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Why Supporting Women in Business Is Essential for Innovation

Times are changing, and as awareness grows relating to the intersection of gender and business, new ideas are coming to light. 

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As one of the few female co-owned non-alcoholic breweries in the United States, I can’t help noticing that there are too few women-owned breweries and female CEOs in the country. What makes this even more interesting is that women were in charge of fermentation and brewing during the time of the ancient Egyptians. For decades, women ran the beer industry. Yet, in current times in the United States, only 7.5 percent of brewers are female and 2 percent of breweries are owned by women. So why is there such a disparity in the beer industry?

Some scholars on this subject believe the shift was due to an association during the 16th century by a fundamentalist religious movement that accused female brewers of being witches. Whatever the reason for the decline, I believe there are things we can all do to promote and support women-led businesses.

Today, most top beer companies have a male CEO and a majority have an all-male board of directors. Researchers at Stanford University have found that only 17 percent of craft breweries have a female CEO and only 4 percent of those employ a female brewmaster.

Now, times are changing, and as awareness grows relating to the intersection of gender and business, new ideas are coming to light. But is change happening too slowly? What can we do to speed this up?

Women are pioneers not only in craft beer, but also in many other industries of business. While it is true that the different experiences and backgrounds that women and men have undoubtedly affect business approaches, this is actually a good thing. A business with diverse perspectives is an innovative business that can actually push the boundaries of industries.

Having a gender-diverse business yields better consumer insight, and in turn, a more profitable business. Back in 2015, McKinsey & Company found businesses that were more gender-diverse were likely to outperform approximately 15 percent above the industry median. Years later in 2020, they found that the percentage had increased to 25 percent.

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Here are some steps and measures business leaders and entrepreneurs can better support gender equality in business:

• Support women-owned businesses. This means investing in gender parity, innovation, overall economic growth and female economic empowerment. This is not only an economically sound choice but also a socially responsible one.

• Support legislature that supports families with flexible workdays and helps women re-enter the workforce if they have taken time off to raise children.

• Support women-led angel investment and venture capital groups that fund women-owned businesses. Despite generating $1.3 trillion in revenue, women-owned businesses still face challenges of getting fair access to venture capital. Even though female entrepreneurs tend to ask for $35,000 less in business financing than men, women are usually offered much smaller loans at drastically higher interest rates.

• Support organizations that support women in business. For instance, The Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and WEConnect International have joined forces to start The Women Owned initiative. This initiative is dedicated to supporting and advancing women-owned businesses in the U.S. and across the globe.

• Champion empowerment wherever you can. For instance, in 2011, Walmart launched its Women’s Economic Empowerment program. This program aimed to leverage Walmart’s influence to help increase women’s economic mobility. Similar actions have been taken by other retailers, including Whole Foods Market, Target, Wegmans and Ahold Delhaize.

• Reevaluate your infrastructure and rebuild to allow for more diverse teams that accurately represent society. It’s equally important that companies expand their understanding of diversity beyond race, religion and gender by including homelife. Companies can start by viewing and supporting societies as family units rather than as individual contributors.

If you are in management, the question on your mind shouldn’t be why should there be more women in leadership positions, but rather how can your organization support women in leadership positions and become more innovative and competitive because of it.

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