What Type of Business Would You Start? Part 2


What Type of Business Would You Start? Part 2

Most of us are familiar with the 1950s images of the American housewife baking cookies, vacuuming, using her washing machine, putting on make-up, etc. So when a woman starts a business using these skills as a basis, it may seem like a natural progression. But what about when a woman chooses to start a construction company, a winery, or a dairy farm? Does this seem natural as well, or does the imagery of a woman in a dump truck or on a tractor make us pause for a moment?

The 2007 Survey of Business Owners (part of the 2007 Economic Census),showed the percentage of woman-owned businesses in each business sector. Take a look at this pie chart and the graphic below (also taken from the 2007 Census). Is it what you expected? What are the most prevalent sectors for woman-owned businesses? (These statistics  in the pie chart are slightly limiting since the largest percentage is allotted to “all other industries,” but is still informative about certain career directions.)

So what sectors are considered “non-traditional”? A non-traditional career is defined as one where more than 75% of the workforce is of the opposite gender. For a list of non-traditional careers for both women an men, look at Dr. Randall S. Hanson’s Web site article, “Non-Traditional Career Paths for Men and Women.” For a follow-up article by the same author, read “The Pros and Cons of Non-Traditional Careers: Working in Careers that Defy Gender Stereotypes.” What do you think of the occupations on this list? Would you consider any of these career choices strange or odd for one gender or the other? For the men in this class: What are your feelings about the non-traditional occupations for your gender?

The aircraft industry has, from its inception, been a male-dominated industry. From inventors to pilots to mechanics, the majority, with a few notable exceptions, have been men. In 1932, Olive Ann Beech and her husband Walter founded Beech Aircraft in Wichita, Kansas. Olive became CEO in 1950 and remained in the position until they sold the company in 1980. The company produced a tremendous amount of air crafts throughout World War II and the Korean War. One of their planes, the Beechcraft Bonanza, had the longest production run of any airplane. Olive Beech’s business acumen and knowledge of the industry allowed the company to prosper for decades. For more information about Olive Ann Beech, read this biography.

When Linda Alvarado began her business, Alvarado Construction  in the 1970s, women comprised less than 1% of the industry. That percentage has risen since then, but is still very much considered a “non-traditional” sector for women business owners. In that industry, Alvarado Construction has excelled as a major contracting firm. To read a biography about Linda Alvarado, click here.

What obstacles, if any, do you think women (and men) might face in non-traditional careers? Do you think that the barriers to entry are higher than in traditional sectors? Do you think that entrepreneurs in these sectors face prejudices? Or, do you think there might be advantages to owning a business in an industry that has few owners of the same gender?

Let’s take a look at an industry that has been typically “male,” both on the production and consumption end: Beer. Traditionally, beer has been produced by, marketed to, and consumed by men.

But the beer industry as a whole is changing. Craft brews have made a resurgence  and now account for 10% of all beer sales. While Budweiser, Miller and Coors continue to dominate the top spots, many more people are turning to smaller brews for their everyday drinking. And the percentage of women drinkers, and producers is rising.

Check out this article to see a few statistics on the Craft Brew industry. The third largest Craft Brewery in America, New Belgium Brewery, was co-founded by Kim Jordan, the current CEO. To learn more about NBB and Kim Jordan, click here. She was the keynote speaker at the Craft Brewers Conference in March, 2013.

New Glarus Brewing is a smaller brewery, located in Wisconsin, that was also co-founded by a woman. To hear the founder, Deb Carey, speak about her business, clickhere. On a web site dedicated to Craft beers, Julia Herz discusses some of the statistics surrounding women and beer and provides some excellent links. Check out her articleand follow some of the links that interest you. Do you think that the industry is shifting, or are these just a few special cases? Can you make the same argument for other industries?

What difference do you think gender makes in choosing what company to open? What entrepreneurial aspirations do you have? Do they fall into the “traditional” or “non-traditional” sectors for your gender? Do you think our ideas of what is “traditional” and “non-traditional” for a certain gender are changing, or are they deeply rooted? I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic this week.

Note: Are you familiar with the above poster? The poster depicts “Rosie the Riveter,” a fictional character created in World War II to encourage women to perform jobs that were usually performed by men. During the war, women flew planes, played professional baseball, and took on all types of manufacturing responsibilities while men fought in the war. When the war was over, women were expected to return to the home. Some did, but others pursued similar professions/interests long after the war was over. Just something interesting to ponder this week as you look at non-traditional career paths.