Libby Hill soon noticed a pattern in the way men treated her when she first started her business, Family Karate, in 2005. Even a simple interview with a copy supplier could become problematic. One man felt uncomfortable because he was afraid to tell her off-color jokes. According to TMCnet.com, another kept wondering where her husband was.
“I have a double challenge: being a woman in business and a woman in the martial arts,” she said. “There are many men — other businessmen, salesmen, customers — that continue to treat a woman business owner like a patsy. It is assumed a woman doesn’t know what she is doing.” However, women entrepreneurs are a major and growing dimension within the economy, as far as government contracting, said Sonya M. Wagasky, business development specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Cleveland District Office.
Changing times? Hill sees some inroads have been made for women in business since she owned her first one in the 1980s.
“At that time, women were not invited to be chamber of commerce, Rotary, or Kiwanis members,” she said. “We created our own networking group, Women Business Owners of the Western Reserve, to have such an outlet. Now women are not only members, but leaders of these groups.
“I, myself, am the current president of the Painesville Area Chamber of Commerce,” she added. “This is a huge improvement. To have the ability to share our business stories and work together not only helps women business owners, but the men as well. Sharing ideas and problems at networking events has helped me grow.”
Photo by Gaby Av