Two women business owners have stepped into the main-stage spotlight at this week’s Republican National Convention — former soap opera star and current entrepreneur-cum-avocado farmer Kimberlin Brown and Michelle Van Etten, founder of health supplement purveyor Youngevity — to represent a community near and dear to our hearts: women business owners.
On Tuesday night, Brown spoke about the importance of women business owners to America’s economy. She noted that female-led ventures comprise roughly a third of all privately held firms in the U.S., and they employ approximately 8 million people while generating an estimated $1.4 trillion in sales.
She also highlighted the struggles and triumphs of business owners as they grapple with the challenges of starting and scaling up companies.
Brown and her husband, Gary, “started businesses that have succeeded, and still do, and we’ve had ventures that have not. We have created jobs and even more tax dollars. We have worked 80-hour weeks, and have gone without paychecks to keep our employees paid,” she said.
Brown stopped short of advocating for specific policy prescriptions to support small business owners. However, she asserted that Republican presidential nominee and businessman Donald Trump understands how hard it is for women to access capital, suggesting that he could improve that situation if elected.
Both women pointed to Democratic policies that they argued hurt U.S. entrepreneurs. For instance, Brown told the crowd that her mostly college-age employees were being forced to give up their health insurance plans and sign up for more costly options through the marketplace established by the Affordable Care Act. Van Etten also condemned “Obamacare” as restrictive to both employers and employees.
Stepping into the debate about equal pay for equal work, Brown accused presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton of paying male staffers more than female staffers during her time as Senator. FactCheck.org says the median salary for men and women in her office at that time appears to have been the same at about $40,000, according to salary information provided by Clinton to the nonpartisan organization. (Trump, meanwhile, reportedly pays female staffers working on his presidential campaign roughly 35 percent less than their male counterparts.)
It was encouraging to see women business owners showcased in such a prominent fashion, and we’re hopeful that their presence will accelerate a conversation about the challenges faced by female entrepreneurs in the United States — and policies to help them succeed.
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