Billie Dragoo
Chair of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) and President/CEO of Repucare

A certain generation of women remember it well: When there weren’t many options for women professionally, except in expected roles like nursing, teaching or secretarial work. It’s a drastically different world for our daughters and future generations of women with professional goals and dreams, but a gap remains between men and women, whether you are a professional or an entrepreneur.

New opportunities

The good news is that more women are in the workplace than ever before, holding management and executive-level positions and operating their own businesses. According to the Department for Professional Employees, women make up more than half of the professional and technical workforce in the U.S., up from 46 percent in 2012. They are also earning post-secondary degrees at a faster rate than men are. 

Meanwhile, women business owners are a driving force in today’s economy. According to a 2014 study by NAWBO and Web.com, nine out of 10 (or 87 percent) of women business owners are optimistic about their continued business growth. 

Leading the change

While progress comes from a combination of factors, one is that women make better leaders than men, according to research by Zenger Folkman. “They build better teams; they’re more liked and respected as managers; they tend to be able to combine intuitive and logical thinking more seamlessly; they’re more aware of the implications of their own and others’ actions; and they think more accurately about the resources needed to accomplish a given outcome,” said Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman in Forbes. 

"By supporting, empowering and encouraging one another to come together as one voice, this gap will no longer exist."

So where’s the gap? The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports that while women nearly equal men in workforce numbers, they hold less than 30 percent of executive positions. This is despite the fact that organizations that are the most inclusive of women in top management achieve 35 percent higher return on equity and 34 percent better total return to shareholders, according to Illuminate Ventures. Also, there continues to be a wage gap with women earning 77 cents for every dollar men earn. 

When NAWBO was founded in 1975, one of our founders Susan Hagar said, “Get a seat at the table or build one.” As we move forward together as women professionals and entrepreneurs, let’s make sure we “get a seat at the table or build one,” and then invite other women to join us. By supporting, empowering and encouraging one another to come together as one voice, this gap will no longer exist.