Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) is proud to support International Women’s Day (IWD), which celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political contributions of women. With robust female-focused initiatives and a longstanding history of empowering women leaders, EO upholds the mission of this global program every day.
This year’s IWD falls on 8 March, 2020, and its focus is #eachforequality, which recognizes that equality is not a women’s issue—rather, it’s an economic issue. Equality between genders is good for business, great for communities and essential for business growth.
We asked EO Colorado member Ashley Picillo (picutred at left) to share her insights on gender equality in business. Picillo is the chief executive officer and founder of Point Seven Group (Point7), a women-owned and -operated boutique cannabis consultancy based in Denver, Colorado, and Sonoma County, California.
1. What specific ways are you supporting gender equality in your business and your community?
As a certified Women’s Business Enterprise (WBE), it is absolutely my responsibility to support gender equality in my own company. This is demonstrated in the way that we recruit, staff and train Point7 employees, paying careful consideration to employee retention.
When selecting third-party suppliers, we strive to engage with women-owned companies whenever possible. I have developed a team that is over 50 percent female, with a 100 percent female C-suite, and specifically seek out women whenever possible when it comes to hiring contractors, writers and other part-time positions.
Beyond our efforts internally at Point7, we are in a unique position to help shape the broader cannabis industry by working with our clients to develop their business strategies.
As consultants, we spend a great deal of time designing business plans, hiring and training programs, and brands with our clients. We are therefore in a position to shape these companies from the outset.
We have thoroughly developed standards of procedure regarding all personnel, hiring and training matters and make it a point to highlight best practices for curating a team that is diverse and inclusive of women and minorities.
2. Have you personally witnessed the benefit of gender equality in your business or local economy? In what ways?
Absolutely. Companies that prioritize gender equality are stronger, smarter companies. Period. Any time you have diverse thinkers, with different backgrounds and unique perspectives, co-tackling an issue, the company (and the participants in this dialogue) win big.
I truly believe that our clients see the benefit in working with a women-owned, and largely women-led company. I also think female consumers are being more thoughtful about their buying habits and are more consciously spending their dollars at other women-owned businesses when possible.
A benefit I’ve noticed within my own business is that the women on my team truly have a voice—and are not only heard, but also respected.
I can confidently state that every single woman at Point7 has been put in the uncomfortable and extremely frustrating position of being talked over, disregarded or flat out disrespected by a male counterpart in some, if not all, of our previous employers. Sadly those instances were not one-time ordeals, nor were they specific to any one industry.
By endeavoring to create an even playing field at my company, where everyone gets the respect they deserve, each member of the team feels comfortable ideating, brainstorming, leading and participating in meetings, and being in the workplace.
3. According to research from the British Chamber of Commerce, women are better at identifying gaps in the market, developing innovative products, and applying technology in their businesses. What unique characteristics do you believe women bring to business and to entrepreneurship?
I believe women need to be far more planned, polished, and prepared than men when launching a new company because of the challenges women face when starting on the path of entrepreneurship.
There are barriers and biases in front of women that do not exist for men, so for women to succeed, we need to be prepared and extremely thoughtful about how we are going to execute on our business strategy. As a female founder myself, I’ve understood from the beginning that my margin for error is extremely narrow; I cannot afford to make mistakes in the same way I believe a male counterpart can.
Technology implementation has allowed me to maintain a fairly lean payroll (critically important if fundraising is challenging). I need to constantly evaluate and reevaluate the market so my team and I do not lose sight of the problem(s) we are solving for our clients and customers.
My team laughs a lot about this, but we are constantly ‘pivoting’ to make sure that we stay relevant and that the products and services we offer are innovative and necessary in the marketplace.
I don’t think these issues are unique to a women-owned company, but I do think the pressure to excel is greater because there are fewer options for women-owned businesses when it comes to capital.
Beyond this, I think women who are able to channel their emotional intelligence into leadership can truly thrive and push past their competitors. In my role of owning and operating a consulting firm, I need to understand how my customers, clients and team are feeling at all times.
People management and understanding is absolutely critical to our success and something that seems to come naturally to women.
4. What trends or changes do you predict will take place as younger women assume leadership roles and launch businesses?
For starters, I think we’re going to see a major shift in the way that women-owned start-ups raise capital.
The unfortunate current reality is that women often struggle to gain the same access to capital as their male counterparts. However, studies have shown that global GDP could rise by more than 3 percent if women and men participated in entrepreneurship equally, equating to trillions of dollars in growth to the global economy.
Venture funds would be crazy not to examine this possibility and in turn, invest heavily in women-led businesses. If this happens, more women can start—and sustain—their businesses. Currently women-owned businesses fail at higher rates than male-owned businesses, in part due to capital constraints and limited access to cash during critical growth phases.
Greater investment in women-owned businesses will also result in more women in business, and therefore stronger, more powerful social and professional networks. These networks will result in mentorship as well as greater interaction between female founders, giving way to new companies and even more innovation.
I also expect to see a rise in diversity in the workplace as more and more women become business owners.