The Gender Gap in Iowa.

I was farting around on the internet recently and happened across a story that explained a sad fact regarding working women, specifically female business owners, in Iowa.

The fact: Women-owned businesses in the nation have grown by almost 60% in the last 16 years, but in Iowa? Not even 24%.



I know you all aren't from Iowa, so how does your state fair? Check out the census-based 2013 State of Women-Owned Business report. Here's a quick look:
The states with the fastest growth in the number of women-owned firms over the past 16 years are Georgia (up 112 percent), Texas (93 percent), North Carolina (91 percent), Louisiana (94 percent) and Nevada (84 percent). 
The states with the lowest growth in the number of women-owned firms between 1997 and 2013 are Alaska (12 percent), West Virginia (23 percent), Iowa (23 percent), Ohio, (27 percent) and Kansas (27 percent).
The managing editor at Business Record analyzed the report with a lens specific to Iowa, and it's worth a read, but the most important nugget of information is this:
Iowa has a dismally low rate of growth in women-owned businesses compared with the rest of the country, according to a new census-based report released today by American Express OPEN. Even worse are employment and sales figures from Iowa women-owned businesses, both of which are actually lower now than they were 16 years ago. 
The state has an estimated 71,000 women-owned businesses, an increase of 23.4 percent from the 57,527 firms operating in 1997. That places Iowa 49th among the states in growth rate, according to the study. By comparison, the number of women-owned businesses nationally increased by 59.1 percent.
This was a hard pill to swallow, since in our community I've seen a lot of small business growth, many of which are owned and operated by women. I imagine, since Iowa has very few urban areas, I'm only seeing a small pocket of growth that represents a portion of this 24%.

It's not news to you - I just embarked on a career change. I wasn't a business owner, rather a teacher workin' for The Man, but if I choose to return to 'traditional, full-time, 9-5' employment will I be faced with the hardships many of these Iowa women face?

For sure.

Another Business Record article shared some advice from female Iowa business owners on turning 'the state of women' around. I found these recommendations cliche and useless. If I were a business owner, it would be challenging for me to glean real, immediate value from tips like, "'Pick one up-and-coming woman and sponsor her. Don't just mentor her, but sponsor her,' said Nora Everett, president and CEO of Principal Funds."

Or, "Rebecca Hughes director of human resources at Meredith Corp., gave advice on applying for promotions and raises. 'Men tend to apply for jobs based on their potential,' she said. 'Women tend to apply based on their experience - so apply, apply, apply.' Also, women need to learn to negotiate. "Men will negotiate down to the penny on an employment deal. Women will take the first offer,' she said."

And, "'The solution begins with you. It begins with me,' said Renee Hardman, senior vice president of community relations for Bankers Trust Co. 'My mom always told me no matter where you go, always look back and find someone you can bring along.'"

Give me something I can use, ladies - something real and applicable. Something women who are considering owning a business can put into immediate practice. If women are to take the gender gap into their own hands and move Iowa up in the ranks, it's going to take more than vague generalities to make it happen.

Ok, so what are some of those specific, real, applicable things future female business owners need to know?

...

Anybody?

....

Bueller?

....

I think we've found the problem.

For me, this means I need to continue to take calculated risks. While I have no intentions of opening a small business (ever), I know that I'll be traveling with John for about two years. Then what? I don't know. But it might take me on a new path, and I want to make sure that whichever path I'm on, I have the best chances for success.

For me, an Iowa woman, this means working to be part of a solution to the gender gap in our state.

Are you a female business owner? Know someone who is? What makes that business successful? To what, or whom, to you/they attribute their success? Tell me about it in the comments, and while you're at it, share that small business' website and Page so we can follow and LIKE their small business. Feel free to share those links on our Facebook page as well!


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