Women Business Owners, It’s Time to Step Forward
Following the launch of the “Jasmine Forum for Women Business Owners”, Ofra Strauss, Chairperson of the Strauss Group Board of Directors and President of Jasmine, talks about the establishment of this Forum and shares with us a lecture by Heather Reisman, , who presented her fascinating success story at the first Forum meeting .
Over the past years I have served as President of Jasmine, which promotes women owners of small and medium businesses across all Israeli sectors. This year we decided to initiate and establish a special forum which will provide these women with the opportunity to meet with women business leaders from around the world, who have become a success story. But before I tell you about this initiative in detail, it is important to explain that while 99% of all businesses in Israel are defined as small and medium businesses, the representation of female -owned businesses within them is too small ( less than 5%).
Why are women-owned small businesses important?
Women-owned businesses are growing faster than those owned by men, and faster than the overall average. The growth rate of women-owned businesses in the U.S. alone is 1.5 times higher than the national average. Over the past 15 years they grew by 44% in terms of the number of employees and sales volume – twice the growth rate of businesses owned by men. During that period they added more than 600,000 jobs. The Obama administration chose to adopt and promote women-owned businesses. Obama himself was quoted as saying: “U.S. women -owned businesses are a critical part of the American economy in the 21st century.”
Difficulties encountered by women-owned businesses
In a study conducted at Jasmine, which included targeted conversations with women business owners, we discovered that they contend with economic, legal and cultural barriers: discriminatory laws, difficult access to capital, uncoordinated expectations, personal barriers which are more complex for women than for men, difficulty in obtaining focused support and assistance for the success of their business from large institutions, and more. Studies show that women-owned businesses face unique challenges compared with men-owned businesses, particularly when it comes to sectors such as female immigrants, Arabs and ultra-Orthodox. Lack of external institutional support in the entrepreneurship of these women, impairs women entrepreneurship.
A more strategic outlook, more cooperation, more networking
In-depth examination of women-owned small and medium businesses suggested that their three most important needs are a new market strategy, strategic partnerships and business networking. In light of this insight we established the Jasmine Forum for Women Business Owners, which provides a solution to these needs. The new Forum will hold a series of annual meetings designed to enable its members to learn from the knowledge and experience gained by female business leaders who own globally-successful businesses, thereby acquiring tools to help them run their own businesses. Meetings will be held in various venues around the country, with an emphasis on building a diverse community of women business owners from various areas and sectors in Israel.
At the Forum launch meeting held last week, we had the honor of welcoming keynote speaker and guest, Ms. Heather Reisman, founder and CEO of Indigo Books & Music Inc., the largest books and music retailer in Canada, which holds more than 70% share in the Canadian book market. Ms. Riesman established a large consulting firm which she headed for 17 years, then managed one of the largest beverage companies in North America, and won various awards in entrepreneurship and management, while also engaging in extensive philanthropic activity in social organizations in both Canada and Israel. Doing all that, she also raised 4 children and 9 grandchildren.
I am pleased to share with you the insights and interesting personal story of Ms. Reisman, as presented at the Forum launch meeting,
where participants were able to hold an open and direct conversation with her.