Women in Franchising


Women are powerful in the business world and yet they may not realize it.

Here’s how they can excel in the franchise arena.

By Kim Shepherd

Presenting to different organizations is a great executive perk. It lets me share insights and strategies for creating success. Women's business organizations often invite me to speak, and they usually expect me to focus on women's struggles, the glass ceiling and other issues – they want me to motivate women to keep up the struggle. There's only one problem: I don't think focusing on the struggle is such a good thing.

I appreciate all the women who have struggled to get us where we are today, from the suffragettes to Malala Yousafzai. However, it's time for a new way of thinking. The more we say, "We're not equal," the more we make it true – both in the world and in our minds. I believe that one of the most important things women leaders can do is to help other women focus on the positives and the power they already have.

Although women make up only about 25 percent of franchise owners, franchising should be a very attractive space for female entrepreneurs. Many women continue to pursue careers in traditional fields, such as education, healthcare and personal care. You're probably way ahead of me: There are plenty of franchising opportunities in all these fields. Now the trick is to get more women to buy franchises in sectors like hardware, automotive and business services.

Power in Women's Hands

Women are very powerful in the business world and yet they may not realize it. Marketing professionals have known for years that women make spending decisions, and almost all marketing is targeted toward women. "Women now drive the world economy," the Harvard Business Review announced in 2007. Women control some $20 trillion in global consumer spending, and that figure is expected to go up.

In addition, women have what companies want. More and more companies are embracing the qualities that we often associate with women, such as emotional intelligence and networking. In recruitment, hard skills get you vetted, but soft skills get you hired. One more reason women entrepreneurs should look into franchising: Networking is built into the industry. A woman who buys a franchise not only gets an established brand and a step-by-step playbook, she also gets a ready-made network of peers.

Franchising Standouts

With this in mind, there are a couple of old-school notions that deserve a second look. One is the claim that men outnumber women in C-suite positions. For the Fortune 500 and S&P 500 this is true. In fact, Fortune recently reported that the percentage of women CEOs dropped to 4 percent in 2016. These numbers don't lie, but they also don't tell the whole story. By focusing on the upper echelon of corporate America, we're missing the fact that there are a lot of women leading companies.

There are some notable franchising standouts. Susan Boresow, for example, has defined brand vision for the likes of McDonald's, Cold Stone Creamery and Massage Envy.

"A golden age for women entrepreneurs has begun," Forbes declares. Women own 36 percent of all businesses, based on 2012 U.S. Census information, a big jump over previous reports. This is from the 2014 State of Women-Owned Businesses report, which also points out that when you combine women-owned (51 percent or greater stake) with equally-owned businesses, the percentage jumps to 47 percent.

Queen Bee Myth

Another over-roasted old chestnut is that women are prone to the queen bee syndrome. This is just another version of a stereotype: If a woman is competitive, she's evil. I'm sure a small handful of women leaders hinder other women from advancing, but keep in mind the emotional intelligence factor. Women are inclined to say, "Let's do it together." They tend to make natural mentors, not natural backstabbers.

All of this means, to me, that female leaders are important because they can help other women stop focusing on the struggle and start building on their strengths. For an insightful read, have a look at Being Equal Doesn't Mean Being the Same: Why Behaving Like a Girl Can Change Your Life and Grow Your Business by entrepreneur and author Joanna L. Krotz.

If you are a woman leader, you can start by modeling that philosophy. Be strong, be brave, be yourself. It may be the most radically effective strategy a woman leader can execute.

Kim Shepherd is CEO of Decision Toolbox, a 100 percent virtual organization providing recruitment solutions. She leads the company’s growth strategy, primarily through developing partnerships and alliances, and as an active member of the Los Angeles and Orange County human resources communities. Tom Brennan, a senior writer at Decision Toolbox, contributed to this column. For more information, visit www.dtoolbox.com and find Decision Toolbox on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.  


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