I recently heard one of the most inspiring speeches in my life about the future of women business owners and entrepreneurs in this country. Jennifer Hyman, creator of the multi-million dollar company, Rent the Runway, shared her amazing entrepreneurial story, as well as some personal issues about sexual harassment she endured along the way to building her fashion leasing empire. She was bright, bold and brave and let none of this stand in her way. She’s changing the world for young women, one dress and one initiative at a time. I got goose bumps. For the first time in my 40-plus year career, I thought things are really changing for women.
The very next day my heart sank when Brenda Tate, CEO of the Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation shared a new report on “The Status of Women in Florida by County: Employment & Earnings,” which gave our state a grade of D+, down from a C- in 2002, and a ranking of 38th in the country when it comes to women’s earnings compared to men.
The report was commissioned by the Florida Women’s Funding Alliance (FWFA) and produced by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR). While the full report can be found at https://fundwomenfl.org/research/, here are a few highlights, based on 2016 data, on where Florida and the Southwest Florida region rank in terms of employment and wages:
So, what’s up with Florida? While the report outlines a number of policy initiatives that the state could take that would enhance opportunities and wages for women, there may be an easier way.
Maybe Florida businesses and policymakers should simply take a look at the success of Jennifer Hyman and Rent the Runway as a role model. The company has 1,100 employees and 70 percent are women. It has raised more than $190 million in venture capital and now boasts six million overwhelmingly female members who have access to 450 designer brands to rent. Someone’s sure betting on women entrepreneurs, workers and consumers!!
Respectfully submitted by:
Principal, Tieger Public Affairs LLC
Advisor, Southwest Florida Women’s Foundation