Coco Chanel, Marie Marvingt, Melanie Perkins, Elizabeth Arden… Who are these names? Why are they important? They are the first, successful women entrepreneurs. During the period they lived, they took incredible risks and founded their own companies in different fields. So, what is this female entrepreneurship? Female entrepreneurs are women who organize and manage an enterprise, especially a business. (According to Wikipedia)
In order to understand how female entrepreneurship began, let’s take a look at its history;
To begin with, the whole story start in 1739, Eliza Lucas Pinckney took over her family’s plantations in South Carolina when she was 16 years old. Just like Eliza, there were some people who manage small businesses but they did not recognize themselves as an entrepreneur because their aims were not to operate a business. They were just struggling with poverty and were trying to earn money for their children because this was their domestic responsibility. Black women faced more barriers than white women such as lower income, racial discrimination, and inadequate networks because of their skin colour.
In the 20th century, with the rise of feminism, female ones began to be accepted as entrepreneurs, and also they began to show themselves in the social, political, and business movements. A great example of it is Coco Chanel who is the only fashion designer whose name is mentioned in the list of “Time: The 100 Most Important People of the Century”, she is the founder of Chanel. As well as women gained their right to vote in the 1920s and 1930s and it took them out of the traditional roles. As society progressed, female entrepreneurs became more influential. With the boom of the textile industry and the development of the railroad and telegraph system, women such as Madame C. J. Walker who is the first Black woman millionaire in America with her line of hair care products took advantage of the changing times. She provided many work opportunities to many women.
After all these improvements which gave women advantages, World War II showed up. Because of the war, men were forced to quit their job and join it. Therefore, women took over their spouse’s jobs, while others started businesses of their own. It can be said that female entrepreneurship boomed with many women starting home-based businesses, many of which also aided the war effort. For example, we can see that Estée Lauder was one of the wonderful women of this era. She worked on an idea about beauty products and launched her business in 1946. When the war ended, women did not leave their workplaces, they did not lose their motivations and they maintained their place in the business world.
Business and Professional Women’s Foundation (BPW) also known National Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs is an organization that helps working women develop their businesses and policies. During WWII, it supported women and provided them with a fund.
Around the 1960s and 70s, traditional female principles started to be broken and they converted to feminist principles. Many magazines were published, and society’s norms were forced to change. Women stopped being only mothers or wives, they accepted themselves to society as a part of the working world. With this approach, divorce rates rose and women began to learn to manage their life without needing a husband, a father, or a male one.
In the 1980s and 1990s, almost 22% of women had their own businesses. Women’s breakthroughs were normalizing for many aspects of society. There were numerous organizations that helped the women’s movement and business. The National Association of Women Business Owners struck down laws that required married women to acquire their husband’s signatures for all loans. They were now completely independent. But still, despite all the improvements, male entrepreneurs were a few steps ahead of female counterparts.
After 1990, the unbelievable rise of the internet and technology made most things more possible and accessible for women. Technology allowed women to receive their education, to realize the unseeing possibilities, and to answer their questions. Thereby, women’s businesses become much stronger and more visible.
Today more than 12.3 million U.S. businesses are owned by women employing nearly 10 million people and generating $1.8 trillion in sales. (According to the NAWBO) It’s still rising steadily. However, women are still exposed to their traditional gender roles and that causes women to face challenges and problems in the business world that men don’t have to deal with. Compared to men, it has been difficult all the time for women to achieve something, including entrepreneurship.
But women have never given up. Because they know that they can overcome every challenge they face and achieve anything they want. I would like to end my article with a saying of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
“Everything we see in the world is the creative work of women.”