With so many women meeting this category, one might think that in our industry, this is the age of the woman. It certainly is in general, with more women opening up companies on an international level than any point in recorded history. According to US-based Women’s Business Council, between 1997 and 2013 the number of women-owned businesses (WBEs) worldwide surged by over 100%. In the United States alone, there are 8.3 million WBEs. We account for 16% of all American jobs and employ 40% more people than Walmart, McDonald’s and IBM combined. . .
Women have more purchasing power than we used to, as well. Mine is the first entire generation of American women to believe our parents when they told us we could be whatever we wanted. Our working role models may have been nurse, teacher and secretary but the options presented to us were doctor, principal and company president. As we aged, we started to work in whatever roles we wanted and not just ones that had been stereotypically laid out for us. Even though women in the United States still only earn 77 cents to every dollar earned in a similar position by a man, we still earn more than before. When it comes to purchasing, we are decision makers not just for milk and sugar, but for everything from cars to computers. And with that purchasing power comes a brand new market for a corporate world to target.
One of the ways in which major corporations are trying to target that newly-empowered, female dollar is through supplier diversity. Supplier diversity, for those of you new to the concept, is the formal term for making sure women and racial-minority-owned businesses are included in a company’s supply chain. It began in the civil-rights-submerged 1960s United States as both society and government started requiring businesses to look beyond the white man for where they spent their dollars. IBM launched the first American private-sector supplier diversity program in 1968. High tech seems to be the theme as South Africa’s earliest program was Hewlett-Packard’s, which grew up out of similar government concerns imposed by post-apartheid constitutional and Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment regulations.
As women started to gain more purchasing power, what started as government-imposed grew to just plain ol’ good business sense. . .