out day. Oh no, he’s not going to suggest it, is he? Yes, I am. You need days where you shut it off. Shut of the cell phone, don’t check e-mail, stay off Twitter, and fill in your favorites. About five years ago, I turned off my e-mail auto checker. I got tired of that little window coming up in the lower right corner, distracting me when I was concentrating on a project. Now, I check my email purposefully three or four times a day and answer expediently. If you can’t bring yourself to do it for a whole day, do an afternoon or evening, but pick at least one period of time each week.
ORGA N I Z AT IONAL H E ALTH
Five Strategies to Re-energize Yourself As a Leader BY TON Y RICHA R DS Nearby Points of interest
Hotels and Motels nearby
Commerce Bank Regional Headquarters
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While many banks place vaults where they cannot be seen by the general public, this building proudly displays the vault in full public view in the Lobby. This meets with the Bank’s prime objective — Customer Service.
r e t p a h C Why three recently retired community leaders just canâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t seem to slow down. BY ANNA COMFORT
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RETIREMENT IS SUPPOSED TO BE A good thing — the reward for a job well done, a career well spent. But for many, it’s downright intimidating. After decades of finding daily purpose and satisfaction in a career, the prospect of life after retirement can fill a certain type of hardworking person with dread. But it doesn’t have to. Valerie Shaw, Virginia Wilson, and Karen Miller are among those who have found opportunities for growth and fulfillment in their retirement. For them, leaving their post just means moving on to their next job. (Or jobs.)
The Hard Work of Leaving Work “I knew in March of 2015 that I wasn’t going to run again,” says Miller, former southern district commissioner for Boone County. “But I had to digest it for a while before I was willing to make that commitment.” As an elected official, she couldn’t choose to put off retirement for just one more year. If she ran again in 2016, she would be committing to another four-year term. She didn’t make her announcement until the fall of 2015. “It took me those few months to see whether I could get everything done at work that I felt like I needed to complete,” she says. During her remaining time in office, and in addition to performing her regular duties administering the county, Miller sorted through all the documents that had accumulated in her 24 years as southern district commissioner. “I really worked hard that last year,” she says. “I went in on weekends. I cleaned out files so that they were ready for scanning, so people could more easily access them.” Filing cabinets containing her seven terms’ worth of documentation lined an entire hallway in the commission office — records of her achievements, like the passing and subsequent renewals of the halfcent sales tax for roads, which she ran on back in 1992, and her time spent as president of the National Association of Counties. Miller passed the reins to her successor, Fred Parry, on December 31, 2016. “I left him a note,” she says, “reminding him that he had to count to two. There are three county commissioners, and you have to have another vote to get anything done. So if you can’t count to two, you can get your legs chopped out from under you.” Shaw ended her tenure as executive vice president and retail manager at Commerce Bank last spring. “I was with Commerce Bank for 36 years, and I loved it,” she says. “It was a hard decision to retire, because I loved what I
did. I loved the people who worked for and with me, but I was just ready.” Each year, Shaw chose a theme word for her team; for her final year, she chose “intentional.” Each step she took towards retirement she took with intention, including the work of preparing for someone else to take her place. She spent a year working closely with David Whelan, a member of her team who she believed was a great leader. “My goal was to make sure that he was positioned as well as possible to be eligible for consideration,” she says. When he was eventually selected for her position, Shaw knew she was leaving the 14 branches she oversaw in good hands.
Facing the Transition Virginia Wilson officially retired as director of small business development at the Small Business Technology and Development Centers at MU Extension in October of 2016. She spent 18 years counseling aspiring entrepreneurs through the process of opening their own businesses — the work was rewarding, and she says retiring wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. “A lot of my friends had already retired, and I was at that age,” she says, laughing. “I had been thinking about it for probably about a year, year and a half before I actually retired.” During that time, Wilson decided that she wasn’t ready to completely let go of her work. She still works as a part-time contractor with the SBTDC, teaching some of the same classes that she had scheduled during her final months as program director. “I had always said that when I retired, I was going to stay engaged in the business world,” she explains. With the contract work, “I’m staying engaged, doing something that I love to do. So that’s what makes it a lot easier for me. It’s good that I can say, ‘I can do this today or I don't have to.’ Setting my own schedule — I’m loving that part of it.” In the days and weeks after retirement, she says, “I was just going through things around the house, going to the ARC. I stayed very busy. And I thought, my gosh, how did I get anything done while I was working?” Miller makes sure that her new lifestyle retains a familiar structure. She gets up at the same time every day and follows her morning routine, even if she plans to spend the day cleaning and organizing at home. Her mental transition from work to retirement was smoothed over by all the cleaning and organization she did at the office; having finished sorting all her papers at work, she’s now tackling the tubs full of documents that had accumulated at home. “I’m purgCOLUMBIABUSINESSTIMES.COM 57
ing electronically one day and then through a closet or drawer the next,” she says. Recycled papers were followed by unused Christmas decorations. She’s been donating materials like picture frames to Columbia Public Schools to be used in class projects. For many retirees, the end of a career can cause identity stress. Shaw put some thought into that as she prepared to leave Commerce Bank. “Your identity gets tied to your company — it really does,” she says. “So it was important to me to develop my own personal identity. I think that’s important for people to figure out ahead of time. What do you want to do? Where is your passion?” Finding that out will prevent retirees from feeling adrift. “Don’t let retirement just happen,” she says. “Think through it the way you would think about a job, in a sense.” Retirement is, after all, the next career move.
Reconnection Years ago, when Miller’s grandmother lived with her, the two began mapping their family tree based on her grandmother’s prayer cards. “My great-grandfather came over on the boat with a brother,” she says. “He never talked about his parents, his siblings — I didn't know if there were any. So in October of 2015, I went to Poland, found 33 cousins I didn't know I had, and met my grandmother’s first cousin. She had my mother's wedding picture in her photo album.” It was on that trip, with her sister and sister-in-law, that Miller made up her mind about retiring. After she finishes purging and organizing, Miller will return to her genealogy project with renewed focus. She plans to spend time learn-
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“Your identity gets tied to your company – it really does. So, it was important to me to develop my own
personal identity. I think that's important for people to figure out ahead of time. What do you want to do? Where is your passion?” VALERIE SHAW
ing Polish so she can have more natural conversations with her relatives when she returns to Poland. “One day, Amazon delivered me a Rosetta Stone package for Polish, and it came with a note that said, ‘Thank you for what you’ve done for us and will continue to do,’” she says. “And I have no clue who it was from.” “Connecting is really my key,” Miller says. “I was thinking about Lent. I’m going to do 40 days of writing a note to people I haven't seen in a while. I've been looking up addresses, getting ready for it. Some of these people I haven’t seen in 30 years, but I found their addresses. So they’ll be surprised when they get a little card!”’ Having stepped away from the daily hubbub at the bank, Shaw makes sure to stay in touch with her connections from Commerce. “When I miss the people I worked with, I go to lunch with them,” she says. “Then I’ve got a nice dose of them and I can go back to my retired world and be happy.” Shaw has always enjoyed travel — she and two friends have traveled to a new place each year for the past decade — but now, she’s able to add more frequent getaways. “We decided that we would take our big trip once a year, but since we’re retired, we’re doing long weekends, and we drive. We started out saying it’s going to be a radius of 300 miles, somewhere that we can drive in a day.” They visited Ste. Genevieve, Missouri last year, and they plan to go to Oklahoma City soon. Shaw is a rodeo fan — she hopes to see one while she’s there.
Claiming Your Purpose Wilson can look back on two decades of helping people achieve their dreams and say that she’s not done yet. “I just enjoy it thoroughly, and there’s such great satisfaction that comes from doing the kind of work that we do,” she says. Some of the business counseling she does now is volunteer work. Her next big project will be working with the SBTDC to focus on developing and supporting minority-owned businesses in the area. When she started her
“One day, Amazon delivered me a Rosetta Stone for Polish, with a note that said,
Thank you for what you've done for us and will continue to do,’ and I have no clue who it was from.” KAREN MILLER COLUMBIABUSINESSTIMES.COM 59
research, she says, “I didn’t know how many minority businesses were in Columbia. Or what their needs were, what resources they needed.” On top of that work, Wilson sits on the finance committee at Second Baptist Church, as does Shaw. Miller now volunteers with the Boone County Historical Society in her spare time. “Genealogy made me a history nerd, much more than I ever was,” she says, “and I want to preserve our county history, so it just fits my skill set and my interests.” She’s helping to reprint Boone County’s first record book for the county’s 200th anniversary. “My grunt work will just be scanning the photos and stuff,” she says, but Shaw accuses Miller of being too modest: “I’m on the board of the Boone County Historical Society. Karen did a fundraiser for them so that we can develop a digital library in honor of Hank Waters, and it was a record fundraiser. She developed the fundraiser that made it all possible.”
“I had always said that when I retired, I was going to
in the business world. I'm staying engaged, doing something that I love to do.” VIRGINIA WILSON
As for Shaw, who has always been heavily involved in community service, she sees it as her duty to spend her retirement giving back to the community she loves. “If everybody would just do something — they don’t have to be in six or seven things, but if they would just do one thing — just think what a difference that would make.” Among Shaw’s many volunteer commitments: raising scholarship money for young black women through the Delta Sigma Theta sorority, serving as treasurer for the local chapter of the NAACP, and developing courses for Osher, a service through MU Extension providing classes for people over 50. “We have to keep our minds engaged,” she insists. “The role I was in [at Commerce Bank] was about resolving issues. The decisions I made impacted people, so they needed to be well thought out, more strategic. To go from that and not do something to keep your mind active, I can see how people dread retiring.” But that’s not so with Shaw. She says, “I can hardly say the word ‘retirement’ without smiling.” CBT 60 APRIL 2017
62 APRIL 2017
& Wo me n e nt re p re ne ur s c re ate co mmu ni t y to s o l ve p ro b l e m s . BY DAVID MORRISON
“asks” and “gives” flowed fast and furious around the sun-dappled table just inside the entrance of the Panera Bread on Brickton Road. The four members of the unofficial “megamind” collective of female entrepreneurs that meets here every two weeks come to each meeting with one of each: an “ask,” to get the group’s input, and a “give,” to benefit their fellow business owners. That’s the outline, at least. “It goes off the rails sometimes,” says Beth Snyder, owner of 1canoe2, an illustration and letterpress studio. The collective is a space in which Snyder, Jesse Bodine, Kristen Graham Brown, and Liz Tucker can share everything: from an issue they’re having with an employee to the name of an NPR podcast they find inspirational, from frustration over the subtle sexism of a recent business interaction to mining ways they can motivate their employees to be self-starters. A little more than a year ago, Snyder and Brown, who is the founder, executive director, and creative director of Hoot Design Co., heard about a similar group in St. Louis but didn’t want to be involved in something quite so regimented. So they banded with two other Mid-Missouri female entrepreneurs who own artistic endeavors — Bodine, of Scout & Nimble, an online interior design repository, and Tucker, who owns Poppy, the arts and gifts shop downtown — to create something a little less formal.
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They started off meeting once a month. They now meet twice as often. “I think it’s been really instrumental just to have that support and bouncing those creative ideas off each other,” says Bodine. “People say it’s kind of lonely at the top because you can’t talk about everything with your employees.” They’ve found their niche with kindred spirits, entrepreneurs who work in related fields that have run their own businesses for about the same amount of time. Columbia is a fitting microcosm for the rest of America, where the bulk of venture capital and small-business loans are reserved for male entrepreneurs. But it is also a community that offers resources for hard-working women in all stages of business development — not to mention the benefits of a growing and accommodating network. “What women do have that maybe men don’t is a real support system,” Tucker says. “If you seek it out, there is a ton of support as far as other female business owners.”
THE GENDER GAP
According to Sara Cochran, entrepreneurial programs manager for the UM System, you can look at a set of data and come away with two vastly different impressions when it comes to the current state of female entrepreneurs. A 2014 Babson College national study found that the percentage of early stage companies with a woman on the executive team that receive venture capital tripled from five to 15 percent in the previous 15 years. The same study found that, while female entrepreneurs are majority owners in 36 percent of all businesses, only 2.7 percent of the businesses funded by venture capital from 2011 through 2013 had a female CEO. The Kansas City-based Kauffman Foundation combined the U.S. Census Bureau’s
inaugural Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, released last September, with the bureau’s latest Survey of Business Owners data and found that the average revenue generated by female-owned businesses rose nearly nine percent from 2012 to 2014. It also found that, while the average revenue generated by maleowned businesses declined slightly over the same period, it’s still more than two times the female cohort. “You can find data that show that women own more businesses but, even if they do, their businesses are smaller in revenue, size, and all that kind of stuff,” Cochran says. “It’s interesting — some people will spin it like, ‘Woo hoo! [Women] entrepreneurs are doing great!’ Well, they are, but it’s still bleak.” Males owned almost 65 percent of the country’s businesses in 2014 and women owned a little more than 20 percent, according to Census data. While the disparity had lessened from seven years prior, those numbers didn’t budge much from 2012 to 2014. The Kauffman Index of Main Street Entrepreneurship found that 3.85 percent of the adult female population in Missouri owned a business as their primary occupation in 2014, roughly in line with the national average (3.88). The overall rate of business owners across the state, though, was 6.24 percent. Cochran says there are efforts across the state when planning entrepreneurial events or speakers to increase the diversity of the panelists and include more women entrepreneurs. Collin Bunch, REDI’s entrepreneurship program coordinator, says the REDI Innovation Hub has a pretty even mix of male and female businesses among the 18 to 20 that are using its services. He says REDI is putting a premium on programming that would attract more female entrepreneurs.
B U S I N E SS PLAN PLAN BUSINESS Growing up, it didn’t take long for Liz Tucker to corner the market on bottle rockets in her Columbia neighborhood. She recognized that her brother and his friends were always in need of things that go boom around the Fourth of July every year. There’s your demand. She also recognized that snapping up the bottle rocket supply from local fireworks stores early in the season could work to her advantage. There’s your supply. So when the neighborhood boys ran low on bottle rockets, where do you think they turned? Liz. Even with the mark-up she built into her prices. “I ran the El Chaparral [subdivision] firework market,” says Tucker, who now owns Poppy, the handmade art and gifts store in downtown Columbia. Kelsey Meyer knows the feeling. Growing up in St. Louis, she would collect rocks from her neighbors’ yards, paint them, then sell them back to her neighbors at a tidy profit. That was when she was 5. Now she’s president of Influence & Co., the content marketing agency she co-founded. “My mom likes to joke that, when I was young, the neighbors all hated me because I was constantly at their doors trying to sell them stuff,” Meyer says. Meyer and Tucker share a key part of their backstory with many female entrepreneurs: the earlier they exhibit that entrepreneurial spirit, the more likely it is that they’ll be their own bosses as adults. Sara Cochran, entrepreneurial programs manager for the UM System, quoted a study that found that teenage girls are more likely to want to become entrepreneurs if at least one of their parents is one. The study found the correlation does not hold for teenage boys. For women, early exposure to the entrepreneurial world is an important determinant, whether it be from observing a father running his own real estate company — as Meyer’s did — or cornering the bottle rocket racket.
The Missouri Women’s Business Center opened in Columbia in June. Director Jaime Freidrichs says the center has worked with 75 one-on-one clients since then. While the WBC also helps men, the overwhelming majority of the entrepreneurs Freidrichs sees are, unsurprisingly, female. The center is a program of Central Missouri Community Action, which started it with a grant from the Small Business Administration. The startups she sees aren’t the ones that secure venture capital and scale rapidly. What most of the center’s clients seek is help building a compelling business plan and getting connected to community resources for startup capital. All they need is a little push. “The women we work with tend to want to go over things multiple times and really make sure all of their ducks are in a row and that they’ve covered all the bases and looked at all the angles,” Freidrichs says. “In a lot of ways, that makes women entrepreneurs a great bet.” Women tend to be more reticent than men when it comes to going out on a limb and starting their own ventures. Part of that, Cochran says, is because men are more likely to secure capital, and part of it is “socialized” traits of men as the bold risk-takers and women as the risk-averse types that can nurture a business from infancy to fruition. It’s a dynamic that has worked perfectly for Kelsey Meyer and John Hall at Columbia-based content marketing firm Influence & Co. Meyer started the business and brought in the first few clients, then Hall came on board as co-founder and vastly expanded the customer base. Influence & Co. now has more than 70 employees COLUMBIABUSINESSTIMES.COM 67
between Columbia and satellite offices in St. Louis and Kansas City. “One thing we talk about a lot is how if he weren’t here, we wouldn’t have any clients. And if I weren’t here, we wouldn’t keep any clients,” Meyer says. “Throughout our time together, we’ve kind of learned from one another. It’s still good to have some tension there — if he’s pushing for us to do and try more, that pushes me, and if I’m pushing for how to do things the right way, that pushes him.”
COMMON GROUND Tucker took over Poppy from its original owner, Barb McCormick, in 2012. She had worked in the shop since 2004 and considers McCormick a mentor. McCormick once told Tucker about the time when she and her business partner were looking for space to open Poppy in 1981. They scouted out a rental property that met their needs and were ready to make an offer. The owner said he needed to see their husbands’ financials first. “They decided not to go with that space,” Tucker says. While Columbia’s female entrepreneurs might not experience such stark reminders of gender inequality, challenging experiences persist. Meyer says she’s always felt supported in the Columbia community but once, at an outof-town conference, someone in her field told her that he didn’t know if he could take her seriously because she reminded him of his daughter. Brown had someone tell her recently that she was “all about the money” in her business dealings. She’s convinced she wouldn’t have drawn such a comment if she was a man. Snyder told the story of a male colleague she encounters regularly who does not tread softly in a female-dominated industry. “He has no problem really aggressively asking for things, and nobody discredits him for being that way,” Snyder says. “Whereas if I would be like that, it’d be like, ‘Who does she think she is?’” Confidence is a big topic of discussion at the megamind group: things like over-apologizing or devaluing their own work come up a lot. Bodine founded Scout & Nimble with her husband, Sam. She says the differences in their managerial styles are striking. “When I’m saying something, I’m very aware of other people’s feelings,” Bodine says. “My husband is able to be more assertive because he doesn’t think about when somebody else is 68 APRIL 2017
going to hear that. He’ll say something to one of our employees and I’ll be like, ‘I can’t believe you just said that,’ but they don’t take anything from it. When I’m giving them a task, it’s a lot softer. I think that’s something where I need to know that they’re going to be OK.” Sandra Marin, who helps advise fledgling tech and science businesses at both the MU Extension’s Business Development Program and the Small Business and Technology Development Centers, says: “We have been able to engage most of the women here because of the sense that they are not starting a business by themselves. What we have created is also a good relationship in which they know that they have somebody that can support them at any time.” Female entrepreneurs wield influence, whether conscious or not, on the next generation. Snyder says she regularly talks to her 12 employees — 11 of whom are female — about “being an entrepreneur in their own jobs.” Brown’s Hoot Design proudly touts itself as a “woman-driven creative agency in a male-dom-
inated field.” Influence & Co.’s seven-member leadership team includes five females. “I’ve seen a new group of female leaders coming up in our community, and I’m so proud of those women,” Meyer says. “It’s one of my favorite things about my job — that I get to support and help develop other women to be leaders and become involved in our community.” So it goes with the megamind group, meeting over breakfast and coffee, trading war stories during a fast-paced, two-hour session that leaves all of its members refreshed and optimistic. They urge fellow female entrepreneurs to find their own support team, one that can ask and give in equal measure. “I do think it’s a little bit of a unique experience,” Brown says. “The more that we are honest and transparent about what it feels like — hearing about how hard something is — is better than painting a beautiful picture. When you’re down and in a really bad place, you’re thinking, ‘Clearly I’m not cut out to be a business owner.’ But if you knew that Jesse stayed up until 3 a.m. crying last night too, it’s a lot better.” CBT
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