On Saturday I attended a great workshop put on by WEI (Women Entrepreneurs Institute), which focused on providing local female entrepreneurs with the tools and support they need to build successful businesses.
Before I started researching local history (and even now, I must admit) I tend to bristle at any organization or event focused on helping a particular ethnic group or gender (try having a Male Entrepreneurs Institute or a White Student Union). Non-traditional or reverse discrimination is still discrimination.
Yet. Yet… I’m the one who posted info about the feme sole trader laws, which were needed before women were “allowed” to own and operate their own businesses independent of their husbands. I’m the one who cited the Institute for Women’s Policy Research in Washington, D.C., which found that white females earn 73 cents for every dollar earned by a white males for doing the same work. The institute that also found that minority women, such as Latinas, face greater earning disparities, earning, on average 51 cents for every dollar earned by white men.
Things are changing, though, and opportunities for women are growing. Today women own about 40 percent of all businesses in the U.S. and the number of women-owned businesses is growing. Women also benefit from events like WEI, even while male entrepreneurs, who need the training and information just as much as women do, are excluded.
I understand that in a sense, WEI was an affirmative action event*, as are the many small business grant and loan programs that are not available to other (male-owned) businesses.
Yet, as a woman (and business owner) I look forward to the day when I am not considered part of a special, underprivileged class that needs extra help to achieve the same success as a man. The extra help may be a necessary evil to address and reverse centuries of disadvantage and discrimination, but eventually we won’t be classified as white, black, male, female and instead we’ll just be people. People working hard to achieve our goals.
*The term affirmative action refers to policies that take race, ethnicity, physical disabilities, military career, sex, or a person’s parents’ social class into consideration in an attempt to promote equal opportunity or increase ethnicity or other forms of diversity. The focus of such policies ranges from employment and education to public contracting and health programs. The impetus towards affirmative action is twofold: to maximize diversity in all levels of society, along with its presumed benefits, and to redress perceived disadvantages due to overt, institutional, or involuntary discrimination.