It’s Time for Women to Take on the World

Laurel Delaney By Laurel Delaney

Having women involved in international business is good for the global economy, says Laurel Delaney, author of a new book on exporting.

Editor’s Note: This series on exporting is excerpted from Laurel Delaney’s new book, Exporting:  The Definitive Guide to Selling Abroad Profitably.

The timing has never been better for businesswomen to get out of their own backyards and transition from local, regional, or niche-market players into global players.

According to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitors: , there are more than 126 million women entrepreneurs worldwide. An estimated 98 million women are running established businesses—which are ripe for growth through exporting. In nearly 10 percent of the countries surveyed for the report—Panama, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, Nigeria, and Uganda—women have higher levels of entrepreneurship than men.

The global market presents a huge opportunity for women to advance their careers and impact the world of business. But only a small fraction of women-owned firms in the U.S. are engaged in exporting activities. Those who do, however, have a lot to be proud of. Average receipts for women-owned exporting firms were $14.5 million, compared with $117,036 for women-owned nonexporting firms, according to latest U.S. Census data.

There are some well-known female entrepreneurs taking on the global marketplace. Sara Blakely, who opened the body-shaper company Spanx and Maxine Clark, who began Build-a-Bear Workshop, for example—have successfully expanded their businesses internationally.

How have they done it? By having what is required to take on the world. It’s not just good collaboration skills that have brought them this far. It’s a slew of other great characteristics that women possess, such as being more risk averse (i.e., less likely to throw the dice on making a decision); being more sensitive to losses; being less prone to toot their own horn (putting the other person first); being more prone to emphasis; and having a tendency to take a long-term view on business matters.

Women-owned businesses offer a promising opportunity to increase American export activity. Yet, women owners of export-oriented small- and medium-sized businesses face unique challenges and opportunities, many of which begin at the start-up stage of a business.

To help eliminate those challenges, government policy makers can tailor initiatives and programs to best serve women entrepreneurs, the GEM Report suggests. For example, policy makers could target initiatives that provide women entrepreneurs with equal access to opportunities as suppliers of goods and services worldwide. They could also design educational and training programs for women entrepreneurs that go beyond the start-up stage and focus on growth (through exporting, for example).

To maximize their complete business potential, women need help in expanding internationally. “[Big businesses are] fundamentally seeing that entrepreneurs, women especially, are really the key to our global and sustainable future,” says entrepreneur, investor, and media personality Ingrid Vanderveldt in this Fast Company article

Having women involved in international business is good for the global economy—and citizens of the world are finally waking up to it.

 Next: Resources for Women Business Owners Who Export

Image credit: Flickr user Kossy@FINEDAYS

Posted: January 20, 2014

Laurel DelaneyIt’s Time for Women to Take on the World