[Homestead] Women Employers employ 10,600,000 people

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Thu Sep 16 15:47:22 EDT 2004


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SEPTEMBER 15, 2004 • Editions: N. America <javascript://> | Europe 
<javascript://> | Asia <javascript://> | Edition Preference <javascript://>
THE PROFESSOR'S STUDY
By Norean R. Sharpe

The New Mothers of Invention
Statistics leave little doubt that female entrepreneurs still face 
formidable obstacles. That's the bad news. The glad tidings are that 
they are overcoming them as never before

By Norean R. Sharpe
Norean R. Sharpe

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It's a little known fact that the originator of one of the world's most 
popular board games was a woman. According to government records, Lizzie 
McGee of Maryland applied for a patent on "The Landlord's Game," which 
bears a striking resemblance to what we now know as Monopoly.


However, it was another individual, Charles Darrow of Atlantic City, 
N.J., who sold the game rights to Parker Brothers in 1935, more than a 
decade later. In fact, a records search reveals that Parker Brothers 
actually honored two patents when they registered the board game, one of 
them McGee's. While Darrow continued to earn commissions on each game 
sold, McGee was bought out for a paltry sum -- and her name and 
contribution were forgotten.

Perhaps the mismatch between reality and published (or marketed) history 
should not be surprising, given that women were not permitted to obtain 
patents for many centuries. They resorted to using their husband's 
names, hiding behind their initials, or simply abandoning their 
inventions. Certainly, the inability of married women to control 
property, money, and investments inhibited them from starting businesses.

REDRESS FOR SUCCESS. J.E. Bedi researched female innovators for the 
Lemelson Center at The Smithsonian Institution, and what she found is 
summarized in her eye-opening paper, /Exploring the History of Women 
Inventors/. According to Bedi, during the 20th century, women patented 
an ice-cream freezer, a transmitter for torpedoes, a feeding device for 
amputees, and Kevlar, which is used in bullet proof vests. Can our 
children name any of these women? Are their contributions taught in 
schools?

Today, women have their names on approximately 10% of all patents -- a 
tenfold increase over 1910 (when less than 1% of all patents were by 
women). Despite this increase, the gender gap in entrepreneurship 
continues to widen. In 2003, two men were involved in entrepreneurial 
activities for every woman, according to the research by Global 
Entrepreneurship Monitor <http://www.gemconsortium.org/> (GEM).

Despite this gender gap, entrepreneurial activity among women continues 
to grow. The number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. has increased 
by 14% in the last five years, according to the Center for Women's 
Business Research <http://www.nfwbo.org/> (CWBR). Today, nearly half of 
all privately held businesses in the U.S. are women-owned.

Consider that there are currently 10.6 million privately held 
women-owned firms in the U.S., and that they generate $2.5 trillion in 
sales and employ 19 million people. Between 1997 and 2004, the growth in 
the number of these women-owned firms was over 17%, while their combined 
workforce expanded by 24% and revenues grew 40%. Although on a statewide 
basis California, Texas, and Florida top the list for women-ownership in 
2004, other regions of the country are catching up.

STATE OF CHANGE. The 10 fastest-growing states for women-owned outfits 
are: *1)* Utah; *2)* Arizona; *3)* Nevada; *4)* Idaho; *5)* Kentucky and 
New Mexico (tied); *7)* South Carolina; *8)* North Carolina; *9)* 
Arkansas; and *10)* Oregon. While these states may be seeing an 
explosion of sorts in women entrepreneurship, women continue to face 
challenges in these areas of the country. Look harder at the rankings, 
and only two of those states -- Arizona and North Carolina -- also 
appear in 2004's top 15 states for women-ownership. In those two states, 
not only is the number of women-owned businesses at an all-time high, 
but the growth rate also is impressive: approximately 30% growth in each 
instance.

If only family businesses are examined, an interesting picture emerges. 
Women-owned family businesses are more than twice as likely to employ 
women family members full-time; are more likely to choose a female as a 
successor chief executive; and are more likely to achieve a greater 
gender balance in the composition of their boards of directors. These 
are the findings of the Center for Women's Leadership (CWL) at Babson 
College in 2003.

Clearly, today's female business owners are a positive influence on 
future women entrepreneurs. The CWL study also found that women-owned 
family firms are more than six times as likely to have a woman CEO as 
men-owned firms. Men, it seems, remain reluctant to put women in charge.

Babson College, where I teach, is a leader in entrepreneurial education, 
is one school that places emphasis on training future entrepreneurs and 
narrowing the gender gap. Take for example, Alison Barnard -- a recent 
graduate from Babson, who has spent the past year trying to start a 
women's retail store in downtown Boston.

HASSLES AND HISTORY. She came to Babson with the germ of an idea for an 
innovative retail company, but wasn't quite sure how to make it all 
happen. As Alison explained, "I have always had the desire to start my 
own company. Growing up, I watched my father start several companies, 
which inspired me to do the same." As seasoned business owners know, 
starting your own company is not without hard work. However, while 
excited to be pursuing her dream, Alison has found her experience both 
"frustrating and challenging."

"Many vendors informed me that they would not be opening any new 
accounts.... They want to keep solid relationships with current accounts 
that are potential competitors for my store," explained Alison. This is 
one student that is not giving up, however. Alison is currently scouting 
locations in and around Boston and continues to meet with realtors and 
building owners in commercial districts. Bearing in mind the sad fate of 
Lizzie McGee and her board game, let's hope that Ms. Barnard persists, 
creates a successful brand, and makes an enduring mark on retailing -- 
an outcome that would help to balance the scales of history.

(/*Editor's Note:* This is the first in an irregular series of 
commentaries, analysis, and research papers from academics and 
small-business researchers.)**/**) **
**

Norean Radke Sharpe is associate professor of statistics and operations 
research at Babson College.


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SEPTEMBER 15, 2004 • Editions: N. America <javascript://> | Europe 
<javascript://> | Asia <javascript://> | Edition Preference <javascript://>
THE PROFESSOR'S STUDY
By Norean R. Sharpe

The New Mothers of Invention
Statistics leave little doubt that female entrepreneurs still face 
formidable obstacles. That's the bad news. The glad tidings are that 
they are overcoming them as never before

By Norean R. Sharpe
Norean R. Sharpe

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Parker Hannifan's Well-Oiled Machine 
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It's a little known fact that the originator of one of the world's most 
popular board games was a woman. According to government records, Lizzie 
McGee of Maryland applied for a patent on "The Landlord's Game," which 
bears a striking resemblance to what we now know as Monopoly.


However, it was another individual, Charles Darrow of Atlantic City, 
N.J., who sold the game rights to Parker Brothers in 1935, more than a 
decade later. In fact, a records search reveals that Parker Brothers 
actually honored two patents when they registered the board game, one of 
them McGee's. While Darrow continued to earn commissions on each game 
sold, McGee was bought out for a paltry sum -- and her name and 
contribution were forgotten.

Perhaps the mismatch between reality and published (or marketed) history 
should not be surprising, given that women were not permitted to obtain 
patents for many centuries. They resorted to using their husband's 
names, hiding behind their initials, or simply abandoning their 
inventions. Certainly, the inability of married women to control 
property, money, and investments inhibited them from starting businesses.

REDRESS FOR SUCCESS. J.E. Bedi researched female innovators for the 
Lemelson Center at The Smithsonian Institution, and what she found is 
summarized in her eye-opening paper, /Exploring the History of Women 
Inventors/. According to Bedi, during the 20th century, women patented 
an ice-cream freezer, a transmitter for torpedoes, a feeding device for 
amputees, and Kevlar, which is used in bullet proof vests. Can our 
children name any of these women? Are their contributions taught in 
schools?

Today, women have their names on approximately 10% of all patents -- a 
tenfold increase over 1910 (when less than 1% of all patents were by 
women). Despite this increase, the gender gap in entrepreneurship 
continues to widen. In 2003, two men were involved in entrepreneurial 
activities for every woman, according to the research by Global 
Entrepreneurship Monitor <http://www.gemconsortium.org/> (GEM).

Despite this gender gap, entrepreneurial activity among women continues 
to grow. The number of women-owned businesses in the U.S. has increased 
by 14% in the last five years, according to the Center for Women's 
Business Research <http://www.nfwbo.org/> (CWBR). Today, nearly half of 
all privately held businesses in the U.S. are women-owned.

Consider that there are currently 10.6 million privately held 
women-owned firms in the U.S., and that they generate $2.5 trillion in 
sales and employ 19 million people. Between 1997 and 2004, the growth in 
the number of these women-owned firms was over 17%, while their combined 
workforce expanded by 24% and revenues grew 40%. Although on a statewide 
basis California, Texas, and Florida top the list for women-ownership in 
2004, other regions of the country are catching up.

STATE OF CHANGE. The 10 fastest-growing states for women-owned outfits 
are: *1)* Utah; *2)* Arizona; *3)* Nevada; *4)* Idaho; *5)* Kentucky and 
New Mexico (tied); *7)* South Carolina; *8)* North Carolina; *9)* 
Arkansas; and *10)* Oregon. While these states may be seeing an 
explosion of sorts in women entrepreneurship, women continue to face 
challenges in these areas of the country. Look harder at the rankings, 
and only two of those states -- Arizona and North Carolina -- also 
appear in 2004's top 15 states for women-ownership. In those two states, 
not only is the number of women-owned businesses at an all-time high, 
but the growth rate also is impressive: approximately 30% growth in each 
instance.

If only family businesses are examined, an interesting picture emerges. 
Women-owned family businesses are more than twice as likely to employ 
women family members full-time; are more likely to choose a female as a 
successor chief executive; and are more likely to achieve a greater 
gender balance in the composition of their boards of directors. These 
are the findings of the Center for Women's Leadership (CWL) at Babson 
College in 2003.

Clearly, today's female business owners are a positive influence on 
future women entrepreneurs. The CWL study also found that women-owned 
family firms are more than six times as likely to have a woman CEO as 
men-owned firms. Men, it seems, remain reluctant to put women in charge.

Babson College, where I teach, is a leader in entrepreneurial education, 
is one school that places emphasis on training future entrepreneurs and 
narrowing the gender gap. Take for example, Alison Barnard -- a recent 
graduate from Babson, who has spent the past year trying to start a 
women's retail store in downtown Boston.

HASSLES AND HISTORY. She came to Babson with the germ of an idea for an 
innovative retail company, but wasn't quite sure how to make it all 
happen. As Alison explained, "I have always had the desire to start my 
own company. Growing up, I watched my father start several companies, 
which inspired me to do the same." As seasoned business owners know, 
starting your own company is not without hard work. However, while 
excited to be pursuing her dream, Alison has found her experience both 
"frustrating and challenging."

"Many vendors informed me that they would not be opening any new 
accounts.... They want to keep solid relationships with current accounts 
that are potential competitors for my store," explained Alison. This is 
one student that is not giving up, however. Alison is currently scouting 
locations in and around Boston and continues to meet with realtors and 
building owners in commercial districts. Bearing in mind the sad fate of 
Lizzie McGee and her board game, let's hope that Ms. Barnard persists, 
creates a successful brand, and makes an enduring mark on retailing -- 
an outcome that would help to balance the scales of history.

(/*Editor's Note:* This is the first in an irregular series of 
commentaries, analysis, and research papers from academics and 
small-business researchers.)**/**) **
**

Norean Radke Sharpe is associate professor of statistics and operations 
research at Babson College.


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