March 8th is International Women’s Day and so this month (and every day of every other month), we’re celebrating women in business and the inspiration we take from them as we embark on our journey at THE 5TH. We want to share with you the stories of just a few of the millions of women shattering that glass ceiling.
It is harder for women to succeed in business. This has been the case throughout history and remains to still be true. Does that stop us? Absolutely not! This only goes to highlight the incredible feat of successful women in business throughout history and today. It is crucial however, that we recognise that this success does not, and must not, undermine the injustice women face.
As the female co-founder of the THE 5TH, it was daunting to learn that I was trying to start a company in an environment where less than 3% of venture-capital investment in the US goes to female-led startups. Of that 3%, the average investment is half of that invested in male-led startups. I found myself reading articles suggesting women should find someone to vouch for them to overcome some of these barriers. Wtf! Understanding that I may face more barriers to success because I am a woman drives me, and THE 5TH, to continue to advocate for equality, and take inspiration from the women who challenge these sexist constructs every day.
WHITNEY WOLFE HERD – Founder and CEO of Bumble
Last month, after being the youngest female CEO to lead a company to an IPO, Whitney Wolfe Herd became the youngest self-made female billionaire in the world. To get there, she had to overcome being sexually harassed, stripped of her co-founder title at Tinder, and dismissed by her peers as a female founder. In fact, some investors have since admitted having this bias towards her in the past.
Whitney’s success goes a long way to empower women far beyond the world of business, since Bumble’s very business is to build a platform for women to ‘control the conversation’. Though originally designed for the dating world, Bumble has expanded into the friendship and networking space, carving the way for women to take the lead in all areas of life. Go Bumble. Go Whitney!
SARA BLAKELY - Founder and CEO of Spanx
Sara Blakely founded her shapewear brand Spanx over 20 years ago. Not only did she do so with just $5000 to her name, but she did it selling a product aimed at women. Why is that so significant? All the garment mills were owned and operated by men. Sara had a hard time convincing these men that her product was worth producing. Eventually, one of the men agreed. He told Sara that the only reason he called her back, is because he had three daughters who told him to give her a chance. Spanx is now estimated to be worth over $1 billion.
Last year, Sara donated $5 million to support female-run small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
MADAM C. J. WALKER - Entrepreneur and the first female self-made millionaire in America
You may recognise Madam C. J. Walker’s name from the recent Netflix mini-series Self-Made. If you haven’t seen it, you should. She was the first female self-made millionaire in America after creating her own line of hair care products in the late 1800’s. If we consider the barriers women in business face in 2021, it defied all odds that Madam C. J. Walker was able to build her empire in a world far more hostile to female entrepreneurship than it is today. Women at this time were not even allowed to vote yet! Women were not considered to be equal; their role was to elevate men. Against this backdrop, Madam C. J. Walker not only built her own empire, but enabled thousands of women to become their own bosses through selling her products. She overcame sexism, racism and poverty to succeed, build a life, and to lift women in business for her generation and every generation thereafter.
“I am a woman who came from the cotton fields of the South. From there I was promoted to the washtub. From there I was promoted to the cook kitchen. And from there I promoted myself into the business of manufacturing hair goods and preparations... I have built my own factory on my own ground.”
- Madam Walker at the National Negro Business League Convention, July 1912
Madam C. J. Walker, Whitney Wolfe Herd and Sara Blakely are examples of what is possible for women in business when we refuse to let the unnecessary and unjust barriers we face stop us from entering into, and thriving in, the world of business. And for those of us who haven’t built multi-million (or even billion) dollar companies, we are champions just the same and are paving the way for more women in business than ever before.
Here’s to women.
See you on THE 5TH.