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Empowering the Next Generation of Women Leaders

Marie Rosecrans
Marie Rosecrans

Society must continue empowering and supporting women to break gender barriers, bring services and products to market, receive equal pay, secure financing and see their visions come to life.

We're celebrating International Women's Day on March 8, and here's an encouraging fact: More than 1,800 women officially launch companies in America every day, adding their voices and talents to the more than 12.3 million women-owned organizations nationwide, according to figures from Fundera. Although women make up just 40% of startup leaders and a mere 6.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs per Fortune's studies, their ranks continue to climb steadily. 

These objective indicators bode well for the future of women who have the drive to head up firms, as well as female teens and college students on the cusp of breaking onto the corporate scene.

Last year, women became a majority of the college-educated labor force, signaling a turning point in gender parity. Yet the indicators also point to a growing need for society to continue empowering and supporting women to break gender barriers, bring services and products to market, receive equal pay, secure financing, and see their visions come to life. 

The rise of the guilt-free mom entrepreneur

I recently attended a summit meeting at which several female CEOs and COOs were asked about being moms while holding important positions. Ironically, no one asked their male counterparts the same questions, which illustrates another reason the world needs to start helping female entrepreneurs understand that they don't have to choose between being a parent and running an organization. 

While I can't say I have a recipe or road map, I do believe no mom entrepreneur should try to do it all. Being able to trust go-to people to pick up kids, run errands or mow the lawn frees women to engage in higher-level stuff. I call this core versus noncore outsourcing. If it's not a core task, consider employing someone else to take it off your plate. 

Just as female entrepreneurs lean on their colleagues and team members, they should equally lean on women's community associations, neighbors, friends and relatives to help them stay balanced. At the same time, they can provide others with support when possible, such as dropping off a meal for a new mom and CEO or watching a friend's puppy while she is out of town securing funding for her startup. 

I'm a member of the local mothers club on Facebook, and it's been a terrific experience personally and professionally. One mother recently asked the community for help in finding a location for a family reunion in San Francisco. Knowing that the holidays are a busy time for restaurants and often requires a minimum spend or contract in place, I asked a colleague on the executive events team at Salesforce for a list of prevetted venues. The mother was so appreciative of the list, and I was happy to utilize a work connection to support a local mom. 

Women leaders can help their personnel learn how to effortlessly harmonize work and personal life by offering perks such as Cleo, a family support tool app. We've rolled out a Cleo benefit successfully to help new and expecting parents on our team navigate the ups and downs, ins and outs, and wonders and joys of parenthood. It's just a little way to keep everyone focused and ensure women don't get left behind because they're not sure how to handle all their responsibilities. 

Supporting the women leaders around you

But it's not just the mom entrepreneurs that we can celebrate and support on International Women's Day. Here are some ways you can help all of the women around you get closer to their business objectives while staying present in their personal lives. 

1. Offer help through community organizations.

Let the women around you know they shouldn't be afraid to reach out for help. Too many women try to "do it all" when they don't need to, not realizing they can tap into so many resources available in their communities.

Our team has engaged with an organization called the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center based in San Francisco. It's a phenomenal nonprofit that provides women and men from diverse backgrounds with the training they need to start a business on solid footing. Additionally, the center offers education to help members grow their companies pragmatically. Almost all cities have some nonprofit aimed at building smart leaders. Find and engage with yours. 

2. Share your technology recommendations.

Leading a business can be all-consuming, so sharing your personal technology wins – from big ones to tiny time savers – can give an entrepreneur a big leg up. Even if an entrepreneur can't afford employees yet, she can absolutely take advantage of free and low-cost apps and platforms to work more efficiently. From having a robust customer relationship management system to choosing a method to streamline social posts and email drip campaigns, an upfront time investment will pay off.

What's more, technology can help small businesses appear bigger than they really are. We call this the "blowfish effect," because it lets them offer the same level of experience as their larger competitors. The best thing about technology is that entrepreneurs — both women and men — don't have to be whizzes to reap the benefits of what's out there. 

3. Make time for face-to-face interactions.

It's hard to go it alone, so if you want to help your connections, let them pick your brain. Coworking spaces are a great avenue for helping others. Take The Riveter and The Wing, for instance. Both endeavors promote innovative coworking spaces designed specifically for women. From providing mothers' rooms to hosting special networking events, The Riveter removes workspace logistical barriers that sometimes make launching new ideas tougher for women. Making yourself available at these coworking spaces can be a big service to other women. 

To be sure, just working in the same building with access to one another can help female entrepreneurs make good decisions, take calculated risks and meet like-minded professionals.

4. Add yourself to a woman's "board."

The more individuals they know, the higher their chances of building great boards of directors, or getting named to one. California passed Senate Bill 826 requiring every public company in the state to have at least one woman on its board of directors by December 2019 or face a hefty monetary penalty. 

Speaking of boards, I have one for my professional and personal life. Who comprises the latter group? Women, men, guides, mentors, co-workers, employees, bosses … you name it. I met many of my personal board members at our organization's events, activities and initiatives, such as the intimate 12- to 15-person women trailblazers dinners we hold. The overall effect of a meal and networking results in a psychologically safe space where women can open up about their real issues working as leaders at small and medium businesses. 

5. Open access to funding sources.

There's been a lot said about the difficulties that women face in securing funding. Helping women fund their businesses can be one of the most impactful ways to assist them in getting a business off the ground. Our own Salesforce Ventures Impact Fund helps women and underrepresented minorities gain access to startup financing in the areas of workplace development, equality, sustainability and the social sector. Yet we're certainly not the only business or charity designed to funnel money to women with entrepreneurial aspirations. As time goes on, more female venture capitalists are rising through the ranks and motivating other women to dream big. 

Women will continue to rise and change the face of our economic marketplace. In deference to International Women's Day, give a nod to yourself and the other female entrepreneurs in your sphere of influence. We've already changed history, so let's work together and commit to bringing up the next generation of female leaders to accomplish more amazing feats.

Image Credit: Kritchanut / Getty Images
Marie Rosecrans
Marie Rosecrans Member
As senior vice president of SMB marketing at Salesforce, Marie Rosecrans focuses on empowering small and medium businesses with the tools and resources they need to grow. Before joining Salesforce in 2008, she held positions in customer support, professional services, product marketing, and program management at Oracle, Peoplesoft, Evolve, and Primavera. Marie lives in the San Francisco Bay area and enjoys hiking and traveling with her husband and two teenagers.