Last night, I watched the fireworks blossom majestic hydrangeas in the sky off the Eastern shoreline. Bright colors bathed the glowing faces of my two daughters, 7 and 3, as we watched from the beach. A great showing for America’s independence.
economic independence I’m more concerned about these days.
“It’s a pivotal time in history for our girls,” I told a gathering of parents and local leaders. “Now more than ever, we need to equip our girls to lead from the top – as CEOs and as entrepreneurs.”
Some hard facts: While women make up over 50% of the professional workforce, they hold only 4% of the CEO jobs. Only 37% of women are entrepreneurs and 14% are engineers – this, despite a 45% growth in women-led businesses since the last recession generating an 18% increase in jobs and a 35% increase in revenue.
To offset the trends that have led to this disparity, parents and educators need to support their girls three ways:
Drive Innovation – Innovation will be one of the top three drivers of business growth, says McKinsey. In fact, some predict that by 2050, 40% of today’s jobs will be gone thanks to automation. If we want our girls to thrive, we need to equip them to operate in the changing business world now, in a way that schools just can’t. As one parent put it to me, the “business conditioning” his daughter is getting early on is essential and something that too often, only boys get. Let’s equip our girls now and watch them not only shape our communities with jobs and innovation, but shape the future of jobs with policies that embrace diversity and a thriving workforce.
Growing Financial Burdens – As Social Security and our health care face huge uncertainties; we need to remember that women often carry the financial burdens. Women not only live 7 years longer on average than men and earn less on average, but they provide the majority of healthcare of family members – valued at about $150 billion. Sadly, this has a huge impact on their potential job prospects and career earnings.
Domestic Violence & Economic Abuse – Some 75% of abused women say they stay in the bad relationships because of financial concerns. Economic abuse takes many forms – from interfering with her work and education to adding family debt burdens to hiding savings during a divorce. These are behaviors that sap women – our daughters – of their financial confidence, economic security and even their personal safety.
From the Daughters of the American Revolution to the inequality gap issues of today, our country has celebrated women’s role in American society. Where will the next 200 years bring us?
Jennifer Openshaw is the CEO of Girls with Impact (www.girlswithimpact.org), whose mission is to equip girls to become entrepreneurs and create the next generation of female talent.