What Do Women Need to Succeed in Business?

December 13, 2010

By Michelle D. Bernard President & CEO, the Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy

Freud once asked, "What do women want?" My question: What do women need to succeed in business?

A report from the White House during last month’s mid-term elections portrayed women as victims, having special needs such as equal pay initiatives, day care credits, etc. Given that this was the election that virtually erased the gender gap - a phenomenon in American politics since the 1980s, when it was noticed that most American women tilted toward the Democratic party -- I think it is safe to say that women are not a monolithic voting bloc and have a wide variety of views about what is good economic policy.

We know what we need: the same thing men need, a strong economy. Forget the gender-pandering. Women don't need or want it. Women are actually more likely than men to start new ventures these days, and what this means is that female entrepreneurs, if they are to flourish, require an economic environment in which they can find capital and have the ability to hire people. We are at a tipping point right now: Will we continue to have a sluggish economy, bad for working people and entrepreneurs alike, or will we take action to get out of our economic doldrums? The best action is for our government to step back, stop taking so much money from us and creating so much red tape that businesses are strangled.

Prescriptions to improve the lot of women business owners should include permanently reducing the tax burdens of individuals, families and businesses; cutting government spending; and reducing the deficit. These three things will make it easier for women to create good jobs and businesses that are innovative and which flourish. Obviously, we don't want a "wild west" corporate world that is completely unregulated, but we need to streamline regulations. In short, we simply want to free up business to flourish. Good for gals, good for guys.

One other thing, it's time to stop the class warfare rhetoric. It had become popular to bash business, giving the impression that going into business is somehow dishonorable. This attitude couldn't be more in error. I can imagine a young woman, ambitious to do both well and good, deciding that business is somehow unworthy. We must restore our respect for business.

Finally, although my focus in this blog is women and business, I can't stop without mentioning a subject that is near and dear to my heart: comprehensive education reform. Education reform is not off the subject of business: If women are to do well in the workforce, they must be literate and have the requisite skills to survive in a competitive, global economy. One way to improve education is to focus on the educational needs of all of our great nation’s children, rather than on the wants of teachers unions. Our nation’s future hinges on this.