Do women entrepreneurs still face greater obstacles than their male counterparts?
By Jim Medina
From 1987 to 1996, the number of Hispanic women-owned companies grew 205.6 percent nationwide, and their annual sales increased to $67.3 billion, according to the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO).
Those companies numbered more than 382,000 and employed 671,200 people in 1996. In comparison, there were 125,100 such companies employing 114,400 people in 1987, with $10.6 billion in annual sales. (The figures are estimates based on the latest available Census data.)
Most of the businesses are concentrated in 10 states: California, Florida, Texas, New York, New Mexico, Illinois, New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, and Virginia, according to NFWBO, a nonprofit research organization in Washington, D.C.
Hispanic women who run their own companies attribute the increase in their ranks to the fact that more women today are willing to take chances professionally. But they note that men still hold most top executive positions.
Fifty-three companies on the HISPANIC BUSINESS 500 are owned by Hispanic women. Number 15 is McBride and Associates, an information technology company based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Founder and chief executive officer Teresa McBride says she has seen an increase not just in the number of Hispanic women CEOs, but of Hispanics in general in the business world.
Still, many individuals are inclined to "put others in a box" – to categorize them by age, ethnicity, and gender, she says, adding that such attitudes stem from prejudgments or prejudice.
"Business is a battle. It's a battle to win the game," Ms. McBride says. "Is it harder for women? I believe it still is.
"I think we need to evolve to the kind of work environment … where people look at each other as individuals with an open mind, not based on their sex, age, race, or opinions," says Ms. McBride, who recently won the Entrepreneur of the Year Award from a coalition of the National Foundation of Women Legislatures Inc., Business Women's Network, and the Small Business Administration Office of Women Business Ownership.
In Mira Loma, California, Anna Aguiar is president and chief executive officer of Public Inc., a multifaceted trucking company that generates about $28 million in gross revenues per year. She says her company, number 209 on the HISPANIC BUSINESS 500, is in the "logistics industry," which is dominated by men, with few Hispanics.
"Believe it or not, there are a lot of women drivers. They are behind doors," Ms. Aguiar says. "It's something that's been kept away from us, but we've done the job."
She admits there have been obstacles at times. "I don't pay attention," she says defiantly. "I keep going." She points out that being a woman may actually be an advantage initially because it gets her foot in the door, but once inside she has to know what she's doing.
"I know my limitations, and I can see if it's not my place in there," she says, referring to business meetings. "[So] I bring my husband." Ms. Aguiar adds that it's fine with her if a client wants to deal with a man – either way, she's going to cash the client's check.
Her husband, Dennis Woods, is the company's financial adviser. "He has all the degrees," she says, while she's learned the business through work.
"It's easy for me," Ms. Aguiar says. "I love to work. I love challenges. If I want an account, I go for it. [They] don't give it to me because I'm a woman, or because I'm a minority, but because I can get it done."
Ms. Aguiar advises Hispanic women aspiring to run their own companies to "just go for it. If you really believe it, don't give up. Be persistent."
Similarly, Ms. McBride tells Hispanic women to pursue "your goal, your idea. If it's somebody else's, you're more likely to throw in the towel when it gets tough. And it always gets tough."
Women Entrepreneurs: Rising Numbers, Growing Revenues
-- In 1999, there were 9.1 million women-owned businesses in the United States, employing more than 27.5 million people and generating over $3.6 trillion in sales.
-- Between 1987 and 1999, the number of women-owned firms increased by 103 percent nationwide, employment by those firms increased by 320 percent, and their sales grew by 436 percent.
-- Among U.S. women-owned businesses in 1996, one in eight was owned by a woman of color. These 1,067,000 minority women-owned firms employed nearly 1.7 million people and generated $184.2 billion in sales.
-- As of 1999, women-owned firms accounted for 38 percent of all firms in the United States.
Source: The National Foundation for Women Business Owners
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