“Is it better today for women entrepreneurs?”
That’s a question that both Wanda James and Lisa Tsou are familiar with.
As reputable business women who have made a lasting name for themselves in a male-dominated industry, you could say that they’ve seen it all.
James, the CEO of Simply Pure Dispensary and the first African American woman to own a dispensary in Colorado, has quite a few notorious accomplishments under her belt, including being appointed to President Obama’s National Financing Committee in 2008.
Therefore, James was a fan favorite at our Fall Emerge Virtual Cannabis Conference & Expo, where she led a discussion about women entrepreneurs with moderator Tsou during their Women in the Cannabis Biz Power Hour panel.
Tsou utilizes her extensive knowledge of issues related to technology, startups and women in business to advise aspiring entrepreneurs at her company The Winning Pitch.
As such, Tsou is often approached by young entrepreneurs, mostly female, questioning whether things have improved for women.
So, are things better for women?
Tsou thinks back to her days in finance working on Wall Street in the 1990s, and how the discussion of women in the workplace and the issues they tackled were often ignored, mostly due to the fact that there weren’t any women there in the first place.
“I think the good news for me, looking at it now, is that there are enough women in finance as entrepreneurs, that we’re talking about some of these issues now,” said Tsou.
James questioned why women still weren’t involved in financing or investing in the same levels that men are, since throughout history, women held the role of managing their families’ money.
Women have harbored the ability to calmly analyze a situation, react accordingly, and evolve if need be.
“It’s a good time, I think, for women, because so many women did not feel welcomed in corporate America. They have used a lot of creativity to start a lot of different businesses on their own. It’s always a proud moment to find out that it’s women that are starting the most businesses in America, so the next 25 years will be very interesting,” said James.
You Can’t Ignore the Statistics
James is correct. According to published study data by SCORE, women-owned businesses are equally as successful as men-owned businesses across all independent measures of success, and women are more likely than men to start their own business
Another report by the McKinsey Global Institute found that if every country could narrow its gender gap at the same historical rate as the fastest-improving nation in its regional peer group, the world could add $12 trillion to its annual gross domestic product by 2025.
Looking at the statistics, women entrepreneurs are clearly a valued asset but are unfortunately still having to fight for a seat at the table.
Overtime, this can be exhausting, but James advises women to never, ever stop working toward their goal.
“Never ever, ever, ever give up, because the idea of success, in my mind, is the person that just kept going. I’ve got to tell you, over these 10 years in cannabis, I could have stopped many times and have felt like a failure in this industry. It has been that hard,” said James. “But the reason why we’re here today, the reason why we’re being interviewed, is because for a decade, we kept going even when it was really bad. Never give up. If you believe in you, never give up.”
Women Need To Brag More, Undersell Less
James recounts her experience serving on the transition team with Governor Polis, where she had the opportunity to look over 300 resumes of overqualified people interviewing for the governor’s cabinet.
What she found made a lasting impact.
While all the resumes belonged to high-performing men and women, it was the men who weren’t afraid to boast about their accomplishments, while the women preferred to be humble.
“Women are always taught, you know, don’t promote yourself, don’t get big on yourself, but the rest of the world does. And I think a lot of times, we don’t get positions, or we don’t get funded, or we don’t get the salary that we wanted because we play ourselves small so that people don’t feel bad around us,” said James. “If you graduated from Harvard, girl, talk about that! Use words like ‘was in charge of,’ the power words behind it instead of ‘I was a team member.’ We have got to really put more force behind what it is that we do.”
Women exist in a world where gender stereotypes can act as a barricade, constricting them to the certain ways a woman should act, look, and talk.
Women have been told to be polite, nurturing, and to listen.
When fighting to have their voice heard, women are often described as arrogant, shrill, or worse, nasty.
While there is still a lot to be done for gender equality, the number of women leaders in the workplace is continuing to grow.
It’s time for women to be unapologetically proud, to walk into an interview and be your own personal hype-man.
“I don’t want us to emulate that male stereotypical feel, but I do want us to emulate our ability to shine our light and there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing that,” said James.