On this Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, 2018, I want to offer a historical tribute and a personal reflection on the accomplishments of the civil rights movement as it relates to economic empowerment and women entrepreneurship.
For my historical tribute, let's go down memory lane.....
During the 1960's, Dr. King along with other champions of civil rights movement (many of which included unsung women activists and organizers) fought for equal rights and protection from discrimination for all United States citizens. Among the accomplishments of this movement was the passage of civil rights legislation. I share two examples. As a first example, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires employers to pay equally for equal work regardless of whether employees are male or female. As a second example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed discrimination based on race, color sex, religion, or national origin in the use or access of public places of accommodation such as restaurants, hotels, theaters, and public transportation. In summary, these civil rights protections enabled broader civic participation, increased social mobility, and improved workforce opportunities for women in general as well those who are racial and ethnic minorities.
While the practice of these protections has and still faces challenges, women in general today have better access to goods and services, better representation in civic and political arenas, and more opportunities for personal economic development. If we look at these protections as a foundation for supporting women empowerment, how have they helped and supported them as entrepreneurs? To answer this question, I now look at the status of women entrepreneurship in the United States.
According to a 2015 National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) report, there are over 9.4 million women-owned businesses in the United States, 2.9 million of which are owned by women of color. In essence, with the backing of legislative protection banning discriminatory access to goods and services (i.e., the Civil Rights Act of 1964), this statistic suggests that women are not simply participating as consumers in the United States economy but they are also contributing to its economic growth by producing goods and services to the tune of nearly $2.9 trillion. Of note, some of this standing for women as entrepreneurs may be attributed to the passage of legislation such as the Equal Credit Act of 1974 which allowed women to secure credit for their businesses in their own name (before this Act, women had to have a husband or father co-sign for credit cards or loans). When we look at workforce opportunities for women, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 facilitated changes in improving pay for women. However, gender pay gaps still persist. Regarding federal policies, women rights advocates have recognized the importance of the economic impact women entrepreneurs and have called for Congress to pass federal tax cuts to help them invest back into their businesses and employees. Lastly, on the political front, a growing number women entrepreneurs are running for political office with objectives such as fighting for business- friendly policies and harassment-free business environments. In summary, for those women who have reached a ceiling in earnings for their occupation, have struggled with gender pay gaps in their industry, or had to leave the workforce for personal reasons, the good news is that personal economic empowerment through entrepreneurship is economically viable and attainable.
In closing, the catalyst for women to improve their personal economic situations as well as have a voice in matters that effect the economic well-being of their businesses has its roots in the accomplishments of the civil rights movement. Subsequent actions by federal legislation, advocacy, and civic participation has further spurred momentum for women entrepreneurs. In short, now is an exciting time for women entrepreneurs! As an African-American woman and entrepreneur, I deeply appreciate that I can go to a cafe, grab coffee, and attend to my business on my laptop with the expectation that I will not face segregation and discrimination. I am empowered by the past and looking forward to my future of economic freedom, flexibility, and success through entrepreneurship!
If you are a woman who is an entrepreneur or dreaming about entrepreneurship, what is empowering you? Share with me Twitter!
Happy MLK Day!
Hey female empowerment teachers!
Are you looking for material for your empowerment teaching? Or, perhaps you need holiday gift ideas for your female clients?
Why not consider a book?
Whether you work in the areas of personal, spiritual, financial, or professional empowerment, these books are great sources of motivation and inspiration. I share a few of my personal insights and recommendations for these books. As holiday gift ideas, these books are budget friendly and readily available for purchase from online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and Books- A- Million. So, go ahead! Grab these books for your empowerment library and empower your clients today!
1. If I Lean in Will Guys Just Look Down My Shirt? by Dr. Regina Barreca. I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Barreca in person at a women’s empowerment summit. Dr. Barreca shines with her humor, wit, and heartwarming stories that empower women to be authentic and love themselves. I especially love Chapter 4, “Women Carry Everything We Need to Start Life in a New State.” Warning ladies- it’s time to get rid of the baggage!
2. The Black Rose by Tanavarive Due: This is a fictionalized story based on the life of Madam C. J. Walker, the first self-made African-American female millionaire in the United States. Overcoming poverty, discrimination, and betrayal, Walker left a legacy of beauty culture and entrepreneurship that lives on today. As an African-American woman entrepreneur, I deeply admire and respect Walker’s example of chasing your dreams.
3. Making Sense of Men: A Woman's Guide a Lifetime of Love, Care and Attention from All Men by Allison Armstrong. A humorous and quick read for women who want to improve their love relationships with men. In my favorite chapter, “Men are Not Hairy Women,” Levin teaches that most men show their emotional involvement in a woman he is interested in by performing gestures such as giving their coat or opening doors. She encourages women to understand these gestures as their way of saying, “I care about you!” and open themselves to more nurturing and fulfilling relationships.
4. Worthy by Nancy Levin. Levin helps women break free of personal, emotional, and financial beliefs about money that block their abundance and freedom. One of the most thought-provoking statements I came across in this book was, “He who controls the purse strings rules the world.” I learned that if I want to know who is in charge of my life, I should ask myself who is in charge of my money. For me, this statement was both a sober wake-up call and motivation for me take a closer look at how I manage my finances.
5. Expect to Win: 10 Proven Strategies for Thriving in the Workplace by Carla A. Harris. Harris, Managing Director and Senior Client Advisor at Morgan Stanley, is recognized as one of the most powerful and respected women in business. I was fortunate to experience “Carla’s Pearls”, her powerful presentation of wisdom, motivation, and inspiration at the Goodwin College Vital Voices Speakers Series. I highly recommend reading Chapter 1, “Authenticity” where Carla discusses the importance of bringing your authentic self to your workplace.
After you check out this list, share with me on Twitter and Facebook what you learned!
In this three-part blog series, I share short, personal stories of how I solved a problem close to me to move my business forward. If you are a life coach, empowerment teacher, or personal development coach, my goal is help you solve a problem close to you to help you attract clients. For Part 1, I discuss a problem-solving approach I used as a freelance writing entrepreneur to discover my writing specialty.
Why do I say, “A problem close to you”?
When looking at the larger picture of life around us, many of us are surrounded by problems that are competing for our attention. However, there is often one problem that is close to you that requires immediate attention. Because this problem is directly connected to your goal to move forward or accomplish a goal, finding a solution is high priority. After solving the problem closest to you, it becomes much easier to tackle the other competing problems because oftentimes solutions start to appear. In the next section I illustrate how this works.
Among the problems I had to tackle in launching my freelance writing business included creating a blog, compiling a writer’s portfolio, and setting up a website. These problems varied in terms of my ability to solve them, meaning that some were relatively easy to solve while others required a steep learning curve on my part. Nevertheless, while these problems circulated around me, I discovered that the problem of how to market myself as a freelance writer would be the one that required high priority. Because this problem was directly connected to my goal to move forward with my business, it became the problem closest to me. By figuring out what value I offer to clients, many of the other problems-my blog, my writer’s portfolio, and my website- would eventually be solved as the answers fall into place. In the entrepreneurial world, this “figuring out” process is often called developing a value proposition. Here is how I tackled this problem closest to me.
First, I want to introduce a definition for what a problem is from a business context. Business Dictionary defines a problem as:
“A perceived gap between the existing state and a desired state, or a deviation from a norm, standard, or status quo.”
Applying this definition, I perceived a gap between my existing state- my unspecialized freelance writing self- and my desired state-a freelance writer with a specialty. Next, I devised a method to solve my problem. First, I did some soul-searching to explore what I love to write about. Next, I reflected on my most enjoyable writing experiences with past clients. Here are two things I discovered:
After discovering my value proposition, the answers to my other problems started emerging. I now have the direction and material to further develop my blog, my writer’s portfolio, and my website.
To see how my problem-solving approach can help you, stay tuned for Part 2! This is where you come in! Visit my website and follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter for updates!
Yvette M. Williams, Ph.D. is a freelance writer for hire. Her business, The Esteemed Scribe, provides expertise in copy-editing, copy-writing, proofreading, and blogging. Yvette specializes in helping female life coaches, empowerment teachers, and personal development coaches write informative, creative, and inspirational copy that expresses their unique voice and propels their business forward.