The pandemic has caused a dramatic departure of women from the workforce due to furloughs, layoffs and lack of work/life balance and flexibility. But it has also been a time of rapid expansion in female entrepreneurship. Women founders are seizing this moment to identify their own path to success with a sense of passion, purpose and autonomy.
Bloomberg Media hosted a virtual event to explore the reasons behind this movement, its impact on economic equality, and how it is shaping the future of work. The event included conversations with an exceptional group of leaders: actor, author and entrepreneur Cameron Diaz; entrepreneur, CEO and investor Katherine Power; Union Square Hospitality Group CMO Marissa Freeman; Harlem Candle Co. Founder Teri Johnson; and Bloomberg Beta Founding Partner Karin Klein.
Watch highlights above. Key takeaways include:
Embrace co-creating with consumers. “We saw an opportunity for a brand that speaks to the consumer in a way that they want to be spoken to,” said Power, who created Avaline, a range of clean, transparently-produced wines with partner Cameron Diaz. “We’re constantly having one-to-one conversations with the consumer to understand exactly what they’re looking for. Every decision we’ve made has been informed or validated by that community, from the taste profile of the wines, to what our labels look like.”
Align to women’s whole lives. “In this moment, women are being asked to do so very much and companies haven’t yet caught up,” said Freeman. “I think the pandemic accelerated the need for corporations to adjust the way they work. We’re all working from home. We’re all seeing what people have to deal with, kids and dogs in the background, spouses walking past at the most inopportune times. Corporations have not yet caught up to the needs of women, and I think it’s a real issue.”
Mentorship matters for women entrepreneurs. Yet finding good mentors can be challenging, said Johnson, whose luxury candle brand began in her own kitchen and is now sold by national chains such as Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Macy’s. “I now have mentors who are integral to the growth of the brand,” she said. “But connecting with the right sort of programs, where there is true mentorship, would have made it so much easier — being able to partner with people who understand your creativity, and who understand the hard work that needs to happen and who can guide you and give you the resources and connections that you need in order to really scale.”
Today’s tools are creating new opportunities. “There are a lot of ways to try things out before having to jump in full time,” said Klein, an early-stage investor in startups that focus on the future of work. “Starting a business is such hard work. There are going to be really difficult days when somebody’s starting a company so you have to be a hundred percent committed to it, and testing it out before you make the leap is a great way to start. I encourage people who have that glimmer in their eye to really lean in and try it and see if there’s something there. We’re always happy to talk to potential founders, help them think through ideas — I’d love to see this be a more diverse and inclusive startup community.”
Leaders from Spencer Stuart, Cadillac and Siemens share insight on building the new hybrid workplace at Bloomberg Media event