Who Wants 5 Easy Ways For Female Business Leaders To Create Opportunity For Women Today?
Tips from the female CEO of an awesome small business in a male dominated industry on International Women's Day 2018
By Angela Leaney, CEO Hogan Security Group
Let me start at sea. I liken giant corporations to big ships at sea. They navigate the deep waters, dominate the skyline, and identify safe channels and areas of opportunity for commerce, growth and prosperity. They grab, for better or worse, the headlines. Giant companies, giant profile, giant ships.
But the US economy cannot flourish without the contribution of the flotilla of small boats that leave the harbor alongside them every morning and return to port very late every night. I’m talking figuratively. I’m talking small businesses.
SBA data states women majority and joint business owners generate more than $2.5 trillion annually in sales. And 99.9% of women-owned businesses, are small businesses. As the majority owner of a small business in the male dominated sector of security and life safety, I am pausing (AKA my lunch break) on International Women’s Day to share how I attempt to fulfill my responsibility as a female leader to develop opportunity for other women.
But small businesses are different, it's so hard! you say. And I feel you. Small businesses ARE different. You wear several hats which change without warning, you are constantly thinking cash flow and payroll, and you have neither budget nor time to tap for wish-list projects. So my 5 tips are all practical, non-capital intensive and can be integrated into your business day. Every day. Bonus: they’re largely fun.
1. Identify trade and industry organizations where your participation will shine a beacon for other women. We need to see ourselves in the roles we aspire to, and female leaders who develop a profile in our industry, enable other women to see themselves in growth and leadership roles. As I’m in the commercial security field, I have joined the NJAA, the NSBA, the MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce. I turn up and speak up and bonus – I’ve made incredible business contacts too. Your relevant organizations will be different from mine. But do seek them out.
2. Become a mentor to an emerging leader. Try and provide help that is helpful. I met the woman who would become my mentee, Youn Jung Chung in a car park on Long Island, one night several years ago. That’s a story for another day. But in all candor, ours is one of my most cherished and rewarding relationships forged in business. She owns her own business and kicks a** . You can become a client of hers and she'll help you grow your revenue here. If you want to mentor but don’t know where to start, contact the careers advisors at your local college or high school, or search LinkedIn.
3. Ensure that you interview women for the next job you post. You’ll always hire the best candidate, irrespective of gender, of course. But especially in male-dominated industries, if you go the extra mile and mandate that you will not hire until you have interviewed and considered women for the role, trust me, you’ll encounter new talent whom you did not know existed. And who would not want more and better choice?! I love Upfront Ventures policy on inclusion. So cut-and-pasteable.
4. Reach out to youth. Look for opportunities to connect with young women emerging into the workforce who may not even know what opportunities exist for them. Share your story. Describe the opportunity You may become the person who is instrumental in determining their career path. Or you may just be someone who gave them a bright moment in their work or school day. Both have value. I belong to the general advisory committee of Mercer County Technical Schools and last year, toured multiple classes of their high school juniors whose interests ranged from HVAC, automotive, criminology, graphic design and more. I rolled into class, wielded a lock and access control credential, and shared an opportunity for paid summer internships with them. I made a point of speaking directly to the women present and telling them that security would continue to be male-dominated unless more women decided to enter the industry. Almost 50% of our applicants for that role were women - a rate we had never hit before. I cried at my desk, I was so proud of them.
5. Ensure you have an unambiguous anti-harassment policy. It protects your team – all of your team. It sends a clear message to women considering joining your company that they will be respected. It sends a clear message to everyone on the team that this is important. Your HR rep or PEO can help with this.
Et voila. These are my 5 easy ways we can all take action today. They cost nothing but your time. They add richness and satisfaction to your day. And without stretching my marine analogy too far – opportunities for women mean opportunity for all.
After all, all boats rise with the tide.