Ladies, if we dare to call ourselves small business owners – or even better, entrepreneurs – then we need to do a better job about taking risks.
And that means showing up and building in person relationships at high level conferences and networking events. Yes, there are sacrifices. Yes, it compromises family time. Yes, you will have to say no to someone’s request. But I’m talking about changing the trajectory for women entrepreneurs by taking strategic risks and showing up. I think it’s worth it.
What got me so fired up? I was invited to attend an amazing industry conference last week. Leaders from associations, foundations, organizations, universities, Fortune 100 and small businesses were in attendance at this invite only event. I was blown away by the number of women who were NOT in the room – especially on the panelist and speakers side.
So, I checked with the conference organizers. They rattled off a list of women who were invited. But many declined - citing family or other responsibilities.
I wish I could say this was the first event that I have seen this pattern. It isn’t.
I’ve been to quite a few events where I am one of few women in the room. While this might be normal in some industries, I am generally at events that should attract women – entrepreneurs, business and association events. And far too often, I am only one of a few women who are hearing and participating in high level discussions that affect an ENTIRE industry – its current state and plans for improving the future.
OK I get it.
You’ve got to make sacrifices to attend events like this. I know this first hand. I had a 1 1/2 week lead time to get registered, find accommodations for myself, my 11 month old daughter, my mother, and a family friend (who hadn’t even been identified when I was invited) and arrange all of the other “stuff” that goes into a trip like this.
Oh and I still work full time.
Mind you, if it were just me, I would have hopped on Amtrak and found a cheap hotel room outside of the city proper. I would have spent 1/3 less money and time.
But nope, we hopped in the car after I got off work, picked everyone and their luggage up, juggled eating dinner on our laps, and drove 5 hours to the hotel. Oh and let’s not forget that I volunteered to pick up books for the conference organizers. Yup, you try driving around in a semi-gated community with amazing and beautiful homes (that all look the same) and have circular streets at 11pm when you are exhausted with a car full of people.
The clincher of the first night was the 2am party my daughter threw. Anyone who has a child who is an extrovert can feel my pain. She was just as happy as she could be – new surroundings to explore, new people, new things to see. Nope she didn’t cry about her routine being changed. She just wanted to stay up and see everything. At 2am in the morning.
I was exhausted the next day. And no, I didn’t attend the evening networking events. I felt it was only fair that I take responsibility of my daughter from my Mom and her godmother so they could rest. I was in a slight fog throughout the two days.
And I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I had two conversations – with women I might add - that I believe will launch my work to the next level. I didn’t even know to ask the question until I was attending this event and saw where the industry was heading. And I was in the right place to capitalize on the ideas and find partners who can help me build the next steps.
So please hear the focus of this story – I’m not saying we need to be superwomen and try to do everything. It’s impossible. But we do need to be strategic and take the risks to show up at the events that really push you to re-think, take in the large industry trends and engage with those you may not be comfortable with.
We are starting businesses at record numbers. But many women are not reaching the real income levels we could – and should – so that the business can run as a business…not needing us to do everything. Just think about it.
What are your thoughts?