A Level Playing Field

by Jan Wright, Publisher

Here’s a fun fact: less than 30 years ago, women who wanted a business loan in many U.S. states were required to provide a signature from a male relative. That did not change until passage of the Women’s Business Ownership Act of 1988. Hard to believe, right?

Today, women-owned firms comprise a third of all U.S. businesses, yet just four percent of commercial loan dollars, five percent of government contracts and three percent of all venture capital goes to companies run by women, as entrepreneur Francine Manilow recently noted in Crain’s Chicago Business.

“We’re not asking for special treatment,” she adds. “We simply want a level playing field.” Manilow points to a set of proposals from Women Impacting Public Policy (WIPP), a national nonpartisan organization, suggesting ways the incoming administration could help female entrepreneurs—from increasing access to capital to achieving parity in federal procurement opportunities. (Learn more at wipp.org.)

The women you will read about in this issue come from a variety of backgrounds but share some common threads: namely, a strong desire to succeed and an investment in education. I’ve been fortunate to get to know many of them and hear their stories firsthand. Often, the path to success is not a straight line from Point A to Point B, but a jagged one.

Last month, I hosted a group of women leaders in our office, asking them to bring a donation for The Center for Prevention of Abuse. Executive Director Carol Merna, a longtime friend, shared the needs of The Center’s transitional housing units, as well as some success stories of women who sought their assistance—and came back later to help others. I briefly shared my own story, and gave thanks for those who helped me get to this point in my life and career. Some struggle more than others, but the road is never without some pain.

I appreciated the message to young women that Hillary Clinton delivered in her concession speech. “Many of you are at the beginning of your professional, public and political careers—you will have successes and setbacks, too… But please never stop believing that fighting for what's right is worth it.” Regardless of your political leanings, that is an important message.

I’m proud of the many female leaders in our community, and appreciate their support and friendship. You’ll see many of them at the Par-A-Dice Hotel on December 6th for the 2016 Women of Influence Forum. For more info, visit peoriamagazines.com/woi to reserve your seat. See you there! iBi