Entrepreneur: Women Won’t Achieve Equal Representation in Business Unless Men Help Change the Status Quo

By: Coco Brown

Male CEOs and board directors need to take an active role in promoting a more diverse selection of leaders.


“If everyone has the power, no one does.” This saying rings true in boardrooms and leadership positions across America, where 87 percent of executive roles and 95 percent of CEO positions are held by men. While these men may be qualified and equipped to run boardrooms and companies, they are overrepresented in positions of power in relation to customer demographics. Unfortunately, human tendency is to choose partners who look and think the same as we do. This means the overwhelming majority of C-suite and boardroom seats will remain male — unless individuals in power embrace their ability to make change, rather than waiting for one of their peers to lead the charge.

I rarely meet a man, or hear of a man, who wouldn’t say he welcomes women to share an equal level of power in leadership, and most men will espouse the value women bring to the table. Yet, 100 years after women received the right to vote in this country, men still have a super majority of the vote in business. The only way to remedy this and continue business growth is for male CEOs and board directors to take an active role in promoting a more diverse selection of leaders.

Almost 50 percent of all entry level roles across corporate America are held by women, but we fall off at every rung higher on the ladder. By the time we reach the C-suite, only 17 percent of roles are held by women. The reasons are complicated (pinkwashing, unconscious deflection, a general inability to recognize the full potential of their power), but men have the lion’s share of control over changing this — if they choose to accept it.

The most important step toward gender parity is for the majority (men) to not just really want it, but to actively advocate and work toward it. As the major force of power in our business world, they are the only group who can make a significant and immediate impact. In business, the most compelling reason to do something is because it makes business sense, and there is a wealth of proof that diversity does just that. CEOs must educate themselves and their teams on the business value of diversity and their power to achieve it. When that happens, the rest will follow. But until that happens, it will be difficult to move forward.

CEOs must avoid being bystanders. Too often, CEOs believe they are addressing diversity needs by creating new programs and affinity groups, but without their active engagement, progress is painfully slow. It’s hard to accelerate the pace of change, and often the best motivator is the CEO’s insistence. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff is a great example, for his insistence on equal pay and that all important meetings include at least 30 percent women attendees. He knows his business will be better if he accelerates diversity to mimic society and his customer base at all levels of the organization, and he’s willing to use his power to make it happen.

I talk to a lot of CEOs who are increasingly realizing that if they invest in broader, deeper executive searches, they can find what they are looking for in a woman. More progressive companies are even removing names, photos and any gender or race-related elements from resumes to neutralize potential unconscious bias early in the process. In addition, some are changing the interview process in meaningful ways, like only sharing feedback individually with a central point of contact so as not to bias one another’s input.

Beyond these kinds of efforts, CEOs need to broaden their networks. If a CEO knows one amazing executive woman, he has access to at least six others. We all run in like peer groups. This is true for top executive women, as it is for top executive men. Women associate with women. However, we are more than ready to break that mold and join the networks of executive men. We just need to be invited in. Network with us, and ask us to help you network with other amazing women. We will help you. In fact, if you know The Athena Alliance, you know 500 amazing executive women across a wide range of industries and C-level functions.

To accelerate the pace of change toward gender parity at all ranks of leadership, CEOs must understand the full capacity of their transformative power and believe in the value diversity brings to their bottom lines. Then they must insist on it. CEOs should not accept a slate of candidates that is not representative of women, and they should do themselves a favor by expanding their own networks. Implementing these changes is relatively simple. If you are a CEO who finds this hard to believe, I challenge you to test this by tapping my network.

The Encore – Advantage|Forbes Books: Climbing Up and Giving Back

How Successful Women are Building Their Businesses And  Making a Difference


Jen Coffel lost her mother, father and best friend to cancer in less than two years. In 2010, she partnered with her long-time friend and cancer survivor Kim Bavilacqua to create Handing H.O.P.E., a nonprofit supporting children with cancer. She is responsible for the vision, strategy, and national fundraising efforts for Handing H.O.P.E. and the Lollipop Tree Project as it grows and expands across the country.

Handing H.O.P.E.’s mission is to bring smiles to children battling cancer nationwide. They provide sugar-free lollipop trees to children’s cancer clinics, hospitals, and camps across the country in the hope of brightening a child’s day.

“I have four children and I saw the cancer stats for kids and I wanted to make a difference,” Coffel remembers. “I know that the treatment makes their mouths taste bad. I remember talking with a woman one day. She and her son both had cancer and that’s how the idea came about, so Kim and I filled out the 503 application.”

In 2011, they got approved as a 503(c), then Coffel received some shocking news.

“My best friend called me and told me they found tumors in her head,” says Coffel. “We were in the battle together. I went to all her appointments with her. Then my dad got cancer, fought for 6 months and died, and then my mom got cancer and died 8 months later. My best friend, stayed with me through all of that, and then she died three months later.”

On December 31, 2015, Jen Coffel made her first call to a hospital and started getting her lollipop trees distributed.

Her book, Be Well Assured: At The Heart of Cancer There Is H.O.P.E., was released in October 2016 and helps Coffel and Bavilacqua spread their message. Her publisher, Advantage Media Group|ForbesBooks, absorbed a majority of the costs as Coffel and Bavilacqua were the winners of the Advantage Impact program.

“I love the fact that we have a tool to give people,” says Coffel. “People often give our book as a gift. It’s so good to know that we are putting hope in the hands of people who are in the battle. I love knowing that.”

Advantage Impact is a program at Advantage Media Group|ForbesBooks dedicated to helping worth nonprofits share their stories with the world. The program was created based on two strong beliefs of the Advantage Family. First, the right book, in the right hands, at the right time, can change a person’s life forever. Second, publishing your own book can be a powerful marketing tool that is used directly to promote your cause, raise community awareness, and garner support. Since 2005, Advantage has helped over 1,000 business professionals around the globe write, publish, and market a book to grow their business.

“I saw an opportunity to help someone who was passionate about fighting cancer,” says Keith Kopcsak, VP of Authority Marketing at Advantage Media Group|ForbesBooks. “She had a good message to share and she was a great fit for our Advantage Impact Program.”

However, Coffel has channelled her passion for life into even more than a nonprofit organization and a book. She has used her struggle and passion to create the Courageous Woman Movement. Her goal is to empower and equip one million female entrepreneurs around the world to live out their dreams in business and in life.

“Having lost my mom, dad, and best friend to cancer at young ages, I don’t take a minute of my life for granted. I think BIG,” says Coffel. “I want to leave a memorable legacy. I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I lived just the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well. I want to live my life so that my children can tell their children that I not only stood for something wonderful — I acted on it! I want to encourage one million women to do the same.”

Click here to read more.

Inc.com – Women Entrepreneurs: Yes, You Are Underserved

By:  Kelly Hoey

Gender diversity begets more gender diversity. In order for women-led and women-owned companies to receive greater funding, gender- diverse investors are required.

ICYMI: Harvard Business Review (HBR) kicked the gender-bias in venture capital hornet’s nest in its recently published article “We Recorded VCs’ Conversations And Analyzed How Differently They Talk About Female Entrepreneurs.” Between 2009-2010, researchers were given access to125 government venture capital decision-making meetings in Sweden and observed a whole lot of gendered discourse.

Read the HBR article for the full “he said/she said” discussion. Here, let’s focus on this: governments are venture capitalists and quite significant ones, too.

Read the HBR article for the full “he said/she said” discussion. Here, let’s focus on this: governments are venture capitalists and quite significant ones, too.

As the HBR article points out: between 2007-2013, government venture capitalists in the European Union allocated 3,621,000,000 Euros to finance innovation and growth in small and medium-size businesses. While the article focuses on the gendered-discourse the researchers silently observed in the 125 meetings, it slides this in, in the last paragraph:

“Because the purpose of government venture capital is to use tax money to stimulate grown and value creation for society as a whole, gender bias presents the risk that the money isn’t being invested in businesses that have the highest potential. This isn’t only damaging for women entrepreneurs; it’s potentially damaging for society as a whole.”

On this side of the Atlantic, the U.S. government is a very significant player in the venture capital industry. Since 1953, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has delivered millions in loans, loan guarantees and contracts to small businesses. On the access to capital side, SBA financing ranges from micro-loans to you guessed it, venture capital. The SBA’s mechanism for investing in innovation is the Small Business Investment Company program (SBIC), one of the largest fund-of-funds in the United States. The SBIC can invest up to $4 billion annually. It issues debt to venture capitalists, private equity funds and other vehicles that invest in America’s small, but scaling, businesses.

Iconic brands – Apple, Intel, FedEx, and Tesla – have all received SBIC funding.

The SBIC program leverages the full faith and credit of the U.S. government to increase the pool of investment capital available to small businesses. SBIC was created to bridge the gap between entrepreneurs’ need for capital and traditional sources of financing. This is a multi-billion dollar investment program! According to the SBIC “over the past five years (2011-2016), the program has channeled more than $21 billion of capital to more than 6,400 U.S. small businesses spanning a variety of industries across the country.”

And 2016 was a record year for the SBIC: it provided $6 billion in financing to 1200 small businesses. Funding to women owned high-growth businesses? No precise figure as SBIC reporting lumps together “Women, Minority, Veteran Owned” ventures in one underserved category. What is known is that in 2016, only 61 companies out of 1200 were in the “Women, Minority, Veteran Owned” category. You read that right: 61 companies out of 1200.

SBIC’s 5-year track record for investing in small businesses that are women-, minority- or veteran- owned is 7% (a bit brighter than the 0.05% in 2016).

Remember, one of the stated core missions of the SBA is to “mitigate the risk of financing small businesses that may not qualify for traditional loans” and that the SBIC loan program itself was intended to open up lending opportunities for underserved entrepreneurs, “including startups, growing businesses, women, minorities, and veterans“.


Fortune: Intel Says It Has Achieved 100% Equal Pay for All Women and Underrepresented Minorities

By: Aric Jenkins

Intel announced that it has achieved 100% pay equality for both women and underrepresented minorities, according to the chipmaker’s 2016 diversity and inclusion report.

Danielle Brown, Intel’s chief diversity and inclusion officer, wrote that the achievement was a “year-end goal” and that promotion parity for both groups had also been attained as well. Intel defines underrepresented minorities as African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

“We view pay and promotion parity as signals of the overall health of our company as well as a means of ensuring equity for all employees,” Brown wrote in the report.

In addition to closing the pay and promotion gap, Intel said it had also increased diverse hires and met its “diverse retention goal.” The tech giant claims that roughly 45% of its new hires in 2016 were of diverse backgrounds, and that it has established an advising and support service called the WarmLine for employees to consult with when considering leaving the company. A survey of more than 15,000 Intel employees had also been conducted to provide a “thorough look into the challenges our employees of color face,” according to the diversity report.

“In 2017, data and learnings from our multicultural retention and progression study and the WarmLine will be used to create tailored playbooks to improve our diverse representation, and improve inclusion within each business unit,” Brown wrote.

Intel’s diversity report last year received mixed reactions upon its release. Some praised the company for its improvements and setting the bar for other tech companies; others felt Intel’s diversity push was not enough.

Tech companies have been under fire in recent years for allegations of not promoting diversity and inclusive environments throughout the workplace. Uber is the latest to face backlash after a former employee penned a revealing blog post describing the ride-sharing company’s culture of sexism and instances of sexual harassment. One of Uber’s top executives, Amit Singhal, resigned on Monday for not disclosing previous sexual harassment claims from his prior job at Google.

UPS: How 3D Printing Could Bend the Cost Curve in Healthcare

By: John Menna

Imagine if any patient could be at the top of any donor recipient list. As Baby Boomers reach their retirement years, policymakers and leaders in medicine are scrambling to find better health outcomes with lower expenses. Additive manufacturing could provide a real breakthrough in treating patients around the world, writes John Menna, Vice President of Global Strategy for Healthcare Logistics at UPS.

UPS Blog

Even as people around the globe enjoy longer, healthier and more productive lives, the rising cost of healthcare threatens to impede such progress.

This is particularly troubling in the United States as Baby Boomers approaching retirement place a greater strain on an overburdened healthcare system.

Policymakers and medical leaders are scrambling for innovative ways to slow expenses, bracing for a demographic shift that will become arguably the central story in healthcare in the years ahead.

A Great Equalizer

However, one of the great equalizers could come in the form of another disruptive technology – 3D printing. Cost is at the center of the debate on 3D printing, with skeptics questioning whether 3D printers are too expensive to find a mainstream audience. But it’s equally as important to examine how additive manufacturing could bend the cost curve in a number of industries, especially healthcare.

It’s expensive to bring new drugs to market, and developing cutting-edge technologies for evolving threats requires significant investment.

Additive manufacturing would bring newfound efficiency to the healthcare supply chain, both at the front and back ends. Right now, the pharmaceutical industry spends more than $50 billion annually on research and development.

But with 3D printing, clinical trials for drugs could be more efficient, preserving valuable research and development budgets for private companies and nonprofits alike.

With developers creating treatment plans on demand, inventory levels would also shrink. U.S. hospitals, for example, generate more than 2 million tons of medical waste each year. Much of that “garbage” is unused medical supplies and equipment. Newer models often replace usable medical products that are destined for the landfill without ever leaving the bubble wrap.

3D Printing Efficiency

But 3D printers could root out such inefficiencies. Already, surgeons are using 3D printing to develop replicas of the human heart for surgery. Prosthetics for children that once cost tens of thousands of dollars now run a few hundred dollars. And 3-D printed tools are reducing error rates in surgeries.

This is just the beginning. With so-called bioprinting, cells could be deposited layer over layer to grow organs. Imagine a 3D-printed liver or even 3D-printed lungs.

The 3D printer would essentially place any patient at the top of any donor recipient list. Fewer people would risk death waiting for that perfect kidney match.

Much testing remains before widespread bioprinting becomes a reality. We must also clear a number of regulatory hurdles – safety and ethical standards should drive this process. This healthcare evolution won’t happen overnight, but 3D printing is providing a glimpse into a brighter future.

With 3D printing, scientists have created a bionic ear that can detect radio frequencies beyond the normal range of human hearing. Three-dimensional printers have created airway splints designed to grow as a baby grows. And researchers have developed 3D-printed skin for burn victims.

This is the ultimate form of personalized medicine, with doctors and surgeons tailoring medical plans to the individual rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. Elderly patients in need of a hip or knee replacement could benefit from the 3D printer for specialty implants. Because the process is more exact, these patients would avoid the second or third procedure to replace traditional, less-effective implants.

Manufacturing Better Health

In such a future, patients would live healthier and happier while driving down the cost of specialized and costly medical procedures. But this is more about people than dollars and cents. Picture a patient living in a remote village in the heart of Africa without access to sophisticated surgeries and medicines. What was once too expensive – nothing more than a pipe dream – is now deliverable.

And a logistics provider like UPS can send 3D-printed medical supplies around the globe, connecting all corners of the world faster than ever before. In this 3D-printed future, we’ll treat more patients. And by today’s standards, we’ll do so for pennies on the dollar. And those troubling healthcare spending charts? They’ll start trending in a downward direction.

(Top image: Lawrence Bonassar, associate professor of biomedical engineering, and colleagues collaborated with Weill Cornell Medical College physicians to create an artificial ear using 3-D printing and injectable molds. Credit: Lindsay France, Cornell University.)

This article is part of UPS Longitudes’ Routes to the Future series, which explores the business and technology trends that will shape our world in the next 10 years.

The Women Presidents’ Organization would like to thank UPS for providing this week’s sponsor blog content. 


WPO Guest Blog: Let’s Start Saying ‘Yes’ to Tax Reform

By: Pamela O’Rourke

In the beginning, I heard the word “no.”

I developed a business plan and took it to my alma mater, the University of Houston Small Business Development Center.

I heard no.

I rewrote that business plan three times, and when the time came to seek funding for my new venture, I heard it again.


Heeding the advice from Howard Schultz’s book, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time,” I sought out investors who knew more than I did about starting a business.

That’s when I heard “yes.” I sold 24 percent of ICON Information Consultants LP to “silent partners.”

As someone who has now been running a business for 19 years, employing more than 3,150 people and with $270 million in 2016 revenues, I’ve come to find that it’s all about never taking “no” for an answer.

And when it comes to tax reform, it’s time we start saying “yes.”

Having started as a small business and now running a midsize business, I believe tax reform is critical to our continued growth. Our business is organized as a limited partnership, but businesses come in all shapes and sizes. According to the Tax Foundation, 90 percent of U.S.-based businesses are pass-through entities, such as S corporations, partnerships and sole proprietorships. Tax treatment of all forms of business should be treated equitably in any tax reform bill.

No matter what form of business, all of us need a reduction in the tax rate to stay competitive.

The House Republican proposal, A Better Way, proposes to cap the tax rate of pass-through entities to 25 percent and C corporations at 20 percent. Layered on top of the federal rate is the state rate.

For pass-through entities in Texas, the marginal tax rate is 42.6 percent, but they go as high as 50 percent in other states.

Finally, Congress should repeal the alternative minimum tax and the estate tax, which will allow businesses like mine to pass from one generation to the next without crippling tax bills.

The time is now to get a “yes” from lawmakers in Washington on tax reform. Fixing the tax code will boost economic growth and spur business investment. Businesses can’t afford to hear “no” again.

Pamela O’Rourke founded ICON Information Consultants in Houston.


Forbes: Grit and Gutsy-ness Make Nina Vaca a Woman to Watch

By Geri Stengel

Nina Vaca Blog

Nina Vaca started Pinnacle Group 21 years ago. She has grown it from a small IT company into a global workforce-solutions powerhouse. In 2015, Pinnacle was ranked the #1 American Express and Women Presidents’ Organization Fastest-Growing Women-Owned/Led Company. Revenue exceeded $1 billion dollars. Pinnacle was ranked #2 in 2016 and 2017.

The rise to the top is never a straight line. There are moments when you are not sure if that big, bold step you are taking will be the right one. For Nina, there were several such moments.

  • In the wake of 9/11, and after the birth of the second of her four children, the economy froze and so, too, did Pinnacle’s traditional staffing model. Corporations just didn’t want to hire. “I was looking at a liquidation plan. Not making payroll is one of the hardest moments for a CEO. The stress and pressure to know that it is not just your life but it is other people’s, too,” said Nina. “Entrepreneurs see opportunities that no one else does.” She took full control of the company and re-engineered its service offerings.
  • In 2007, she seized an opportunity to enter the managed-services sector with an ambitious $100 million program.
  • In 2009, in response to the economic downturn, Nina expanded by offering services in Canada. Exporting is a great opportunity for U.S. companies.
  • In 2011, Nina expanded Pinnacle’s offering into VMS (vendor management software) by acquiring Provade, which offers enterprise-class VMS that enables clients to manage their contingent workforce spend. Pinnacle further broadened its managed service offerings in 2011-2012 by adding payrolling and IC compliance to its portfolio.

I’ve interviewed Nina several times. The first time was in 2012 and most recently at a WE NYC and New York Women’s Chamber of Commerce event. WE NYC (Women Entrepreneurs NYC) is an initiative based out of the New York City Department of Small Business Services. It is dedicated to helping women start and grow their businesses. I am a WE NYC mentor.

Importantly, Nina shared advice from the mainstage, which included becoming a certified minority/women-owned business. “Certification has been integral in the growth of Pinnacle,” said Nina. It doesn’t give you the business. It gives you access to opportunities but you have to prove yourself, she explained.

Access to markets is critical to all businesses. Having customers who spend billions on goods and services, such as the Fortune 1000 or government agencies, increases your chances for high growth. Having your company certified as a women and/or minority owned business opens access to corporate and government contracts. If the federal government is a customer, women-owned businesses are 23 times more likely to be million-dollar businesses, according to American Express OPEN research about government small business contracting.

Click here to read more.