There are approximately 12.3 million women-owned businesses in the US, and they’re reinventing how business gets done. The disruption caused by COVID-19 has shown us that alternative work models can, indeed, succeed. With more American workers demanding change, this is a pivotal moment for US businesses.
Women entrepreneurs have always been pioneers of new business models and values. They were among the first to implement co-ownership leadership structures and establish flexible work arrangements as the status quo. They’ve built collaborative compensation programs that focus on generosity and equitable wealth creation in historically uneven playing fields, and they’ve fought to make space at the boardroom table for a more diverse range of voices.
As we are all painfully aware, most of our traditional US business structures, relics of the industrial age, are still in place. Yet it is clear they are not conducive to working in a modern economy. There have been incremental changes in expectations over the years, but it took a pandemic to begin truly undoing the expectations of the traditional 9-5 lifestyle. All along, women entrepreneurs have been showing us the way toward a new model of work; many of them never really bought into the status quo to begin with.
Here are four ways that women entrepreneurs are reinventing the business paradigm:
1. Unapologetically Advocating for Work/Life Blending
Women are fed up with traditional business structures, and they are no longer asking for permission to integrate work and home life. Although some industries have been slower to adapt than others, the past year has shown us that women know what needs to get done, and they will refuse to choose between work and family.
Instead, women are simply navigating work and life the way they need to. Women leaders have long recognized the necessity of multitasking, but they have often been forced to hide the parts of their lives that fell outside the scope of their work. Now, women can choose to drive their kids to soccer practice and let their teams know they’ll be taking that important call from the parking lot while the kids are on the field. They no longer find it necessary to compartmentalize these demands.
2. Refusing to Go It Alone
Co-leadership models, championed by women entrepreneurs, are reinventing the power paradigm. In traditional organizations, the higher you move up the career ladder, the lonelier it gets. But women entrepreneurs are working to change this. They understand that peer relationships are critical ways of grounding yourself when navigating ambiguity; these relationships can support you through the highs and lows and challenge you to think differently.
Again and again, women leaders stress the importance of committing to a team approach. To ensure business success, you must assemble a team of smart people with complementary skills, rely on your network to build your business, and put time into mentoring other women along the way. Sharing the journey is not only more fun but also necessary for growth.
3. Creating a Work-From-Anywhere Culture That Rewards Output Over Face Time
Women entrepreneurs have also been quick to adopt the mindsets and behaviors required by a work-from-anywhere work culture. They are establishing new policies and rewarding behaviors that support virtual working. Many of them started their companies based on the idea of valuing what gets done and the work itself — not how long it takes to get that work done. In support of this core value, many women entrepreneurs set clear expectations and metrics based on organizational priorities and goals rather than on discrete tasks.
4. Encouraging an Entrepreneurial Mindset in All Organizations
In a post-COVID world, leaders have an opportunity to create more entrepreneurial environments. To do this, they must fundamentally shift their expectations of employees.
It starts with recognizing that, as Netflix’s former chief talent officer Patty McCord says, “We’re all adults here.”Give people the autonomy and support they need to thrive, and thrive they will. Large organizations will achieve more in the post-pandemic world by adopting entrepreneurial agility, focus, and energy.
In 2019, long before a devastating pandemic struck the world, Notion Consulting interviewed 50 Fortune 500 executives and successful entrepreneurs about their business challenges. Every one of them noted the importance of energy as a key factor in gaining momentum toward the future. Their words were prophetic. As one executive said, “Change is not just about doing a bunch of new things — it’s about stopping old habits and creating energy around new ones.”
The changes that women business owners have made offer new alternatives for all business leaders and hope for employees who wish to work in environments that value the same things they do. Following the lead of women entrepreneurs can enable the modern workplace to drive productivity, innovation, and growth exponentially in the future.
Diana Vienne is a senior partner and co-owner of Notion Consulting.