Last month I had the honor of being installed as the national chair of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) during our annual conference in Washington, DC, where we celebrated the 35th anniversary of the organization.
Call it a coincidence if you’d like, but as NAWBO stands at this milestone juncture in our own history, the women’s entrepreneurial community is positioned more than ever to play a leading role in determining the direction of our nation as it too stands at a crossroads economically, politically and socially. We are primed to be leaders in job creation, to add an organized and powerful voice to public policy discussions, to claim more seats as elected representatives and to strengthen the social fabric that provides support and opportunity for so many.
A recent study by the Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute, for example, says that women business owners will create up to 5.5 million new jobs across the U.S. by 2018. That’s more than half the total of new small-business jobs expected to be created during that time, and about a third of the total new jobs anticipated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
During the last three months, NAWBO leadership has met personally with SBA Administrator Karen Mills to provide feedback about the impact of the agency’s programs to create jobs and to open the capital markets. While we applaud the attempts to unfreeze credit, one of our messages has been that “access to capital” doesn’t always mean more loans’ we also equate access to capital with “access to opportunity” that results in more top-line sales.
Two avenues of this type of opportunity are access to federal contracts and access to global markets. We’ve met personally with Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and her staff about both of those areas. As a result of our meetings, on May 25, Sen. Snowe, along with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced the Fairness in Women-Owned Small Business Contracting Act of 2010. It is designed to address specific limitations of the federal governmentâ€™s set aside program for women business owners.
And in late June, Quantum Leaps, NAWBO and WBENC jointly presented the Roadmap 2020 report at WBENC’s 11th annual women’s conference before 2,500 corporations and women business owners. Roadmap 2020 is a detailed plan for how women’s businesses will drive economic growth and create jobs during the next 10 years. Importantly, it outlines the path for doing so. Roadmap 2020 recommends nothing less than a paradigm shift in women’s business development from early entrepreneurial education to policy support to capital availability all designed to enable the creation of at least 5 million new jobs.
As I said in my installation remarks, “Our time is now, but our focus is future.”
NAWBO’s founding president, Susan Hager, once said: “Get a seat at the table, or build your own table” and make sure to include other women at that table.” Throughout NAWBO’s 35-year journey, our leaders have heeded that advice. NAWBO’s global reach now extends to 60 countries on five continents with 80 chapters nationwide each adding a new leaf to Hager’s proverbial table. And with each new leaf, NAWBO increases its opportunity to shape the women’s entrepreneurial community.
Now, as I begin my term as National Chair of NAWBO, I’d like to ask each of the women business owners in Kansas City who are not yet NAWBO members, to take their seat at that ever-growing table and to help us with our important work to grow women-owned businesses. Visit www.nawbo.org, click Join Now, and select the Kansas City chapter. We’re warming up a chair for you!