Geddy’s Mom was just certified as a Women Business Enterprise. And this is a conflicting achievement. Here’s why:
Does she have to choose between having a business and having a baby? If she chooses both, how guilty does she feel for focusing on her business/her child over her child/her business? And is it possible to do a good job at both or must she sacrifice one for the other?
What if she can do a great job at both while contributing to social and community prosperity (as studies show she excels at) without her having to constantly prove she’s as capable, if not more, than her male counterpart? Would she then start to see equality in opportunity? Perhaps being labeled as a woman-owned business helps her get there, or perhaps it keeps her business categorized under that label instead of existing on its own merits.
Getting certified can be a long and expensive road. Luckily, New Jersey just dropped all fees associated with certification of Small, Minority, Women, Veteran, and Disabled Veteran-owned businesses. Which is HUGE! So, thank you NJ Gov for that win!
But why do we do it?
There are wonderful perks to being certified in any of those categories – the retail community promotes these businesses so they can be supported by customers who prefer to purchase from small, minority, women, veteran and disabled veteran businesses so they may have a better chance at thriving when in competition with the “big guys” – who tend to have deeper pockets and greater resources. This is basically free marketing for these business owners… it also happens to ‘look good’ for the social impact of the retailers.
Women and minorities tend to be offered smaller loans with higher interest rates as compared to white males. Becoming certified means greater grant opportunities, placement in commerce categories and retail spaces that promote these businesses at no cost, all of which can offset this loan bias.
While women tend to play a more significant role in the welfare and stability of their children, there is still an acceptance that a man’s role is to provide for the family with less emphasis on caring for them. A woman entrepreneur is expected to provide for AND care for the family (not to mention carry and birth them). Despite this, studies show that women owned businesses have a greater impact on families and communities (i.e. society) than male owned businesses.
To be certified as a Women Business Enterprise reduces the burden of financial and management gender disparity by providing her with resources and a community of similarly-positioned entrepreneurs. The reduction in these financial and management stresses, therefore reducing the added financial and management stress that a woman entrepreneur experiences. By reducing these stresses and adding support systems, it’s likely that certification also reduces the additional mental stress and guilt that women experience which tend to impact their personal lives and their decision to continue down the entrepreneurial path. That might be a stretch. But it might not.
Further, as more women become empowered by these certifications to push forward with less push back, women owned businesses represent a significant portion of economic and business growth, and the support of these businesses evolve to greater respect and equality in the workforce and therefore the growth of the economy overall.
My conflict is: How is it possible that it’s still necessary in 2022 for women to go through the obstacles of certifying that they are indeed women and do indeed own and run businesses to conjure greater community support in order to attempt to equalize the gender disparity in business loans, revenue and success that still exist? (Am I coming off as emotional as a write this? Does that count against me?). We have female world leaders getting the job done well while simultaneously using their bodies to provide health and nourishment to their feeding infant all-the-while showing greater concern for, and impact on, their communities as compared to their male counterparts. And YET the immense impact that women have on both the economy and society as a whole continues to be in question, evident in the inequality of job opportunities, salaries and loans. Expanding on this conflict for minority/black/veteran owned businesses is a conversation that is likely of greater intensity, for which I can’t claim to speak on with experience, but am eager to listen to and promote.
In conclusion, I’m really not sure if this commentary is for or against the certification of Women Business Enterprises / Woman Owned Businesses. I guess that depends on how it frames the future of business ownership and opportunity as it relates to gender.
-Sarah Shell, dentist, mom, wife, founder of a Woman Business Enterprise.