Blog: Women’s Exchange of Washtenaw

Concentrate gets in touch with its anima. We've invited five local women, all movers and shakers, to weigh in on what it means for them to do business in the new economy. It's in recognition of the Women's Exchange of Washtenaw's May 15th annual forum, "Now We're Talking".

Post 2: Rebecca Lopez Kriss - Women Need to Know it Isn't Either-Or

One of my many projects is organizing a young professionals happy hour for the hipster YPs who work or live in Ann Arbor. The group just celebrated its first birthday and we’ve come a long way from 11 people getting coffee at Sweetwaters; our last happy hour had over 70 attendees and we now maintain an email list approaching 300 names.  The thing that sticks out in my memory from our first coffee meeting, four men attended, seven women, is that every one of the men owned their own companies and none of the women did.

It’s completely anecdotal, I know. But I am hard pressed to name very many young women who are starting their own companies... I can think of one in Ann Arbor. 

So what gives?

I am not a conspiracy theorist, I don’t think something incredibly discriminatory is going on. After asking a few of my women business friends their opinion, here is what the consensus says: Young women don’t start businesses because it means choosing starting a business over starting a family, and young men don’t have to choose.

That sort of sucks.

I am not qualified to talk about what socio-cultural-class factors may make young women feel that starting a business excludes starting a family, but I will suggest that young women don’t have very many female business-owner role-models. Certainly,
studies have shown that cross-culturally, women are often perceived to lack the qualities of leadership, no matter what the group has defined qualities of leadership to be.

I am fortunate, even from my teenage years, I have almost always worked for strong women in small businesses.  Because of this, I feel like I have had an amazing hands-on business learning experience, and I have always thought I would start my own business someday. I wish I could introduce High Schoolers to the scads of women business leaders I know who have started smart, innovative, successful companies. While those ladies may not have started their companies at 25, they are running businesses while raising children, volunteering for local organizations, generally making their communities better, and they are no less inspirational. If anything, exposing all young people to women business-owners might just change their vision of what a business leader looks like.

Rebecca Lopez Kriss is a concerned citizen and community advocate at all levels.  She is currently fighting the good fight preparing for the Women's Exchange of Washtenaw's May conference event: "WXW Forum 2009: Now We're Talking."  Additionally, Rebecca volunteers her time with a number of organizations including the Ann Arbor Art Center,, the Ann Arbor Area Chamber of Commerce, and Ann Arbor SPARK. She received a bachelor of arts degree in English from the University of Detroit Mercy and will begin a Masters in Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy this fall.