Spend five minutes watching or reading the news these days and you will come away in either disbelief, horror or gloom and depression. There is so much darkness and evil and negativity! People and institutions seem to have lost their moral compasses. And this makes me very excited.
No, I am not some sadomasochist. I am someone who sees a need and a HUGE opportunity for change. It is said that it is always darkest before the dawn. According to my calculations, these recent occurrences make us inching that much closer to some much needed light.
But here is why I am especially excited: I am already seeing it happening, especially amongst women. Women are taking greater and greater risks and responsibilities. We are beginning to throw off the bushels we've been hiding our lights under and are stepping out to illuminate this world. In 1973 when I graduated from high school, the paths for my friends and I were to get married or go to college, where we would most likely become a teacher, a secretary or a nurse. A few brave souls went into law or business school or engineering, but they were more an anomaly and looked upon with mild curiosity. I entered the corporate world (after my teaching stint) in 1981 as a receptionist/secretary. Those ranks were nearly, if not totally, comprised of women. It wasn't until I got over to the sales side that I found myself working side by side with more men than women. By the time I left the corporate world in 2002 the landscape had begun to shift dramatically.
And here is where I see this glimmer starting: women (slowly) rising to the top in corporations but very quickly overtaking the ranks in the entrepreneurial world. Here are a few facts to consider:
• Women have been starting businesses at a higher rate than men for the last 20 years and will create over half of the 9.72 million new small business jobs expected to be created by 2018
• Women-owned businesses employ 7.7 million people. That's 40% more people than the three largest employers -- McDonald's, IBM and Wal-Mart -- combined.
• Women-owned firms generate revenues of $1.3 trillion. Over the past 15 years, women-owned businesses saw a 58% increase in revenue
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, this shows how women are contributing to, and starting to steer, the economic future of our country. But what excites me even more is the energy behind it. Women are freeing themselves from the shackles (often self-imposed) that have held them back in the past. They are taking their first tentative steps into their power -- and are owning it. I have seen firsthand the difference between women in corporations who are "playing by the rules" in order to get ahead and women entrepreneurs. The unwritten corporate rules for success have been established long ago by men, and subsequently incorporate male values, including competition and the importance of doing what it takes to push yourself to the top. I believe this is why you see so few women at the top -- the system is not set up to accommodate cooperation, something women have been brought up to embrace and do very well. Conversely, I have seen women entrepreneurs who approach success much differently. Sure, they are competitive, but they also see that a rising tide lifts all boats, and they are willing to help another woman entrepreneur, which in turn helps them all. Shining their light helps to ignite the spark within others, which is the way to lead us all out of this darkness.
Yes, the world is a crazy, sometimes terrifying place, these days. But I remain hopeful -- even excited -- seeing the new energy that is gaining speed and strength every day. Bring your light to the table -- we can all use it!!