Why supporting women in business is essential for innovation

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone’s editors or publishers.

As one of the few female-owned non-alcoholic breweries in the United States, I can’t help but notice that there are too few female-owned breweries and female CEOs in the country. What makes this even more interesting is that women were in charge of fermentation and brewing in the days of the ancient Egyptians. For decades, women have ruled the beer industry. Yet today in the United States, only 7.5% of brewers are women and 2% of breweries are owned by women. So why is there such disparity in the beer industry?

Some scholars on this subject believe that the change was due to an association in the 16th century by a fundamentalist religious movement that accused women brewers of being witches. Whatever the reason for this decline, I believe there are things we can all do to promote and support women-led businesses.

Today, most major beer companies have a male CEO and the majority have an all-male board. Stanford University researchers found that only 17% of craft breweries have a female CEO and only 4% employ a female brewer.

Today, times are changing, and as awareness grows about the intersection of gender and business, new ideas are emerging. But is change happening too slowly? What can we do to speed this up?

Women are pioneers not only in craft beer, but also in many other industries. While it’s true that the different experiences and backgrounds of women and men undoubtedly affect business approaches, that’s actually a good thing. A company with diverse perspectives is an innovative company that can truly push the boundaries of industries.

Having a mixed business gives a better understanding of consumers and therefore a more profitable business. In 2015, McKinsey & Company found that more gender-diverse companies were likely to outperform around 15% above the industry median. Years later, in 2020, they found that the percentage had increased to 25%.

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Here are some steps and measures that business leaders and entrepreneurs can better support gender equality in business:

• Support women-owned businesses. This means investing in gender parity, innovation, overall economic growth and women’s economic empowerment. This is not only an economically sound choice, but also a socially responsible choice.

• Support a legislature that supports families with flexible work hours and helps women re-enter the workforce if they have taken time off raising their children.

• Support female-led angel investor and venture capital groups that fund women-owned businesses. Despite generating $1.3 trillion in revenue, women-owned businesses still struggle to gain equitable access to venture capital. Even though women entrepreneurs tend to request $35,000 less in business financing than men, women are generally offered much smaller loans at considerably higher interest rates.

• Support organizations that support women in business. For example, the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and WEConnect International have joined forces to launch The Women Owned initiative. This initiative is dedicated to supporting and advancing women-owned businesses in the United States and around the world.

• Advocate for empowerment wherever you can. For example, in 2011, Walmart launched its Women’s Economic Empowerment program. This program aimed to leverage Walmart’s influence to help increase women’s economic mobility. Similar action has been taken by other retailers including Whole Foods Market, Target, Wegmans and Ahold Delhaize.

• Reassess your infrastructure and rebuild it to enable more diverse teams that accurately represent the company. It is equally important for companies to broaden their understanding of diversity beyond race, religion and gender to include family life. Companies can start by viewing and supporting corporations as family units rather than individual contributors.

If you’re in management, the issue you’re concerned about shouldn’t be Why should there be more women in leadership positions, but rather How? ‘Or’ What can your organization support women in leadership positions and become more innovative and competitive through this.

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