Women’s educational gains have been phenomenal over the past few decades, with Pew Research reporting that young women are more likely than men to be enrolled in college and (in the 25+ age group) are more likely to have a four-year college degree. They may be outpacing men at college, but statistics still indicate that there is a sizable gap in terms of female leadership. Women represent around 58% of the workforce in the US; yet only 35% of senior leadership positions. The reasons for this are manifold and include unconscious biases about women’s abilities, as well as damaging stereotypes and expectations. The issue of leadership is a vicious circle because women lack role models to look up to and emulate. The good news is that there are women who are taking a stand and forging new paths so that other women can find their way to success.
Whitney Wolfe Herd, Bumble Founder and CEO: Spreading the Love… and Lessons in Leadership
When Whitney Wolfe founded Bumble almost 10 years ago, it was with one shining aim in mind—to help all the smart, wonderful women in her life make the first move in the dating game—and send the first message. She found it ridiculous, she said, that despite all the advances women had made in the workplace, they were forced to engage in outdated gender dynamics of dating and romance. Today, Bumble has a community of over 100 million people, spread about across six continents. However, her mission to help women extends to more than just helping them find true love. Wolfe has embraced a host of initiatives aimed at empowering women. For instance, she launched the Bumble Bizz Women in Business Fund, which provides financial assistance to businesses led by women. She has also pledged the donation of 20% of her equity in Bumble to women’s causes. She has also put her money where her mouth is. Bumble’s board comprises 73% women, a stark contrast to many organizations, where leadership is predominantly in male hands.
Sara Blakely, Spanx Founder: Firming Up Bodies, Strengthening Minds
Sara Blakely is well known for having found body slimming undergarment company, Spanx and she made history by becoming the world’s youngest female self-made billionaire in 2012. Sara’s story is no less than inspirational for other female entrepreneurs, as she took a big leap in faith when she started her business with minimal savings and no prior experience in the industry. The one piece of advice she frequently shares is not to be afraid of failure, since she herself failed many times before achieving the success she currently enjoys. Sara is wholeheartedly committed to helping other women start businesses. Her foundation. The Sara Blakely Foundation, supports women and helps them soar through education, entrepreneurship, and the arts. It also helps women start businesses, by providing them with a host of resources, guidance, and mentorship. Sara, who started her own business with just $5,000, knows that women opening companies are sometimes lost with respect to everything from choosing the right legal structure to opening an LLC bank account. There are a host of obligations that entrepreneurs need to fulfill, as well as necessary documentation to complete—including articles of organization and EIN confirmation letters. These requirements can seem tricky at first, but they can easily be explained so that entrepreneurs can tick all the legal boxes they need to launch a successful business.
Tory Burch, Founder of Her Eponymous Brand: A Passion for Fashion and Mentorship
Tory Burch is the founder, Executive Chairman, and Chief Creative Officer of the well-known fashion branch of the same name. It currently has an estimated sales value of $1.5 billion, and Burch’s own net worth stands at around $850 million! Burch is as much into altruism, mentorship, and inspiration as she is passionate about fashion, and equality for women is a cause that is particularly dear to her heart. Her Tory Burch Foundation empowers women and women entrepreneurs by providing them with access to education, digital resources, and capital. The foundation also has a Women of Color Grant Program, which grants 75 women of color grants of between $10,000 and $20,000 and access to education, mentorship, and skills needed to obtain access to capital.
Women may be shining at college, but once they graduate, the outlook isn’t always so bright. It has been shown, for instance, that women still hold a relatively small percentage of leadership positions in companies, and factors such as the gender pay gap are making it harder for women to enter the world of entrepreneurship. Luckily, other women have walked the same paths before them, and are investing in giving back to those who need a push in terms of knowledge, resources, or capital. They also have many vital lessons to share, including the usefulness of taking reasoned risks and chasing one’s dreams.