The Phoenix Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners recently gathered with local women business leaders at its monthly breakfast to celebrate the anniversary of the Women’s Business Ownership Act, H.R 5050.
Thirty years ago, the Women’s Business Ownership Act was passed by congress, which helped create a whole new generation of women business owners.
The Women’s Business Ownership Act allowed women to secure their own financing, gave them recognition as entrepreneurs and disqualified banking practices that favored male business owners.
“With this bill women were able to get past the gatekeepers and be involved in business decision making when it came to finances and were taken more seriously,” said Julie Cook, president of the NAWBO Phoenix Chapter.
Ronit Urman, NAWBO president-elect and owner of Urman Enterprise LLC, a real estate and property management company, said the bill was important because she works in a male dominated industry.
“I sign loans as a regular part of my business and just to think that 31 years ago I wasn’t able to do that is mind boggling,” Urman said.
Penny Allee Taylor, chief of public policy for Valley of the Sun United Way, gave a speech during the event about how women can be more politically active.
Women business leaders need to be very “snappy” about what they want and nail down the main issues they care about to be effective advocates, Taylor said.
Taylor discussed the impact of H.R. 5050 in business culture and provided tips on how women should advocate for themselves.
“We need to speak with one voice to communicate the over-all issues we care about,” Taylor said. “We have to know the problem we are trying to solve, and what it’s going to cost.”
Her presentation included action steps the business owners can use to advocate for women and communities.
“After that presentation, I am no longer politically passive,” said business owner Jackie Wszalek.
Wszalek said she did not know how to advocate, but now she is equipped with resources to help her communicate with community leaders and bring change. She knows to create three main talking points to summarize important issues when talking to community leaders.
Wszalek is the co-founder of Women Owned Women Operated Businesses, a women’s advocacy and networking firm that promotes women-owned businesses in the Valley. WOWOB started advocating for women a year ago and then expanded to promoting women-owned businesses.
Professional women start businesses at a high rate and yet their profits are not as strong as their male counterparts, Wszalek said.
The percentage of women businesses owners has increased from 25 percent to 39 percent in the past 20 years, according to the 2017 State of Women-business owners report Commissioned by American Express.
“There’s something that we need to do to promote women’s businesses to make sure we spend our dollars with women’s businesses and let people know that we’re serious,” Wszalek said.
Marylynne Christman, owner of Collaborative Event Management, an events-planning company, said being on the board directors or taking leadership positions is difficult for women.
“One of the biggest challenges is sitting at the table and being taken seriously and being knowledgeable,” Christman said.
NAWBO’S Urman, has worked in commercial real estate for 25 years and was often one of the few women in the business.
“I never let it stop me, I just prepared myself better than anyone of those men who were at the table,” Urman said.
Mike Bull, co-founder of WOWOB said women tend to shy away from promoting their business to refrain from bragging.
“Women need to promote themselves, we want to promote the fact that women owned businesses do things differently,” Bull said.
“Women contribute more to charitable causes, women tend to have more family benefits for their employees, and women tend to consider their community when making decisions about their community,” he said.
Women business owners and allies also want to advocate for more women to start for-profit businesses, Bull said.
“A lot of women business owners tend to think that they have to be nonprofit to do good,” Bull said. “But you can do good and still make money and then give money back to the community.”
Wszalek said people need to support women business owners to boost the economy.
“We’re here to make money and to make a difference in our communities,” Wszalek said.
A small group of NAWBO members visited the Arizona State Capitol and presented cupcakes to legislators after the anniversary celebration. The organization’s leaders asked them to commit to being champions for women business leaders by supporting issues women care about.