As of 2019, there are 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States, generating $1.8 trillion each year, according to Fundera. In fact, Fundera reports that 40% of all U.S. businesses are owned by women. In spite of this, women receive 7% of venture capital funding for their startups.
Despite the fact that women around the world are embracing entrepreneurship and becoming integral contributors to their countries’ economies, they are frequently overlooked in the business world. That’s why Women’s Entrepreneurship Day exists — to celebrate and empower female business leaders and entrepeneurs all around the world.
Women’s Entrepreneurship Day is celebrated on November 19th every year. In 2019, that falls on a Tuesday.
Author, humanitarian and entrepreneur Wendy Diamond established Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) and created the associated organization, Women’s Entrepreneurship Day Organization (WEDO), after a trip to Honduras, during which she volunteered with the Adelante Foundation. Diamond was inspired to pioneer a movement to “empower women in business to alleviate poverty,” according to WEDO.
“Even before my experience in Honduras, I understood that women worldwide have historically been underpaid, undervalued, underrepresented, underfunded, and underestimated…and still are,” Diamond wrote in Fortune. “I knew I had to play a role in trying to improve this situation.”
The first Women’s Entrepreneurship Day even took place on November 19, 2014, at the United Nations in New York, featuring speakers, discussions and awards. The program was broadcast to 114 countries. Loreen Arbus, Sarah Obama, the grandmother of Barack Obama, and Lynn Tilton all received awards in recognition for their philanthropic, educational and humanitarian work.
Today, the organization and Day continue to celebrate women in business and encourage women and girls to participate in their economies through leadership and entrepreneurship. WED continues to take place at the United Nations and in 144 countries, as well as 65 higher education institutions around the world.
You don’t have to participate in a WEDO-sponsored event in order to celebrate Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (although if it’s accessible to you, go for it!). Here are some ways to participate in this important, volunteer-driven holiday.
One of the best ways to encourage female empowerment and entrepreneurship is by teaching girls and young women early on what they can do. Set up events at local schools, libraries or community centers to teach girls about becoming business owners. You might have a small business owner in your community come speak — or better yet, bring in several speakers in a variety of industries to show students the different possibilities and interests they can explore. Interactive activities and discussions can also help engage students.
Do you have a thriving community of women business leaders in your community? Host a get-together to share stories of successes, failures, perseverance and more. It can be on the more formal side, with speakers and an audience, or an informal party to meet, connect and network with likeminded women who have the shared experience of starting their own business.
The next generation of female entrepreneurs is out there, but they may need some guidance to help them embrace and realize their ideas — just as you may have, too. Mentoring can help build confidence and empower women to become leaders in the business world and more. You could informally mentor a young woman in your community, at your business or elsewhere — even penpaling can drive a successful mentoring relationship — or join a more formal mentoring program. If one doesn’t yet exist in your area, why not start one — and help build and foster other mentoring relationships?
This is a simple yet effective way of sharing the message of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day and educating your friends and connections about women in business. Many may not even be aware that the holiday exists (it’s not government-sponsored), so let them know. You might, for example, share stories of successful entrepreneurs like Oprah Winfrey or less-famous entrepeneurs who inspire you personally. You could also share statistics about women’s entrepreneurship.
Keep in mind that WEDO also has a #ChooseWOMEN initiative, encouraging consumers to support businesses owned by women on the Wednesday following Thanksgiving. You can share this message with the hashtag above and visit ChooseWOMEN.org to find a directory of women-owned businesses around the world and learn more about the movement.
There are many international, national and local organizations that support women entrepreneurs, such as the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO). While every organization is different, many offer resources, events such as conferences, networking opportunities and more to their members. Some are dedicated to female business owners in specific niches and industries, while others are more general. (NAWBO offers a great list to help you find the right one for you.)
Whether it’s someone you know or a famous icon of entrepeneurship like Arianna Huffington, why not reach out to a business founder or owner you respect on Women’s Entrepeneurship Day? You might ask for advice — or you could just thank her for helping you in your own journey. She’s probably not aware that she motivated you in however large or small a way, and your appreciation will likely mean a lot to her.
This may be a tough one, but if you’ve been toying with the idea of starting your business, now is the perfect time to get it going. You’re not going to launch your business overnight, of course, but take one small yet significant step to get the ball rolling. Reach out to that contact or investor to schedule a meeting. Work on your business plan. Talk to that friend with whom you once discussed the idea of partnering to make your great idea a reality — and decide that this time, you’re really going to do it (and then actually do it!).