If news headlines are indicative of the state of women’s entrepreneurship, women-owned businesses are on the rise and thriving. According to a recent Kauffman Index Report, more women are opting out of corporate jobs to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. In the past 10 years, the number of women-owned firms increased by 45 percent, and women business owners make up 40 percent of new business licenses issued in the U.S. A survey of working women revealed that 83 percent of women desire to leave their jobs to start businesses.
Why are women leaving successful corporate careers to become entrepreneurs? We spoke with two women who shared why they made the transition and if they have plans to return.
“Having my own business enables me to be as creative as I want to be and it provides me the freedom and flexibility that I value at this stage in my life,” says Anita DeMyers, a former executive at The Coca-Cola Company. Nearly two years ago, DeMyers left a high-profile leadership position to start her own consulting firm. As president of Pinnacle Workplace Solutions, LLC, she consults clients on employee and labor relations, executive coaching and HR policy.
DeMyers says she enjoys consulting because it enables her to continue the work that she is passionate about and make an impact with her clients who value her expertise. When asked if she is interested in returning to corporate, her answer was clear, “I don’t have any interest in returning to a corporate job, and I have no regrets about my decision to leave. After spending 33 years at a global corporation, I just felt it was time to make that transition. I have had an amazing career and feel strongly that God has ordered my steps in career moves. So I’m faithful that this new endeavor is the right direction for me at this time in my life.”
As a start-up, DeMyers says she measures her success by learning and growing as a business owner. She says that being able to balance her work with other interests, which include global travel and spending time with family is important to her.
Black women are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs in the U.S. A higher percentage of women of color have walked away from corporate careers after having unsatisfying experiences in corporate America. Many progressive black women found it creatively constricting and lacking in career mobility with a very low-hanging glass ceiling or the invisible barrier that keeps highachieving women from being promoted to top-level corporate positions. Black women remain the most underrepresented demographic among corporate senior executives, and there are no black women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.
Corporate loss of women executives in the workforce is the U.S. economy’s gain. Women-owned businesses earned $1.8 trillion in revenue, over $386 billion attributed to minority-owned women businesses. Two-thirds of the almost 5 million jobs created in the past five years, and the reduced unemployment rate, is largely attributed to women.
Women start businesses for a variety of reasons: they find it difficult to balance work-life issues and need more flexibility than a job provides; others follow their passion and seek ways to be more creative and find business ownership less restrictive; and many women face the reality of the glass ceiling. But the most prevalent reason why women start businesses is the desire to build something of their own and not have limitations on their earnings. The average salary of women in management positions is just under $200,000, but the average revenue of female businesses is three times that amount.
Christine McCarey, founder and CEO, ImpactDEI, LLC, spent most of her corporate career as a corporate legal counsel in various industries, most recently at RetailMeNot, Inc. She launched her management consulting firm a year ago and shared her three reasons for doing so: to practice servant leadership, to be the change and to make an impact in the lives of others.
“Unfortunately, I have never worked for a CEO who identifies as a woman, so now I do! Increasingly, women and those from underrepresented groups start their own businesses, and businesses need access, capital (financial and human) and community. Folks with privilege need to shoulder more of the burden faced by these entrepreneurs. Therefore, I started my business, to help others to realize their dreams of building successful businesses,” says McCarey.
Running your own business can be a liberating experience. It does not box you into one role or function and enables you to diversify your interests and pursue multiple passions. McCarey’s passion is helping others, but she sees her work with corporate clients as a valuable part of the diversity and inclusion equation. She helps brands to embed diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) into their DNA through workforce and workplace solutions. Creating a diverse and inclusive corporate culture opens doors to opportunities for diverse businesses.
When asked if she has any interest in returning to a corporate position, she replies, “If a company has a purpose that positively serves DEI, and if its an executive DEI position reporting to the CEO and be empowered to create impact, then, yes, I would consider returning to the corporate world. But that’s a lot of “ifs,” and I have never been happier or better at what I do than right now. I’m enjoying creating positive impact and community building.”
Entrepreneurship is a powerful way for women to build wealth and bolster the economic development of communities. Corporations like MGM Resorts, UPS, Wells Fargo, MetLife and Intel see the value that women businesses contribute to their supply chain and they have invested in programs to support the growth and development of this key demographic. Trends indicate that more women will continue to abandon their hopes of working their way up the corporate ladder and opt to create their own leadership opportunities in innovative and creative ways without constraints.