Women are on it! Let’s #GoBigNow in 2020

It started with a woman. A billionaire listened. 

When Cindy Robbins, the former Chief People Officer at Salesforce, brought the company’s potential pay gap issue to Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff’s attention in 2015, he listened. Robbins presented what she saw as a problem and persuaded Benioff to let her team conduct a pay audit to determine how skewed salaries were. The first internal salary assessment found 6% of the companies then 17,000 employees weren’t being paid enough and the company spent $3M on raises to correct it. Benioff agreed to conduct the audit annually and Salesforce now looks at everything from job groupings, location and bonuses to race, ethnicity and gender, As of today, the company has spent more than $10.3M to ensure equitable pay for its employees.

In a recent New York Times op-ed, Benioff challenges other corporate giants to dig in and do their part.

“Yes, profits are important, but so is society. And if our quest for greater profits leaves our world worse off than before, all we will have taught our children is the power of greed.”

Women are already on it.

We’re efficient and we move. We know one of the fastest ways to close the economic gender gap is through entrepreneurship. Women are starting businesses at a faster rate than ever before and own close to 13 million businesses in the U.S.

An expanding web of organizations are lifting women up and helping to level the playing field. Just last month, Melinda Gates announced her commitment of $1 billion to expanding women’s power and influence. The Wing is building a network of women-focused community workspaces, Tory Burch is leading the #EmbraceAmbition campaign, Chief is supporting women as they navigate the corporate ladder, Million Dollar Women is helping women to scale up their businesses, The Riveter is working to champion and elevate the conversation about diversity, equity and inclusion. Women think big. Women act big. And women entrepreneurs are ready to go big.

Million Dollar Women members and graduates and founder Julia Pimsleur at Bloomberg Summit

Cars, kitchens and coffee shops

Even though women are launching thousands of new businesses each year from their cars, kitchens and neighborhood coffee shops, their revenues are just 20% of the revenues of male-run businesses. Very few scale up. And the gap is even wider for women of color founders, who are making an average of $25,000 – $50,000 per year. Unequal access to capital is part of the problem. Right now one in 23 loan dollars goes to women entrepreneurs in the United States and less than 4% of venture capital is invested in women-run businesses. It’s not because women are less capable. It is because women have less business training, less access to role models, mentors and capital, and there are relatively few women entrepreneurs out there trying to raise money and scale up to one million and beyond.

This un-leveraged potential of women is something we can no longer afford. What if we fix it? Women would be creating more jobs, solving more challenges, building economic freedom for themselves and others, and serving as leaders and role models for the next generation.

By supporting women entrepreneurs and recognizing their value, we help women like Erin Carpenter, who took a risk and pursued a big idea. A former dancer who dyed her tights in her sink so they would match her skin color, Erin got fed up with “the white girl nude” in hosiery, and did something about it. She invented Nude Barre, a line of hosiery for women of all shapes and colors, and this spring Serena Williams invested in her company. Marci Lobel-Esrig, a former lawyer, started a company called Silver Bills to help children with aging parents manage their bills so they can continue to live independently. Both Erin and Marci benefited from recently created programs to help women entrepreneurs scale up their businesses.

Last year we were celebrating more than 100 women elected to Congress and the Senate combined. This year we are ushering in a new decade, and it will the #GoBigNow decade for women in business. By supporting, promoting and purchasing from women-owned businesses, we are fixing it. The economic pay gap needs to close. It is one of the final frontiers of feminism. If we can get this right, we will create future generations of business owners, wealth generation and leadership.

Robbins left the corporate world better than she found it. She also left Marc Benioff a better leader and man. After 13 years at Salesforce, she told Fortune she was “ready to take a pause, advise organizations and advocate for gender equality.”

If more women like Cindy, Erin, Marci, Melinda, Tory, and Serena and men like Marc Benioff continue to stand up, it will be big. We can do it. And we will.

Three things you can do today to help women entrepreneurs:

  1. Recommend and purchase products from female-owned businesses this holiday season.
  2. Mentor a woman through Million Dollar WomenScore, or any program that supports women in business.
  3. Make a donation to the Million Dollar Women Fund which provides scholarships to women of color entrepreneurs so they can access coaching, capital and mentorship.

Please forward this article to a woman entrepreneur. We have scholarships available now — go to Million Dollar Women Fund to learn more and apply.

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