By Tracey Collins
Something in Jean’s last post on Pride, Power and Prejudice really struck a chord with me: Men are three times more likely to receive a new business loan than women for the same business plan? Wow!
After being at once discouraged and then curious, I wanted to find out: What is actually being done about this? If more women were involved in the decision-making boards of our nation’s financial institutions, would this disparity still be true?
Consumer Czar Elizabeth Warren and her newly created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau seems to believe it with her efforts and aggressive stance on credit card transparency. A Harvard Law Professor, Warren was the ‘outsider’ when she was appointed to chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel created to investigate the U.S. banking bailout. Last week she was featured by iVillage in the story: "We need women on Wall Street,” where she paid tribute to a core characteristic that what we at The SmartGirls way like to call “Fairness.”
For Warren, the economic crisis may have been avoided if there were more women on Wall Street; “Women are especially good at fighting on behalf of others and are often outsiders.”
When asked about the recent financial crisis she explained that the outsider status was missing: "There were a bunch of insiders talking to insiders and that's how they ended up blowing up the economic world.”
Her solution: “I want to see a lot of women get involved, a lot of women."
On the same day, the President headed off for his trip to Asia. I happened to check the White House White Board and watched the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, Austan Goolsbee, give a pretty baseline summation driving the National Export Initiative – which has set the lofty goal of tripling our national exports from $1.57 trillion to $3.14 trillion by the year 2014. This is a huge challenge given that in the last 10 years the US has actually fallen to an all-time low in exports and now lags behind Germany, India, China and Japan.
The US Administration sees small business as a fundamental component to reaching this goal. In fact, we are already contributing. According to a 2006 International Monetary Fund Financial Survey, women business owners generate $1.9 trillion in sales each year; that is equal to the gross domestic product (GDP) of China.
So it seems to me that there is a world of opportunity out there and while women owned businesses grapple with their own unique set of challenges, there is comfort in common travails, camaraderie and role models.
When facing issues around gender bias, securing angel funding or even the implications of off-ramping my corporate career to take on a caretaking role, I’m going to take comfort in the fact that I am not alone. There is a market need and we’re weaving together a very smart network to meet it.