FBN’s Charles Payne, Heritage Capital President Paul Schatz, Tea Party News Network News Director Scottie Nell Hughes, small business expert Susan Solovic, retail analyst Hitha Herzog and Penn Financial Group founder Matt McCall on the shifting demographics in the job market.
Many women business owners, including myself, know Marjorie Alfus from her work with C200 and the Center for Women’s Business Research. She is a trailblazer, icon and role model. So when I had the opportunity to speak to Alfus about her latest endeavor in the field of healthcare advocacy, I couldn’t resist the chance to also ask her about her amazing career path.
In 1946, at the age of 18 Alfus received a M.Sc degree in Biochemistry. After only two years in field, she decided it was time for a change.
“I met a gal who was producing the Gloria Swanson television show and I asked her if she wanted to go into business with me,” Alfus says. “In the early days of television there were lots of opportunities.”
So the two teamed up and Alfus transitioned from scientist to television producer. She and her partner produced four-hours of fully sponsored programs on NBC. Then Alfus married and joined her husband in his clothing business.
“He ran the factory and I ran the show room, “ she explains.
One day Alfus met a man selling beautiful knit sweaters. “I asked him where he got them and he told me they were from a small town north of Venice, Italy. Two days later I was there.”
As a result of that trip, Alfus brought high quality knitwear made in Italy to stores throughout the United States. She was a pioneer in outsourcing and for 15 years made monthly trips to factories throughout Europe while juggling the responsibilities of raising two children.
Night law school at New York University, was the next career move for Alfus. Because that’s something I share in common with her, I had to ask her what it was like to be one of only a had full of females enrolled in law school in the early 60s.
“I didn’t pay attention to how many women were there. Actually, I was glad there weren’t a lot of women because women are tougher competitors than men,” she explained.
Upon graduating from law school, Alfus became in-house counsel for Kmart’s apparel division. “I’m more of a business woman than a lawyer,” Alfus explains. (Something else we have in common, and we both agree on the valuable strategic thinking skills a legal education provides.)
As a result, she persuaded Kmart’s chairman to set up a direct sourcing/manufacturing private label business, which she headed until her retirement. Well, retirement from that position is a more accurate statement.
Today, Alfus is off on another endeavor in the healthcare field. Two years ago, she founded the Alfus Patient Advocate Certificate Program (TAPA) at the University of Miami. It is the premier healthcare advocate certificate program in the U.S. — designed and taught by recognized experts in the field.
“I like the idea that I am supporting the beginning of a whole new profession by creating a program that provides people with a pragmatic set of skills, “ she says. “My certificate program is case study-based. The courses will impart practical skills to students who can then go on to advocate for patients in a variety of settings.”
Now that the educational program is up and running, Alfus is launching the ICAPA Foundation to focus on a broader vision. She hopes the foundation can help educate the public on the need for health care advocates, and she plans to focus her energies on getting insurance companies to cover advocate expenses.
Before I ended my conversation with Alfus, I had to ask her, “Why at 82 years old are you still launching new ventures?”
“My mind and my body are still working. And you just don’t sit around when everything is working,” she explained.
With that we said our goodbyes and she said she was off to play bridge — another one of this wildly successful entrepreneur’s many interests.
More women are starting their own businesses only to find a different kind of pay gap. Small business expert Susan Solovic joins Tanya Rivero on Lunch Break.
- Capital: The law extended the gender equality of access to credit provided in the Equal Credit Opportunity Act of 1974 to include business credit. Just think, prior to 1988 women business owners could not get business credit in their own name!
- Capitol: The Act also established the National Women’s Business Council, which provides the women’s business community with a seat at the table in the US Capitol and in federal policy circles. The NWBC is comprised of individual women business owners and representatives of women’s business organizations, and must submit an annual report to the President, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Small Business Administration each year. Read past annual reports HERE to learn what recommendations the NWBC has made to federal policymakers.
- Counseling: The law also launched a “demonstration project” of entrepreneurial education and counseling focused on female clients. From four initial pilot programs in 1989 has grown over 100 women’s business centers today, providing technical assistance, education, coaching and counseling, group and peer-to-peer mentoring, and ongoing support to both would-be and existing women (and men) business owners. Many former clients come back and teach and mentor. Do you have a skill or a story to share with budding entrepreneurs? Find a women’s business center near you and volunteer!
- Counting: Finally, the law directed the U.S. Census Bureau to include ALL women-owned businesses in their next quinquennial census. Up until that time, the census did not include all industries or all legal forms of business organization. Upon the publication of the 1992 Census in 1995, when C corporations were included for the first time, the number of women-owned firms increased by just 9%, but employment jumped by 111% and revenues generated by women-owned firms skyrocketed by 145%. Women-owned firms were finally on the map!
Take a moment and think about how much easier it is for women starting businesses now than it was for our foremothers prior to 1988 – when there were no women’s business centers, no complete accounting of the number and economic clout of women-owned businesses, no National Women’s Business Council, and no ability to access business credit without a male co-signer.
Some folks are already taking note of the impending anniversary. Click on the following links to read a blogpost from CAMEO (the California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity), an op-ed piece from Connecticut WDBC director (and NWBC council member) Fran Pastore, and an article from WIPP co-founder Barbara Kasoff. And check out what we had to say five years ago at the 20th anniversary during a panel discussion at an academic conference!
And stay tuned – women’s enterprise leaders are talking now about gathering en masse next Spring to celebrate the accomplishments of the past 25 years and talk more seriously about what the movement – and women business owners – need going forward.
In the meantime, we’d like to start a social media conversation about the past 25 years of women’s entrepreneurship. Tweet and post your thoughts about the progress we’ve made, and the work that’s yet to be done. Use the hashtag #WBOAct@25. What are your thoughts, reflections, calls to action? Ready, set, go!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Julie R. Weeks
Womenable – established in 2005 – is a for-profit social enterprise that works to enable womenís entrepreneurship worldwide by improving the systems ñ laws, policies, programs and research-based knowledge ñ that support womenís enterprise creation and growth.
Simply stated, our mission is to enable women’s entrepreneurship worldwide. In so doing, we work with the stewards of women’s entrepreneurship – policy makers, multi-lateral organizations, corporate decision makers, entrepreneurial support organizations, and the women’s business community – on efforts that will result in a better environment for the creation and growth of women-owned enterprises.
Attorney Evangeline Gomez, small business expert Susan Solovic and parenting blogger Lyss Stern on concerns labor laws are driving women out of the wo…
When you think of diversity in the workplace you typically think of race and gender, but in reality workplace diversity is much broader. Consider your co-workers, they differ in a variety of ways such as age, marital status and family responsibilities. All of these differences can lead to stereotyping which may result in workplace tension.
Is stereotyping harmful in the workplace? Quite simply, the answer is “Yes.” Stereotyping, or in other words placing labels on people, results from making general assumptions about an individual with little or no personal knowledge about them. For example, we’ve all heard the spacey blond jokes which is a play on the assumption that all blonds are dumb — but of course, we know that isn’t true.
Unfortunately, in the workplace it’s no laughing matter. What happens when you make these assumptions is you subconsciously start to look for things to confirm your beliefs … and overtime you might pick up on one or two isolated incidents that cause you justify or confirm your assumptions. So you close your mind about the individual which damages your ability to really work well with that person.
Below are some of the common stereotypes which can impact the workplace.
* Single vs. Married: Single people feel as though they are seen in one of two ways. First, they are often thought to be frivolous and more interested in their social life than they are their work. Plus, many say they feel stigmatized by their single status as being damaged goods because they aren’t married. Secondly, some say their married co-workers think they should be able to work longer hours because they don’t have any outside responsibilities. However, on the flip side singles often say they can focus more on their work because they are single and can use it to their advantage to get ahead. While others view their married counterparts as having an advantage because they have a partner to help with outside responsibilities.
* Children vs. No Children. While this typically impacts women more than men, it isn’t just a female issue. But a lot of women say they are made to feel guilty at work because of how they have juggle their work and childcare responsibilities while at the same time they are made to feel guilty because they are working and not at home with their children. Employees who don’t have children sometimes feel resentful when they have to cover for co-workers who frequently are absent because of child-related emergencies. Today, about two-thirds of working women have young children at home so many employers are finding ways to manage this fairly.
* Baby Boomer vs. Generation Y: As the population ages, more and more people are choosing to work much longer in their careers. The Baby Boomer generation hasn’t grown up with technology as the Generation Y workers. So there is a tension between the tried and true ways of doing business versus the technological solutions of today. This generational gap can create serious friction in the work place. But instead of immediately stereotyping the individual, you should get to know the other person and appreciate each others strengths. Learn from each other.
* Women — Married and Marginalized. Although over half the working population consists of women, there is a prevalent view that women are working to provide a secondary household income. That is often part of the explanation for the pay gap that exists between men and women. However, many women today are the primary breadwinners in their families and often the sole provider. Making assumptions can limit someone’s career opportunities.
* Domestic Lifestyle Choice: The term “family” today is taking on new meaning. There are people choosing to live together as domestic partners of the same or different genders. Yet in the work environment these non-traditional family settings don’t get the same respect as traditional domestic lifestyle choices. As a result, an employee who lives with a domestic partner is often not given the same consideration when that partner becomes ill or has an emergency as someone in a traditional marriage.
The bottom line is everyone should keep an open mind and get to know your co-workers as individuals. Avoid making assumptions and stereotyping. None of us is the same and no one fits into a specific category. Respect diversity of all types in your work environment.