More than 12 million U.S. businesses were owned by women as of 2018 – up from just 402,000 in 1972 – according to the National Association of Women Business Owners. Out of the total number of new businesses started each year, approximately 64% are started by women of color.
With each passing year, as we draw more attention to the need for and the value added by women leadership in business, we open more and more doors for future generations of women. And we’re not done yet.
As our nation continues to come together to recognize the strength and impact of women in the workforce, the Subscription Trade Association turned to industry experts to hear their thoughts on this ongoing conversation.
Hear from Erica Alfonzetti of Volvo, Chelsie Lee of Caroo, and Simran Dua of My Subscription Addiction on how subtle shifts in your perspective can lead to massive growth and accomplishment for women in leadership in the business world.
Don’t Accept the Barriers
For Erica Alfonzetti — Head of Subscription Offers and Operations at Volvo and a leader in the evolution of Volvo Care, the automotive giant’s subscription model — one of the biggest lessons that contributed to her rise to leadership centered around eliminating her interpretation of barriers.
The automotive industry’s lack of women in its workforce didn’t stop Alfonzetti from striving to rise to the top. “Being a woman in a male-dominated industry presented challenges, but it also presented me with the opportunity to approach situations differently than others were,” she says.
“The challenges are still there, but don’t let those words — ‘male dominated’ — hold you back,” says Alfonzetti. “When you enter these industries that are traditionally male dominated, a new female perspective is often invited. They are looking to change the way things are done, not just in business models, but also with people.”
If you allow the phrase “male dominated” to hinder you from going after opportunities you’re drawn to, you may miss out on having a real impact and spark meaningful change.
“Stay true to who you are,” Alfonzetti advises women. “When you’re in a position where you’re faced with a lack of diversity, you feel like you have to adapt yourself to fit in. But the purpose of inviting new faces and bringing that diversity in is to have that new perspective. So being your authentic self can really bring value.”
Understand the Connection Between Caring & Revenue
Just as Alfonzetti recommends owning your individuality and being your authentic self in the business world to add value, Chelsie Lee — Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer of Caroo — draws a clear connection between women’s contributions and revenue.
“Women see people and understand what they need,” says Lee. “And often, women in leadership fail to realize how they can drive revenue as a natural caregiver. People who are more intuitive, sensitive, and aware of others’ experiences can have a profound impact on the success of a business.”
Ask for What You Want
While women in leadership may have an edge in leveraging emotional intelligence to guide the success of businesses, they are often far less likely to honor their own needs.
“Men are four times more likely than women to ask for a raise — and when women do ask, we typically request 30% less than men do,” reveals Joanne Lipman in her book That’s What She Said, which was chosen to launch the World Economic Forum Book Club.
For Lee, asking for what you need is nothing new. “I was raised by a single mom with very little money,” says Lee. “I grew up in an environment where I knew if I didn’t ask for things, [I] didn’t get things. It doesn’t hurt to ask. Think of your long-term goals.”
In fact, the people who have the power to grant your request may not even be aware of an opportunity, even if it’s clear to you. For Lee, that request was to co-found a business. Lee knew that a partnership wasn’t an option at the time. She decided to make it one by asking for it, and Caroo’s leadership agreed.
“Don’t wait for someone to offer you a chair at their table,” says Lee. “Build your own chair.”
Women in Leadership Think Long Term
Lee’s rise to the position of Co-Founder at Caroo was a calculated one. Early in her involvement in the company, she had her sights set on a leadership position. Each move she made while growing within the company enabled her to make a big ask at the right time and not be denied.
“Every day I would ask myself, ‘How can I add value? How can I really become a partner long before I have the title?’” says Lee. Long before she felt it was the right time to ask for the partnership, she paved the way with examples of the value she brought to the company.
“Think long term. Don’t ask for small, short-term things if you want to have a long life with that company,” says Lee. “For instance, I didn’t ask for them to equalize my pay to my peers or anything like that. I wanted to co-found a business. So I saved my ask for the big thing that I really wanted.”
When it came time to respond to her request, the leaders at Caroo saw everything Lee had already brought to the company. She drew their attention to a void that needed filling and positioned herself as the best person to fill it.
Whether You’re in Leadership or Not, Show up for Women
While many women in leadership are changing the landscape of business leadership, Simran Dua — CEO of My Subscription Addiction — says that there is much more that women can do to bring about equality even if they are not in (or have no desire for) leadership roles.
“It’s not just about female leaders showing up and doing what’s necessary for progress,” says Dua. “It’s up to all women. If you want to see systemic change, help it happen. If you’re dissatisfied by how your female leader is behaving, send her some feedback.”
It’s about showing up for women in leadership and supporting the transformation we, as a society, need to see in order to create space for equality.
“If you really, truly care about equality, and if you’re not in a leadership role, then the best thing you can do is support the person that is in that role,” says Dua. “Often, we’re trying to learn from that person, but that person can only be as good as the feedback she has access to. So give her the feedback and support her growth kindly.”
If it’s important to you to see 50% of CEOs be women, think about how you’re supporting the growth of this number.
From choosing your next job to talking about your female-led company in a positive light to working with your female leader on succession planning, there are countless ways women and men can support women in leadership.
“Without thoughtfulness on how your actions as an employee can impact a minority leader,” says Dua, “we run the risk of setting our leaders up for failure rather than success while reducing our own odds. So we need to recognize there are more ways than one to grow the number of female leaders and do our parts.”
As the subscription industry continues to grow, here at SUBTA we’re seeing an increasing number of women founding subscription businesses. Our goal is to support the continued diversification of the booming subscription industry while providing resources, education, and connection.