As a female business owner, I was thrilled to read the recent report by the Center for an Urban Future that showed Memphis is leading the nation's largest cities in female-owned business growth, with a 116 percent increase from 2007 to 2012.
Although women in the workforce still face many challenges, including wage inequality, it is great to see Memphis groups and organizations continue efforts to help female entrepreneurs excel.
As a female small business founder, I faced many of the same challenges anyone faces when starting a company. It was after Tioga Environmental Consultants was up and running that my business partner, and vice president, and I began to notice misperceptions and preconceived notions about working with female business owners.
We've experienced the misconception that women-owned or minority-owned business owners want to be place holders on contracts without doing the actual work. We now know that it's important to dispel that notion upfront and show new clients that we want to be partners on the team performing the work. After all, our education, career experience, professional certifications and expertise are the foundation of our business.
Similarly, we know that women can face personal challenges as the primary child caregiver, shopper and chef at home more so than men. Women typically have to adapt their work schedules or be more flexible to meet family needs more than men do, and that mindset can really affect you as a female business owner as you work to increase revenue and compete in the business world.
Thankfully, we've got an arsenal of resources and tools to lean on such as the National Association of Women Business Owners Memphis chapter where we can meet local women business owners, discuss issues and share advice.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give as a female business owner is to find partners (attorneys, bankers, accountants) who you can rely on. It's a big stress reliever to partner with professionals you can trust to do what they do so that you can focus on what you're good at.
Related to Tioga's industry, it has been wonderful to see national attention given to women in engineering and heightened awareness on some of the challenges young females interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics face. #ILookLikeAnEngineer took off in 2015, and recent news regarding the low representation of women in STEM careers fueled much input on what needs to be done to even the playing field in these roles. We know we still have a long way to go.
The city of Memphis has recognized the disparity among local black- and women-owned businesses winning contracts for construction, engineering, professional services and marketing, with only 12 percent of contracts being awarded to these businesses in 2015.
We're looking forward to seeing how the new director of minority- and women-owned business development, Joann Massey, moves Memphis forward with this important effort.