Women in Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy, and Education (Why Us? Why Now?) By M. Allen, MBA
QBSC is rooted in three foundational pillars: Entrepreneurship, Philanthropy, and Education. As we wrap up women’s history month, let’s take a look at where we came from and where we are going in these three areas.
Sarah Breedlove, better known as Madam C. J. Walker, was an African-American entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist. She is widely recognized as the first female self-made millionaire in America, "the world's most successful female entrepreneur of her time," and one of the most successful African-American business owners ever. She made her fortune by developing and marketing a line of beauty and hair products for black women. At the time of her death, her networth was estimated at $600,000 ( $8 Million, today). In a business owners conference, she stood on the floor and spoke of how she came from the cotton fields, to the washroom, to the kitchen and then promoted herself to business owner. She let nothing stand in her way.
According to the 2016 Kauffman Index of Startup Activity, women make up 40 percent of new entrepreneurs in the United States. This is the highest percentage in over two decades. In the corporate world, there are still strides to be made to close the gender gap. This is certainly not the case in entrepreneurship. In fact, the entrepreneurship sphere is the one place where the gender gap is closed, internationally. Women are either as likely or more likely to start a business than men. In addition, companies headed by women perform twice as well as those headed by men. In the U.S. alone, women own 11.3 million businesses. Economically speaking, the impact of increased female entrepreneurship is significant and possesses the potential to continue to be a major driver of economic growth.
Because we are nurturers by nature, it is no surprise that we excel in philanthropic efforts. The word philanthropy dates back to the ancient Greeks who discussed their idea of philanthropia in fifth century BC. The word philanthropy means ‘the love of humanity’. Egyptian sacred writings, such as The Book of the Dead, make it clear that successful passage to the afterlife depended on a lifetime record of benevolent acts towards the suffering. In the bible, Matthew 25:40 says “ And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Simply put, you are rewarded for what you’ve done for those in need. Mother Teresa chose to serve the poorest of the poor and to live among them and like them. She saw beauty in every human being and aimed to make the lives and deaths of those around her more peaceful and full of love.
Fast forward to Oprah Winfrey. She has been dubbed the greatest black philanthropist in American history! The bulk of her giving has gone to educational causes, including charter schools, programs that support African-American students, and the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa.
You probably don’t expect to see the queen of all queens: Cleopatra, in this section. We often hear of her beauty, sex appeal, and strict leadership. I believe, if she were a man, her intellect wouldn’t have been overshadowed by her sex appeal as a political weapon. How is this for education: According to History.com, she spoke as many as a dozen languages and was educated in mathematics, philosophy, oratory and astronomy, and Egyptian sources later described her as a ruler “who elevated the ranks of scholars and enjoyed their company.”
Historically, in the US and abroad, education (and especially higher education) was designated for men. Since the 1800s women's positions and opportunities in the educational field have increased. As far back as the 1980’s, women began to surpass men in number of undergraduate degrees conferred in the United States. The number has continued to increase and now, we have surpassed men in each category (including master's, and doctoral) have been conferred on women in the U.S.
Although women in the US tend to have higher education than men, this is not quite the case globally. In 2015, former FLOTUS Mrs. Michelle Obama unveiled “Let Girls Learn," a new U.S. initiative to support community-focused girls' education across the globe. At the White House launch, Mrs. Obama said, “Girls are our change-makers -- our future doctors and teachers and entrepreneurs. They’re our dreamers and our visionaries who could change the world as we know it.” The project would draw on 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers to support hundreds of new community projects that help girls go to school and stay in school.
Whether you believe in a religious or evolutionary birth of the female species, our beginning is nothing short of miraculous and wonderful. We are leaders by nature and Queen’s by birthright. Going back to my original questions: Why us? Why now? To that I say, why the hell not? And why did it take so long? In her song “Run the World (Girls)”, Beyonce said “we're smart enough/To make these millions/Strong enough to bare the children/Then get back to business” and “My persuasion can build a nation/Endless power, with our love we can devour”. We sometimes don’t give ourselves enough credit and doubt our abilities. Why us and Why now? Because we were built for this! Men have always had the advantage and we've consistently shown that we can not only keep up, but surpass. If history hasn't taught us anything, it has sure taught us that they are no barriers that we cannot break through.