“Behind every great man is a great woman.”
An expression that has been around since the mid-1940s. I’ve always had mixed feelings about this adage. On the one hand, it acknowledges the fact that many of the most successful men on the planet have been helped through the tougher moments by the woman of their life.
On the other hand — and quite suited to the era it originated in — the proverb seems to suggest that women are better off supporting their husbands from behind the scenes rather than following their own dreams.
Whether you see this maxim as a tone-deaf remnant of darker periods for gender equality or an anachronistic appreciation for the value of women, there’s no doubt that the world’s strong females are done getting behind men — they’re stepping into the forefront.
I, as well as the entire Lensa team, wholeheartedly believe that women are every bit mens’ equal.
This International Women’s Day, we are highlighting the extraordinary accomplishments of some of the bravest women our planet has to offer. We’ll look at the stories of female entrepreneurs and politicians as they push our society forward!
A Brief History of International Women’s Day
International Women’s Day has been observed in one form or another since 1911 — though the United Nations only officially recognized it in 1977. The first International Women’s Day took place on March 19, 1911.
In an era before the Internet, over a million people organized to commemorate the first IWM. Hundreds of events were held to celebrate the occasion on that day (with over 300 taking place in the Austro-Hungarian empire alone).
How Can Women Leaders Achieve More Success?
There are more opportunities for women in today’s society than there have ever been in the course of human history. That then brings the question of how to capitalize on a species that’s finally in the position to achieve true equality.
A lot of it comes down to having the right mindset. For better or worse, a big part of how people perceive us reflects on how we see ourselves. The only way for others to recognize our true worth is for us to first do the same.
This applies to most leaders since you can’t expect people to follow your directives if you don’t believe in yourself. After all, humans are able to pick up on self-doubt from a mile away — sometimes even subconsciously.
It’s especially important for female leaders. As much as we hate to admit it, there are still some people that remain stuck in the past. It’s actions, not words, that are likely to change their minds and enlighten them on the societal progress we’ve made this century.
Changing the minds of those who are yet to open their eyes to reality is productive but far from the biggest impact that owning your empowerment as a woman can have. No, what matters most is setting the right example for the women of tomorrow.
Women in Politics: From Kamala Harris to Jacinda Ardern and The Squad
Whether you’re looking at the White House, the four empowered democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, or the Labour Party prime minister who has been lauded for her rapid response to the coronavirus threat, there’s no shortage of outstanding female politicians.
Of course, we couldn’t write an article about great female leaders without acknowledging the milestone set by the first female Vice President of the United States Kamala Harris a mere four years after becoming the second Black woman to be elected to the Senate.
Last but not least, who can forget Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who received recognition on VisualPolitik’s World’s Greatest Leaders of the Year Awards for her excellent management of the pandemic in New Zealand — the first country to clear itself of the virus back in May 1, 2020.
Speaking of the pandemic…
Are Women Leaders Doing Better During the Pandemic?
One could certainly make a case for it. When you contrast the measures taken by New Zealand compared to the United States, Spain, or Brazil it would seem as though these countries could benefit from a feminine touch — or dare I say common sense — in their policies.
The counter-argument is that it’s more likely for a hard-hit country to be run by a man since only 13 nation-states are led by females. Geographic considerations like the fact that New Zealand is an island while the other three aforementioned territories are continental.
Regardless of whether it’s due to the unfortunately small sample size or topographic factors, there’s no denying that countless female heads have been putting their male counterparts to shame through strategic leadership and unrelenting empathy.
Three Strong Businesswomen Who Endured and Thrived During the Pandemic
Britt Webb — Cosmetics Retailer
The so-called “Mommy Shark” of the LiveSotori entrepreneurial family is no stranger to the struggles of running your own business during what is arguably the most impactful pathogen in recent history: SARS-CoV-2.
Britt spent 16 years styling hair before she started her own cosmetics company. What began as a small Shopify storefront with some influencer marketing quickly grew into a thriving brand that even managed to get featured on Vogue.
Right when it seemed like everything was going well, like there was nowhere to go but up, COVID hit. The New York lab that supplied all her cosmetics needed to shut down indefinitely in compliance with the lockdown measures put into place by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Even her drop-shipping revenue stream was halted in its tracks since the international supply chain was disrupted as a direct result of the pandemic. The only thing that remained was the stock in her garage — and who knew how long it’d be until things went back to normal.
As if all that wasn’t enough, she got into a collision that wrecked her car as well as her wrist. That was it. Her last reliable source of income was gone too now that she wouldn’t be able to style hair until she recovered.
But as a true testament to the strength of women and their enduring spirit, she kept going. She did anything and everything to keep her family secured during this bleak period that kicked off the new decade.
COVID-19 may have caught her young company off guard, but Britt was able to swiftly adapt the business model to capitalize on the new opportunities that manifested. She joined up with LiveSotori and that was her big turnaround moment.
Online revenue streams had been booming since everyone was stuck at home and this was the saving grace that allowed Britt Webb to keep everything afloat after all had seemed to already be lost.
It will take time to rebuild the supply chain piece by piece until her cosmetics business can resume running at full speed but at least the money she now earns online has subsidized this Mommy Shark’s bold adventures.
We asked this resourceful mompreneur what advice she has for female business owners who need to make it through COVID-19 since she had done so herself first-hand. She thought for a bit then sent this inspiring message to all the businesswomen out there.
“Yes, we’re faced with unprecedented challenges that no one could plan for. That’s not an excuse to give up though. Adapt, learn, grow. If you want to keep your business afloat then you’ll need to break through every obstacle with persistence and creativity.
Those who want to start a business don’t have to wait either. Sure, if you’re looking to start an airline then maybe waiting a couple of years isn’t the worst idea. In most industries though, there are many ways to thrive under the current circumstances.
It’s true that some business models simply ceased to work when things went south at the start of the pandemic. But there were other companies that saw their revenue go through the roof like Zoom or Amazon.
No matter what, don’t give up.”
Danielle Lurie — Realty Queen
The effect that COVID-19 had on the real estate market changed multiple times. At first, everything was on a standstill when the initial lockdown protocols started. Open houses were canceled, real estate brokerages laid empty, and construction on new properties hit a standstill.
Essentially, the entire landscape screeched to a grinding halt. The Jane Advisory, a six-woman real estate team, refused to be intimidated out of sales due to the sudden shift in priorities for homebuyers.
In the past, all you needed to do is frame properties as the house of your dreams and people would show up. Nowadays, you need to be a lot more creative in how you approach real estate marketing.
Whether it’s room for a home gym, reliable connectivity, or a location with low COVID rates, the things that get a buyer excited today have drastically changed. Danielle and her team knew that they’d need to market accordingly if they hope to keep up during the pandemic.
They started posting self-care tips on their social media channels and also ramped things up on the newsletter front to get their online following excited for the type of content being posted. The team also started a We Love New York campaign to make people stay or at least return.
It’s no easy task to convince people to remain in a city when the situation seems so dire, but this type of positive publicity can give people a reason to come back home once the pandemic passes and safety has been restored.
The Jane Advisory has even embraced the tech side of things by creating digital presentations that they can show buyers and sellers over Zoom. They found that cutting out these in-person meetings actually ends up saving a lot of time and the closing rate is still similar.
Make no mistake, change on a scale like this is never easy. But we should keep pushing forward instead of succumbing to fear and uncertainty. We asked the team what they think female business owners should do during this trying period and here’s what they said:
“This is a time of real tenderness for the world at large, and I believe that tenderness can be a woman’s greatest asset as it helps to unlock her very powerful intuition. To all women, I say trust your instincts in this surreal time. Our instincts will be more clear and accurate than ever.
COVID-19 has lifted the curtain on so much that we all haven’t done well in terms of business like having high overhead costs of brick and mortar leases or having so many meetings in person that detract from time to think creatively.
This is a time to pay attention to what the world is needing most and to put your focus there. Allow yourself to reinvent yourself and your business right now. That’s why we renamed ourselves from ‘The Danielle Lurie Team’ to ‘The Jane Advisory.’
Jane Jacobs was a real estate activist who believed that NYC and all cities are supposed to be for people rather than buildings. We felt the best way to show our love for both the city and its people would be to honor her name.
We’ve also been putting a lot of work into figuring out the best way to recruit safely and effectively during the pandemic as we see our team growing by 50% or more in the next 5-10 years. It all comes down to reputation.
Whether it’s calling agents they’ve collaborated with or reading client testimonials, looking at social proof of their performance is a great way to find the ideal candidate. It’s also important to be flexible in terms of working arrangements.
Our Head of Operations, Michaela Morton, was hired right after COVID hit. We spent hours on Zoom figuring out how we could make things work despite the new developments. It was empowering for two women to get together in an online conference and just brainstorm!
Lastly, we look forward to embracing the beauty of virtual interaction in the coming years as our buyers start doing the same. Being remote for all things that don’t require in-person connection frees up space for us to have quiet moments to breathe, think, and create is truly spectacular.
If necessity is the mother of invention, then this ought to be one of the most innovative times in our world’s history.”
Melissa Mundy — Catering Superstar
Catering is without a doubt one of the hardest-hit industries when it comes to ripples created by the pandemic. This was especially true during the earlier months of COVID lockdowns. Most businesses were closed and events of the type that need catering were not allowed.
Established contractors found their catering companies going bankrupt left and right. What was once a consistent source of income turned into a very volatile line of work and far too many employees lost their jobs.
Katerwerks, an Augusta, Georgia catering company, was fortunate enough to have Melissa as its leader. Her background is in human resources and the medical industry, so she’s no stranger to tracking recommendations from health professionals and translating that info into a policy.
The catering company began as an offshoot of the restaurant at a golf course operated by Mundy and her husband. They began coordinating and executing an increasingly larger number of events both onsite and offsite, and the business grew from there.
When the pandemic hit, the 15 employees who depended on these event bookings to pay their bills were justifiably concerned that things might go under.
Melissa shared her journey with us to inspire others.
“We definitely had to make some changes to what we were doing… We adapted to do more takeout delivery services… [and] we worked with our food vendor and developed grocery service delivery as well… As a lot of the grocery stores around became short on certain supplies, we could offer some grocery staples that were easier for us to receive through our food vendors.
This industry is one that, once it gets in your blood, it’s hard to get away from it. And it’s really about serving people and being able to celebrate people getting together and enjoying each other.
I think to survive, you always have to be able to to change and adapt. And you can take situations and always look at challenges as opportunities and always just keep hope that there’s always a different way to do something. So instead of looking at a problem as a problem, you look at it as a challenge or an opportunity…
Never underestimate yourself. Sometimes we underestimate what we can do. And I think that’s really important and never, never be afraid to try something new and different.”
While the progress we have made is laudable, it is not enough. Even now, in the 21st century, women are still only earning 85% of what their male coworkers make.
That means they would need to work more than an extra month every year just to close the gap. This is not only abhorrent but unacceptable in a world that prides itself on inclusivity and positive change.
Today we celebrate the work that has been done, tomorrow we do the work that must be done.