Be The Change: Lessons From A Woman In Business (For Other Women In Business)
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Be The Change: Lessons From A Woman In Business (For Other Women In Business)

By , Entrepreneur

The need to break the glass ceiling has existed for the past couple of centuries, and women have been fighting long and hard for that big moment. Available statistics suggest that 36% of small businesses worldwide are owned by women. People ask me about what it’s like being a woman in business at my age, and I always have the same answer:

“It’s difficult, there are challenges, but you push through.” My challenges, of course, pale in comparison to the million others who don’t have the environment, access, or support that I have had. However, we often hear the words that it’s difficult, but I think it’s important that we take the time to break it down. I am a highly solution-focused person, for better and for worse, and so, I would like to plug in some guidance to all those navigating similar experiences.

LESSON 1: PROTECTION VERSUS ENCOURAGEMENT

Yes, everyone is familiar with the savior complex, but it gets so much worse in the world of business. I want to say this gets better as you get older, but I have seen it happen to my colleagues with 20 and 30 years of experience as well. The assumption that we, as women in business, are naïve, standing like deer-in-the-headlights, is a real stereotype that we find ourselves fighting against more often than not.

Getting advice from those more experienced than you can be useful; however, it is essential that you question the intention of that advice. Is the intention one of protection, fear of your inability to succeed, or for your safety? Here is what I am going to say: you know your work better than anyone. Trust your own instincts and critical analysis. For instance, when we at Mirai Partners were entering Lagos as a new location for our business, most people gave us incredibly discouraging advice. We thought differently, and here we are, three years later, with state-level contracts and further expansion planned over the next three years.

LESSON 2: BREAKING INTO THE BOYS CLUB

Do I feel entirely comfortable going for a meeting or networking at events after work hours or outside a conference? The real answer is no, but I have done it many times, because when you own your own business, you have to. A 2019 survey revealed that out of 600 female entrepreneurs, nearly 56% had experienced some form of discrimination or harassment in their capacity as business owners. As such, the reason many women do not feel comfortable with gatherings associated with work is that we fear that men in those spaces will behave in a way that we don’t expect or want. However, as someone who’s had her own share of such odd experiences, I do have a set of ground rules to prevent such occurrences in the future, which might help you as well:

– If you are not meeting someone in their office, try and pick a neutral and public place.

– If they make you feel uncomfortable, no business opportunity is worth it.

– Personal questions about your relationship status shouldn’t be asked, so don’t be afraid to not answer.

Click here to read the full article on Entrepreneur.

Girl Scouts of the USA Names Former Warner Media Executive Sofia Chang as CEO
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Girl Scouts of the United States (GSUSA) today announced Sofia Chang as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO).

By Cision

Girl Scouts of the United States (GSUSA) today announced Sofia Chang as its Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Ms.Chang, who is a mother of a Girl Scout, Lifetime Member and a member of the Juliette Gordon Low (JGL) Society, will assume the role on January 27.

She will succeed Interim CEO, Board Member, and lifelong Girl Scout Judith Batty, who came out of retirement to lead the organization in August 2020.

Ms. Chang joins Girl Scouts after three decades of experience in the private sector. During her 20-year tenure at HBO/Warner Media, Ms. Chang led the successful transformation of several businesses, developed high-performing teams, and advocated for women and diversity. Her leadership and business achievements were built on her strategic vision, her authenticity, and her inclusiveness. Ms. Chang brings her legacy of leadership and advocacy to propel Girl Scouts, the largest leadership organization for girls in the world, into its next chapter by working to reach more girls who can create an outsized impact in their communities, and around the world.

Ms. Chang has long been committed to advocating for women and for diverse voices across her professional and personal affiliations. She has served on the board of the Time Warner Foundation, was the Executive Sponsor of HBO’s AAPI resource group and was a member of HBO’s diversity council. Ms. Chang continues to serve on the board of the University of Pennsylvania’s Professional Women’s Alliance which provides young alumni with professional development and networking opportunities.

Ms. Chang will also be the first AAPI CEO in the organization’s 110-year history.

Click here to read the full article on Cision.

5 Business Strategies You Need to Know Today
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business woman looking at silhoutte landscpae of big city

By Mark Quadros

Research shows that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected 76.2 percent of U.S. businesses. COVID-19 impacted most of these businesses negatively, disrupting everything from their supply chains to their in-store sales.

So, if you’re one of these business owners, how can you adjust your operation to thrive during lockdowns, stay open for customers and keep staff engaged?

Here are five COVID-19-involved business strategies to help small businesses survive the pandemic:

Redefine your business growth opportunities

The COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown measures have disrupted many significant industries, including the hospitality industry, retail industry and entertainment industry. Naturally, companies in these fields have changed how they deliver their products and services to customers to continue growing.

But redefining your opportunities isn’t just limited to companies directly affected by lockdowns.

If you want to keep growing during the pandemic, you will need to seek out new ways to improve your profitability, including:

  • Entering new markets
  • Taking out a bridge loan and investing in new projects
  • Adjusting your marketing and sales approaches
  • Targeting new customers
  • Redesigning old processes with new online business tools
  • Forming new partnerships (especially with local suppliers)
  • Finding new ways to improve your offerings for customers

To identify the best opportunity for your brand, you must research potential options, identify the best ones and formalize them with a new business plan. According to this guide to business plans, your business plan should include detailed product and service plans, a market analysis, a management plan and a financial plan for each growth strategy.

Adapt your current business models

Experts predict that coronavirus will continue to spread around the world for the foreseeable future.

Naturally, if your brand wants to survive this new normal, you’ll need to crisis-proof your business so you can continue to operate in the current economic climate. To crisis-proof your business, you should:

  • Measure the damage to your company regularly so you can adapt to potential problems before they arise
  • Back up your data and embrace digital solutions to help staff work from home
  • Prioritize the health and safety of your employees with workplace safety measures like social distancing, hand sanitizer and masks
  • Reduce your cash flow to only essential expenses
  • Adjust how you deliver products and services to customers to ensure their safety when shopping
  • Re-organize your work processes to prioritize key functions (e.g., by redefining customer support)
  • Establish contingency plans for further lockdowns and pandemic restrictions

If you are self-employed or a small business owner, you could also take out a personal loan to keep your business’s cash flow steady as you adjust your business models.

Rethink your financial structure

A 2020 study on 5,800 small businesses from the U.S. found that the average brand with over $10,000 in expenses only had access to two weeks of cash at the start of the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, many of these companies had to adapt their spending habits to survive.

And the rest of us should learn from them.

To keep your brand alive during the pandemic, you will need to establish an emergency fund to cover any unexpected events (like lockdowns). You can build an emergency fund by saving the money you would have spent on unnecessary expenses.

To identify unnecessary expenses, sort your expenses into two key categories:

  • Value-adding expenses that are crucial to running the business (i.e., expenses like supplier costs, inventory acquisition costs, online advertising, staff wages and technology costs)
  • Extra expenses that are not crucial to running the business (i e., additional office space, extra professional training and food/drinks)

Once you have sorted your expenses, identify expenses you can eliminate to reduce your operating budget and make cuts according to your priorities.

Retrain your workforce

While it may seem wise to fire non-essential staff and redirect their salaries into your emergency fund, this decision may hurt your business financially long term. Currently, it costs $4,425 to hire the average employee and weeks to train and acclimate them. To avoid incurring this cost later, retrain your workforce and adjust their duties to match your new business model.

You should also consider ways to improve your employee’s productivity (the quantity of their work) and efficiency (the quality of their work). Improving productivity and efficiency will increase your business’s output, increasing your revenue and decreasing your expenses.

To improve efficiency, you can use a productivity formula and calculate your current figures:

Productivity = Total Output / Total Input

Efficiency = (Standard Hours Spent On Task / Actual Amount of Time Spent on Task) x 100

Then, brainstorm business-specific ways to improve productivity and efficiency.

Build meaningful relationships

Finally, you should prioritize maintaining good relationships with your customers. As research shows that the top 10 percent of customers spend three times more per transaction than the bottom 10 percent, maintaining a relationship with loyal customers will increase your revenue.

To maintain a connection with customers, you could:

  • Set up social media accounts and encourage customers to send you User-Generated Content (UGC)
  • Establish a customer loyalty program to keep customers happy
  • Improve your email marketing
  • Send digital ‘thank-you’ cards to customers
  • Offer special discounts to loyal customers
  • Improve your digital customer service practices
  • Convey your COVID-19 safety measures to customers with a poster

New normal, business

Periods of economic are very stressful for companies, but they frequently result in long-term growth and new industry-wide trends. For example, people often credit the fast rise of eCommerce to the 2003 SARS outbreak in China or the rise in click-and-collect to the early months of COVID-19.

If you follow the tips in this guide, your company can emerge from COVID-19 stronger and more profitable than ever before.

Source: Score

Women’s education narrowing gender pay gap, but shift in childcare needed
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college student celebrating

By Ashleigh Webber, Personnel Today

The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) found that since the mid-1990s women of working age have gone from being 5 percentage points less likely, to 5 percentage points more likely to have a university degree than men.

The 40% earnings gap identified its report is around 13 percentage points, or 25%, lower than it was in the mid-1990s.

However, women are still less likely to be in paid work than men (83.5% of women and 93% of men), and work fewer hours per week than men if they are employed (34 hours a week on average, compared with 42).

Women in paid work earn 19% less per hour on average than men (£13.20 compared with £16.30).In 1995 this figure was 24% and in 2005 it was 20.5%.

The research was based on data from 2019.

Monica Costa-Dias, deputy research director at IFS, said: “Huge gender gaps remain across employment, working hours and wages. After accounting for the rapid improvement in women’s education, there has been almost no progress on gender gaps in paid work over the past quarter-century.

“Working-age women in the UK are now more educated than their male counterparts and it seems unlikely that we can rely on women becoming more and more educated to close the existing gaps.”

The Women and men at work report, part of the IFS Deaton Review of Inequalities, also finds that:

  • The hourly wage gap between men and women is now bigger for those with degrees or A-level-equivalent qualifications than for those with lower qualifications. In fact, the minimum wage has helped reduce pay inequality in lower-paid roles
  • Of working-age adults with GCSEs or less, 26.5% of women do not work for pay compared with 9.5% of men
  • Working-age women do more than 50 hours a month more unpaid work (including both childcare and housework) than men
  • Gaps in employment and hours increase substantially upon becoming a parent, with women switching to more “family friendly” but lower paying occupations, or part time work
  • Women have more career breaks and spend more years working part-time, which contributes to them having lower hourly earnings further down the line.

“However, the gender gap in total earnings in the UK is almost twice as large as in some other countries which suggests the gender earnings gap is heavily influenced by the policy environment and cultural and social norms. For example, women are likely to take on more childcare even when they are the highest earner in the household, and a number of other countries also have more generous parental leave policies than the UK.”

Mark Franks, director of welfare at the Nuffield Foundation, which funded the research, said: “Differences in labour market participation, hours worked and hourly pay act together to lead to large and persistent inequalities in labour market outcomes between men and women in the UK. Some of these differences will originate from choices made by individuals and families relating to career and childcare decisions.

“However, the gender gap in total earnings in the UK is almost twice as large as in some other countries which suggests the gender earnings gap is heavily influenced by the policy environment and cultural and social norms. For example, women are likely to take on more childcare even when they are the highest earner in the household, and a number of other countries also have more generous parental leave policies than the UK.”

Click here to read the full article on Personnel Today.

How to File for a Small Business Patent
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woman's hand holding the word patent is written on a large design

By Deborah Sweeney

What Is a Patent?

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) defines a patent for an invention as “the grant of a property right to the inventor.”

A patent helps protect the mechanisms, principles and components of an invention. The term for a small business patent starts on the date its application is filed with the USPTO. Generally, this lasts for 20 years. Patents tend to be filed less frequently than trademarks and copyrights within small businesses. However, this is still a necessary form of intellectual property protection for inventions. 
 
How to determine an invention is patentable

How do you determine that your invention is patentable? A patentable invention is defined accordingly by the USPTO: “Whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent therefore, subject to the conditions and requirements of this title.”

The USPTO further breaks down the four requirements of a patentable invention.

  • “A” patent: This is singular. Only one patent may be granted for each invention.
  • Useful: The invention must have a specific, substantial and credible utility.
  • Process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter: This is a description of the subject matter, and categories, eligible for patenting.
  • Whoever invents or discovers: The inventor is the only person who may obtain the patent.

Three types of small business patents

Once you determine your invention is patentable, you must figure out what kind of patent you need before filing for a small business patent. It’s important to understand which patent type is the right fit for your invention. Presently, there are three types of patents:

  • Utility patents
  • Design patents
  • Plant patents

Let’s explore how each patent protects a specific type of invention. Once you understand which patent is the closest categorization for your invention, we’ll look at how to apply for a patent.

Utility patents

Utility patents are among the most commonly filed small business patents with the USPTO. This type of patent may be a useful process, machine, article of manufacture, composition of matter or new or useful improvement. These are four categories of statutory subject matter and may be defined accordingly.

  • Process: This is an act, or series of acts or steps, typically from an industrial or technical process.
  • Machine: The USPTO defines machine as “a concrete thing, consisting of parts, or of certain devices and combination of devices.” Essentially, this is the literal meaning of inventing a machine.
  • Manufacture: These are articles made by the invention. They may be produced from raw or prepared materials and through either hand labor or by machinery.
  • Composition of matter: This is the chemical makeup of the invention. It may be composed of two or more substances and all composite articles. This may be gases, fluids, powders or solids.

A fifth category may also apply to the word “useful.” The invention must be able to operate and have a useful purpose. For example, a new search engine is a type of software that may qualify as a utility patent.

A utility patent also has the option to file as a provisional or nonprovisional application.

What’s the difference between the two terms? Provisional applications are a low-cost patent filing. Applicants may establish a filing date in the United States for their invention. Then, they may file a nonprovisional application to claim the invention later. Nonprovisional applications are reviewed by a patent examiner. If the invention is considered patentable, the utility patent application is filed with the USPTO.

Design patents

A design patent is granted to anyone who invents a new, original and ornamental design for an article of manufacture.

How does this small business patent differ from a utility patent? A utility patent will protect the use of an article. Design patents protect the appearance of an article, but not its structural or functional features. Famous design patents include the Statue of Liberty and the original curvy Coca-Cola bottle. A recent example of a design patent are emojis, protecting the look and appearance of the digital icons.

The terms for a design patent, as effective May 13, 2015, may last 15 years from the date of the patent grant. Prior to 2015, the term was 14 years. This provides small businesses with over a decade’s worth of patent protection.

Plant patents

One of the most unique small business patents is the plant patent. This patent may be granted to anyone that has invented, discovered or asexually reproduced a distinct, new variety of plant. Here are a few examples:

  • Cultivated sports
  • Mutants (this is only applicable if the mutant is discovered in a cultivated area)
  • Cultivated hybrids
  • Newly found seedlings
  • Algae and macro-fungi
  • Asexually propagated plants reproduced through means other than seeds, such as layering or budding.

Plants that would not be eligible for a plant patent include existing plants, such as roses, bacteria, and edible tuber reproduced plants like potatoes.

A plant patent’s terms are for 20 years from the date of the patent’s application filing. Similar to that of a utility patent, a plant patent may file a provisional or nonprovisional application. The inventor filing this application must be the same person that invented, or reproduced, the plant they wish to patent.

Applying for a patent

By now, you likely have a good idea as to which small business patent is best for your invention. The next step is to get ready to apply for a patent.

As you prepare to apply for a patent, keep in mind the following.

  1. What is your application strategy? You may choose to file as yourself (Pro Se) or work with a patent attorney or agent.
  2. Will you file a provisional or nonprovisional application? This may be contingent on the type of small business patent you are filing.
  3. Do you have enough money set aside for fees? There are several fees associated with filing a patent, including application fees, search fees, examination fees and issues fees.
  4. How soon do you need the patent? You may consider expedited examination options to file for and receive patent approval sooner.
  5. Do I have everything I need for my application? Your patent application materials may require an oath or declaration, drawings and additional written documents. Make sure you understand each required part necessary for obtaining your patent and include it with your application.
  6. Will I mail my application or submit it online? Double-check everything prior to making this last step to ensure your application is complete. Remember that once your application has been filed with the USPTO, you will not be able to add new items to it.

Patent approval and next steps

If your patent is approved, congratulations! You will receive notice of approval and a patent grant that is mailed to you.

After receiving your small business patent, make sure to maintain the patent over the years. Pay any maintenance fees on time to ensure it does not expire and check the status as needed for this valuable piece of intellectual property.

Source: Score.org

 

Latina speaker, author helps women become confident negotiators
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latina Leadership and negotiation strategist Elizabeth Suarez aims to empower women to obtain more money and recognition and become better negotiators.

By Laura Casillas, 9 News

Elizabeth Suarez worked in the corporate world for 15 years. After holding countless leadership positions throughout the U.S. and Central and South America, she not only has extensive insight into a male-dominated industry, but according to Suarez, it also made her realize that more women were needed at the executive table.

“I would say I lived a syndrome of me, myself, and I. There was no other Latina; there was no other woman,” Suarez said. “When I decided to retire from the corporate world, that’s when I realized that what we had to do was basically be better negotiators to be able to be in meetings where people make decisions, the problem, many women, we – Latinas are not present where decisions are being made.”

Remembering all those years in the industry takes Suarez back in time to where her dreams began.

“I started out as this girl who wanted to make a difference in the corporate world,” Suarez said. “I grew up in Puerto Rico, I am of Cuban parents, I went to the university in New York as well as [got] my master’s degree, and I was in the corporate world everywhere.”

Today, Suarez lives in Denver, she is an author, and a coach and a leadership and negotiating strategist. Suarez empowers professionals to obtain more money and recognition, while helping organizations to develop a stronger workforce.

Suarez credits a big part of her success as an entrepreneur to the people who helped push her to take the plunge.

“I have to admit it, I had a lot of people who helped me and who believed in me,” said Suarez. “I had many mentors who believed in me and even today they follow me and want to help me.”

Since then, paying it forward has always been one of Suarez’s mottos as she remembered that her mentors told her, “Hey, remember that you have to help others in your community. This is not just about you. This is about your community.”

So following in their footsteps, Suarez became a mentor of young women and after mentoring for a few years, she came to another important realization.

According to Suarez, it’s difficult for many women to advocate for themselves.

“I always say to people that culturally we have always been told that we have to be grateful – grateful for living, grateful for our health, grateful for our work. And what I’m saying is that, yes, that is important, but at the same time, we have to be able to communicate to other people that we deserve the salary, that we deserve the promotion because we have brought a lot of progress to the company,” Suarez said.

Being a good negotiator, according to Suarez, is being able to be someone who can listen to what the other person is saying. One who can understand the needs of the other person and at the same time, can communicate effectively so that the other person can understand his or her needs.

“This is not about winning everything you want; this is being able to identify a solution that will be a good thing for both people,” Suarez said.

Suarez has a daughter in college and she gives her the same advice that she gives all young women.

“You cannot assume that if they offer you the job that that’s it. I accept it, it’s over, I’m going to party, no no no,” Suarez said.

According to Suarez, women need to take it upon themselves to do a thorough investigation of the going salary for the position that they are applying for.

“There are different ways to find out. There are different apps that tell you this. The average salary of the type of job where you are living, and you have to have the strength to say, ‘This is a competition; we are playing a game. I play, and even though they offered me the job, I’m going to have to ask for more,'” she said.

Suarez encourages women to negotiate in the same manner as men do because, according to her, “Study after study shows that men always ask for more than women.”

“From the beginning, you have to negotiate more,” Suarez said, “and if they tell you that they cannot give you more money, negotiate more things. Free days, bonuses – agree to re-analyze your work in six months, and from there you can get another raise.”

Suarez is the author of the book ‘The Art of Getting Everything,’ and she has been has a keynote speaker at women’s conferences across the country, including the Women in Technology Conference where she spoke to over 650 women about the power of negotiation, networking and self advocacy.

Click here to read the full article on 9 News.

Afro hair comb inventor hopes to inspire young black women
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Afro comb designer would have "loved to be taught by a black woman"

By Felicity Evans, BBC

A woman launching an innovative new comb for afro hair wants to use her experience to get other young black women into engineering.

“I would have loved a young me to have been taught by a black woman,” said Swansea-based Youmna Mouhamad. She received an enterprise fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering to help her develop the product. Fewer than 2% of engineers are women from ethnic minorities.

“I want to be part of the change, so that a young person that comes after me is in a place where they feel much more heard and much more accepted,” said Youmna. She was doing a PhD in physics when she first got the idea for the Nyfasi Deluxe Detangler, which provides an easier way of conditioning natural afro hair.

Youmna supported her studies by working as a nanny and the little girl she looked after used to cry with pain when her hair was washed and conditioned.”The whole house would be full of tears,” she remembers. “I wanted her to have a better experience.

“I shifted to engineering because I always had a desire to work on things that I can touch with my hands, and I love the process of taking an idea and actually creating something.” Once Youmna had developed a prototype she looked for women with afro hair to join a focus group to test it. Lenient and her nine-year-old daughter, Goodness, were among the volunteers. “I have got three girls and I do their hair myself,” said Lenient.

“The washing process is dreadful because they don’t want to. Why? Because it’s quite painful for them, especially the combing part.” “And this detangler, the first time I tried it, it was really easy.” Goodness agreed, adding: “The normal comb feels like someone is pulling your hair, when it’s tangled it hurts. But with this comb, it’s very soft and easy to untangle.”

Click here to read the full article on BBC.

Staten Island mom creates lingerie line for transgender women after daughter comes out
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South Shore mom Karyn Bello created her own fashion line of lingerie designed for transgender women and hopes to be an example for parents of transgender people.

By , Silive

In 2014, South Shore mom Karyn Bello and her family began navigating uncharted territory when her daughter, Lily, came out as transgender.

Seven years later, Bello, 51, created her own fashion line of lingerie designed for transgender women and hopes to be an example for parents of transgender people.

Her clothing line, named Zhe in reference to the gender-neutral pronoun, includes technology meant to fit transgender women’s bodies and help them feel comfortable in their own skin.

“They’re meant to help trans women navigate through the world and through their clothes comfortably without having to worry,” Bello told the Advance/SILive.com. “They’re much more accessible and safe for them to be wearing.”

Bello’s underwear line is designed to help transgender women stray away from harmful do-it-yourself methods of tucking.

Tucking is a way to disguise the genitalia and create a more feminine appearance underneath clothing or in underwear. At times, it is achieved using duct tape or other adhesives, which can be harmful to the body.

“[These methods] are bad for your urethra; you get UTIs easily,” Bello explained. They’re just bad for your health. I was coming at it from a mom’s perspective. I want you to be healthy and take care of yourself, too.”

The Zhe underwear is made with technology to help achieve a similar outcome in a much safer way. Key features of the underwear include a wider gusset, multi-layered front panel, and spandex support.

Click here to read the full article on Silive.

Lego pledges to make toys more gender-neutral and eliminate stereotypes after global survey
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Searches for Lego sets based on gender are no longer available on the company’s website.

By Amy Cheng, Washington Post

Lego, the world’s largest toymaker, has pledged to eliminate gender stereotypes from its products — including labeling that marks toys as “for girls” or “for boys” — as part of a bid to match the wishes of its young customers.

“Despite the progress made in girls brushing off prejudice at an early age, general attitudes surrounding play and creative careers remain unequal and restrictive,” the Danish company known for its colorful building blocks said in a statement on Monday, which was also the United Nations Day of the Girl. “Girls today feel increasingly confident to engage in all types of play and creative activities, but remain held back by society’s ingrained gender stereotypes as they grow older.”

Lego’s move comes amid heightened debate about the role that toys play in creating and perpetuating gender stereotypes. On Saturday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a new law requiring large retail stores in the nation’s most populous state to provide gender-neutral shopping sections for child-care items and toys beginning in 2024.

The toymaker’s announcement also comes in response to a global survey, commissioned by Lego and conducted by the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, that found that parents and, to a lesser extent, their children, are still influenced by gendered notions of career. Young girls are also more willing to participate in activities that cut across “gender norms” than their male peers, the poll found.

For instance, when asked which gender immediately comes to mind upon thinking of scientists, parents from seven countries were much more likely to say “male,” researchers found, using online, opt-in surveys.

And while 82 percent of girls saw nothing wrong with them playing soccer and boys doing ballet, only 71 percent of their male counterparts felt the same way.

While it was heartening to see girls becoming more confident, Madeline Di Nonno, the institute’s chief executive, said the discrepancy might also reflect that boys fear being teased or bullied if they play with toys associated with girls.

“Let the kids decide what they want to play, how they want to play with it and how they want to express themselves,” she said in an interview.

“Our job now is to encourage boys and girls who want to play with sets that may have traditionally been seen as ‘not for them,’ ” Julia Goldin, Lego’s chief product and marketing officer, told the Guardian newspaper.

The company said in an emailed statement that it would work to offer a more diverse array of characters and roles so that no child would “feel that they weren’t welcome or represented” in Lego products.

The campaign to make toys and other children’s products more gender-neutral has been around for several years. Advocates including Evan Low, a Democratic assemblyman who helped write the new California law, note that gender-based divisions of such products have contributed to “the proliferation of [science, technology, engineering and mathematics]-geared toys” for boys and “pursuits such as caring for a baby, fashion, and domestic life” for girls.

Some conservative organizations, however, pushed back on the California bill, arguing that a government-imposed view on gender constitutes a violation of free speech and reflects attempts to impose a gender-neutral ideology.

Click here to read the full article on Washington Post.

We Asked, She Answered: Ashley Mehta, President & CEO, Nolij Consulting
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Businesswoman at desk checking phone with tech graphs in background

Professional Woman’s Magazine  recently spoke with Ashley Mehta, chairwoman, CEO and president of Nolij Consulting, a woman-owned, solutions-focused healthcare IT company that specializes in digital healthcare modernization for the military, public and commercial sectors.

Mehta founded the Northern Virginia-based Nolij Consulting in 2013, and since then, has scaled the company to be the leader in healthcare IT.

We asked the Ohio native more about Nolij, her challenges as a female business owner and her goals for the future: 

Professional Woman’s Magazine  (PWM): Tell us a little bit more about your background. Were you always interested in IT? 

Mehta: I am a graduate of the Ohio State University’s Max. M. Fisher College of Business. I have two children and am privileged to be in a position where I can create a positive, impactful work environment for my employees while giving back to the community and championing causes that I am passionate about, including veterans’ and women’s issues. I love working in IT because, whether it’s making systems more efficient, reducing client expenditure or producing better outcomes, technology is able to create a significant and real change in organizations and people’s lives. Yes, I’ve always been interested in technology as it increases business efficiencies and brings people together to solve the most pressing business problems.

PWM: What led you to create Nolij Consulting? 

Mehta: I was a former stay-at-home mom with two young children who found herself in a position where I needed to go back to work. I joined a large consulting firm and had the opportunity to learn the entire spectrum of the business – from compliance to proposals, business development, technology and everything in between. As the industry started shifting from large business opportunities to more small business opportunities, I recognized my chance to start my own company and make a real difference in the industry while having the work/life balance I wanted so I could juggle all of my responsibilities. From there, Nolij was born. Over the past 9 years, we have made great strides against considerable odds in establishing ourselves amid a crowded GovCon marketplace! Ironically enough, I have trained several previously stay at home moms in this business and they now work for Nolij.

PWM: What challenges, if any, have you experienced as a female founder and CEO in this space? 

Mehta: The biggest obstacle I’ve faced to date is the lack of prime IT opportunities specifically set aside for women-owned businesses. As Nolij has grown its footprint across the GovCon space, and is now expanding into the commercial sector, I’ve continued to focus on key areas, such as cybersecurity, RPA and AI, where we can expand our partnerships to create new opportunities for women-owned businesses. 

PWM: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to-date?  

Mehta: Building a successful, thriving business and creating an outstanding consulting company with a great work environment for my employees while being a great mother is my greatest accomplishment so far. Our employees gave us a 4 on Glassdoor, which is no easy feat to achieve for an organization. Glassdoor is a website where current and former employees anonymously review companies. I am proud of employing leading talent across the industry and having the expertise to serve our clients and add to their success.

Nolij is proud to give back to various charities and support the less fortunate in our community. As a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of having extra money to give to those in need.

I’ve been able to do this while raising two beautiful children who have worked hard as well and have bright futures ahead of them. These successes inspire me every day to keep moving forward.

PWM: What advice would you give to another female entrepreneur?  

Mehta: I would say that leading by example, putting yourself in front of clients and marketing your company on social media is very important. It’s also critical to set yourself apart and create a differentiator for your company. Distinguish your company and invest heavily in training resources and certifications for your organization and your employees. To build a successful team, be sure you are offering the right benefits that will keep employees with you and give them the chance to grow professionally. It’s no longer expensive to provide the benefits and resources that larger companies do. It is important to create a strong foundation to make people feel valued and enjoy coming to work each day. And remember, once you have a strong service/product offering, no one will care if you are a man or a woman.

PWM: What are your goals for Nolij Consulting? What do you hope to achieve in the future?  

Mehta: We are focused on strategic growth in a number of areas going forward to make the company future-ready. We are also focused on strong partnerships and relationships to further strengthen our capabilities to meet our clients’ goals. We’ve created three new joint ventures (JV) focused on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, emerging technologies and health IT services. These joint ventures are a combination of 8A, WOSB, Hubzone, and SDVOSB managed JVs. We also have a mentor protégé JV relationship with a large health IT company where we plan to win opportunities under relevant IT contract vehicles. We are currently working to win several contract vehicles that give us the ability to win task orders under those vehicles. We just recently won GSA 8A STARS III and Navy Seaport NxG. We are also strengthening our AI /ML solutions to establish a strong capability in software testing and Electronic Health Records (EHR). We just won an artificial intelligence sole source opportunity with Health and Human Services (HHS). We’ve established several emerging, next-generation technology product partnerships and are currently establishing a workforce that is well trained on delivering these products. Our goal is to achieve an even stronger health IT company focused on our employee’s wellbeing while providing excellent health IT services to our clients.

PWM: What is something colleagues would be surprised to know/learn about you? 

Ashley Metha
Ashley Mehta, chairwoman, CEO and president of Nolij Consulting

Mehta: I have a twin brother who is also in IT. He is more in the sales and software product side of the business. My son looks quite a bit like him. I also have an older brother who is in healthcare mergers and acquisitions. I grew up with my father owning his own consulting business around continuing education for CPAs. He did not have the luxury of the business conveniences that we have today. Due to the lack of technology, he had to educate CPAs in person, ship heavy training materials for his classes and had to conduct business over a phone hooked up to a wall. Today we can offer e-learning opportunities, send large documents over the internet, use our mobile phones to have Zoom or WebEx meetings with clients across the world. As a business owner and mother, I have a tremendous amount of respect for what my dad accomplished while raising kids without the technological advances we have today.

PWM: Anything else you would like to add that we missed? 

Mehta: If your company has predominately male leadership, if it’s not leaning more towards a healthy even split, then the next generation of women will consider your company yesterday’s product. A product not worth their investment and time; a place where innovation and creativity will be stifled by outdated norms.

I want to take a moment to recognize the bright daughters of my outstanding employees and all that they are accomplishing. It’s exciting to think about a future where their contributions will not only be recognized but will be sought-after. Ultimately, empowering women in the workplace ensures your company will be ready for whatever challenges lie ahead.

Facebook to buy $100 million worth of unpaid invoices from 30,000 small businesses owned by women and minorities
LinkedIn
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

By Salvador Rodriguez, CNBC

Facebook this week announced a $100 million commitment to a program that supports small businesses owned by women and minorities by buying up their outstanding invoices.

By buying up outstanding invoices, the Facebook Invoice Fast Track program puts money in the hands of small businesses that would have otherwise had to wait weeks if not months to get paid by their customers.

The program is the latest effort by Facebook to build its relationships and long-term loyalty among small businesses, many of whom rely on the social network to place ads targeted to niche demographics who may be interested in their services.

Businesses can submit outstanding invoices of a minimum of $1,000, and if accepted, Facebook will buy the invoice from the small business and pay them within a matter of days. The customers then pay Facebook the outstanding invoices at the same terms they had agreed to with the small business. For Facebook, which generated nearly $86 billion in revenue in 2020, waiting for payments is much less dire than it is for small businesses.

Facebook piloted a smaller version of the program in 2020 after hearing how much the company’s suppliers were struggling in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Rich Rao, Facebook’s vice president of small business.

“We just heard first-hand the financial hardships that these suppliers were facing, and it was created really quickly and brought up as an idea and pitched to our CFO to say, ‘Hey, would we be able to help our suppliers with this?’” Rao said. “It was a very small pilot, but we did see that be very successful.”

Now, Facebook is drastically expanding the program and will buy up to $100 million in outstanding invoices. Rao estimates this will support approximately 30,000 small businesses.

“It’s a new concept, but we’re really excited about it,” Rao said.

U.S. businesses owned by women and minorities, and that are members of supplier organizations that serve underrepresented groups, are eligible to apply for the program. This includes the National Minority Supplier Development Council, Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, National LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the National Veterans Business Development Council, Disability: IN and the U.S. Pan Asian American Chamber of Commerce. Facebook is also exploring adding more partner organizations for the program, the company told CNBC.

Click here to read the full article on CNBC.

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Upcoming Events

  1. City Career Fair
    January 19, 2022 - November 4, 2022
  2. NAWBO Leadership Academy – Winter 2022
    January 31, 2022
  3. NAWBO LEADERSHIP ACADEMY 2022
    January 31, 2022
  4. From Day One
    February 9, 2022
  5. The Small Business Expo–Multiple Event Dates
    February 17, 2022 - December 1, 2022