Yes, this past year has been an enormously challenging year for women in business. Across the news, there have been bleak statistics about how a lack of childcare options due to the pandemic is causing deep harm to gender equality and women’s progress. The Washington Post even declared: “The childcare crisis will set women back a generation.”
This is undoubtedly troubling. However, women are powerful and necessity is the mother of reinvention. Many enterprising women have already begun to adapt and explore new options – like starting businesses they can run flexibly from home.
As part of our mission at Invoice2go to empower women to start and run more successful businesses and prosper on their terms, we’ve created The Female Founders Network community and podcast. There, we provide valuable information and support to overcome doubts and level up business skills. With community comes strength – and right now, that’s what we need.
We want you to know that 2020 wasn’t all bad for women. Here are 5 inspirational things women accomplished in the past year:
1. Women leaders took decisive action and saved countless lives during the COVID-19 pandemic
Countries with women leaders are being commended for their swift and decisive efforts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Women leaders’ actions in countries like Germany, Finland, and New Zealand resulted in fewer COVID cases and deaths.
New Zealand, in particular, is a shining example of how a focused effort yields results. Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern’s commitment to saving lives has proven itself in the lifestyle New Zealanders are enjoying now – including live music and unrestricted access. Borders are still closed, and when even one case is confirmed, lockdowns go into effect.
The result? After an initial surge in March of 2020, the country has enjoyed fewer cases overall and fewer deaths than any other country in the world. Despite their success, they have not yet let down their guard. The secret seems to be the clarity of their protocols, and the deep trust citizens have in their leaders.
2. A woman was elected Vice President of the United States for the first time
No matter your politics, this is a milestone for women. Topping the list of 2020 victories is Kamala Harris, an African-American and South Asian-American woman becoming the first US woman Vice President. Harris is no stranger to firsts – she also was the first woman District Attorney in San Francisco.
Harris has served in the US Senate since 2017 and was elected Attorney General of California from 2011 to 2017. She ran for head of the democratic party against Joe Biden, who ultimately chose her as his running mate.
During her presidential bid, Kamala Harris shared this advice: “Don’t let anybody tell you who you are; you tell them who you are.”
3. The number of women running Fortune 500 companies hit a new record high
Maybe 37 doesn’t sound like a huge number, but 20 years ago, that number was only two. Of the 37 women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, three are now women of color. If we drill down to the Fortune 100—the A-listers of the Fortune 500—there are three women CEOs, the most influential being GM Chairperson and CEO, Mary Barra.
Although women run only 7.4% of all Fortune 500s, that number is increasing year over year. Studies also show that companies led by women are more profitable and perform better on the stock market. Women belong in the boardroom.
4. Bumble CEO, Whitney Wolfe Herd, 31, became the youngest female CEO to take a company public and become a billionaire
Herd’s advice: You can monetize anything. For her, what began as a side-hustle turned into a business now valued at more than $7 billion. In Herd’s estimation, if you’re really good at something, you can likely turn it into a business and make money from it.
Herd’s initial idea was to launch a social app for teen girls to communicate only with compliments, addressing the online cruelty and dysphoria prevalent among today’s youth. However, her experience and expertise in the online dating realm ultimately led her in a different direction.
As the former VP of marketing at Tinder, she knew what the most popular dating apps lacked. Her need to empower women in this area led to the creation of Bumble—a dating app that lets women make the first move.
Diving deeper into gender equality and wanting to provide women with a level playing field, she then spun Bumble off into Bumble Bizz and Bumble BFF. Bumble Bizz is where you can network, find collaborators, and meet or become a mentor. Bumble BFF is an app dedicated to creating meaningful non-dating friendships.
Bumble’s IPO raised $2.2 billion, making the 31-year-old Herd the youngest self-made female billionaire and the youngest woman to take a company to IPO.
5. Women are surging ahead in business and entrepreneurship
Today, we see more women-owned businesses than ever before. More female founders and investors are coming to prominence, and women-run companies everywhere in the world are letting their audience know who’s sitting in the big chair.
According to the Small Business Trends Alliance, 31% of all small businesses and franchises are founded or owned by women. That’s a four percent increase over 2020. While this might sounds small, it’s a number that’s seen consistent growth over the past decade.
Of course, women’s entrepreneurial success isn’t solely restricted to small businesses and franchises. Women dominate the startup landscape, bringing solutions to market that address the needs of the many.
26% of those women started their businesses to pursue a passion. Being passionate about what you do almost always equates to greater job satisfaction, confidence, and overall happiness. The numbers support that too. Despite the challenges the pandemic imposed on all of us, 76% of all women founders surveyed said they were happy. And finally, women-owned businesses in America still account for $1.8 trillion in revenue.
For some, it began out of necessity. When jobs were lost, many women decided they’d rather be in control of their lives, from both a financial and professional standpoint. According to the United States Census Bureau, new business applications rose by 82% in the fourth quarter of 2020, many of which are founded and headed by women. LinkedIn reports a 5% rise in female entrepreneurs over the previous year, which more than doubles their typical growth in the same category.
Women’s leadership is essential to progress
Passion aside, entrepreneurship is the only reasonable option for many women – especially caring for family members. By applying a different lens to the situation, a barrier becomes an opportunity.
But without the conditions we’re living under, some would never have made the leap. When the empowerment they enjoyed in the working world disappeared, it was time to take matters into their own hands. It looks like a trend that’s here to stay, regardless of what comes next.
Women have everything it takes to succeed in business. With tenacity, courage, commitment, and hard work, women – and all people – can accomplish extraordinary things.
Whether it’s running a successful company or turning passions into a career that both sustains and fulfills, women today have more support and opportunity than ever before. But now is not the time to rest. To ensure women have all the resources they need to lead, it’s up to us to ensure they have access.