Ellen Kullman is the former CEO of DuPont and an accomplished business leader. However, at one point in her career, a male colleague mistook her for an assistant and sent her for coffee.
She was the only woman in a high-level meeting.
Her story exemplifies the continuing underrepresentation of women in business, despite the collective global efforts to close this gap.
In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into female entrepreneurship and its challenges, and look at these 10 hyper-successful female entrepreneurs who made it big despite those challenges.
- Lillian Lincoln Lambert
- Sheila Lirio Marcelo
- Eva Michalkova
- Kaitlyn Yang
- Anne Michael
- Paige Drobny
- Olivia Lin
- Cindy Mi
- Ramona Hood
- Melaye Ras-Work
What Percent of Entrepreneurs Are Female?
By 2019, there were 12,943,400 women-owned businesses in the US, representing 42% of all businesses.
This figure is higher than the global total of 34% but lower than the regional totals of Latin America and The Caribbean—with 50% female ownership.
The following graph compares the percentage of women-owned businesses by region.
As you can see, the percentage of female entrepreneurs varies across regions with a low of 18% in South Asia and a high of 50% in Latin America & The Caribbean.
A World Bank study on why there are fewer female entrepreneurs in particular regions revealed a correlation between female business ownership and a country’s income level.
Low-income countries have fewer female-owned businesses (1 in 4) than middle and high-income countries (1 in 3). This is because women in low-income countries have far less access to credit and are less likely to borrow.
The following table compares the probability of borrowing between men and women from low, middle, and high-income countries.
Source: The World Bank
What Is the Percentage of Successful Business Men to Women in the United States
According to a 2019 publication by American Express, there were 58% male-owned businesses compared to 42% female-owned businesses in the US.
This was a drastic increase of female owners from 1972 when there were 96.4% male-owned businesses to 4.6% female-owned businesses.
This steady rise of women entrepreneurs reflects changing attitudes towards women, with more support from the private sector and the government. For instance:
- In 1994, the US government allocated a minimum of 5% of contracts to women-owned businesses.
- Today, more than 30% of S&P 500 board directors are women.
What Are the Challenges Faced by Female Entrepreneurs?
Over the years, the growing number of female entrepreneurs has come to represent a changing business landscape—one that’s favorable towards women. However, women still face unique obstacles.
Limited Access to Networks
Networks impact entrepreneurial success. They are avenues for accessing information, mentorship, funding, and business referrals, usually through meetings outside working hours.
Unfortunately, with the majority of businesses owned and managed by men and our human tendency to be drawn to similar individuals, few women get invited to such gatherings. This keeps female entrepreneurs from such opportunities as access to loans and venture investment.
A recent report by the US Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship found that:
- Women account for 16% of conventional small business loans.
- Women account for 4.4% of loans from all sources.
- Women-owned businesses get $1 out of every $23 in conventional business loans.
Society places unequal responsibility for family and childcare on women.
This extra burden of balancing work and family pushes some female entrepreneurs to avoid long working hours or ambitious goals, limiting their entrepreneurial potential.
A 2014 study found that women-owned businesses have significantly lower rates of capital returns than male-owned businesses.
The good news is that several successful businesswomen have proven these challenges are manageable.
10 Hyper-Successful Female Entrepreneurs
Entrepreneur 1 – Lillian Lincoln Lambert, Centennial One
Lilian Lincoln Lambert, the first African-American woman MBA from Harvard, is an inspiring female entrepreneur who started with nothing and built Centennial One, a million-dollar cleaning services company.
In the early years of Centennial One, Lambert struggled to find contracts. This was during segregated America when such contracts were hard to find for minorities.
Fortunately, Lambert had a network to turn to. Established during her MBA years when she started an advocacy group for black enrollment, her network gave her access to government contracts through the SBA (Small Business Administration) program for minorities.
Today, the business world remembers Lambert for her dedication to helping fellow entrepreneurs and her strong belief in education.
Entrepreneur 2 – Sheila Lirio Marcelo, Care.com
Sheila Lirio Marcelo puts paid to the idea that work and kids are a hard balance. This Havard MBA started with nothing and built a million-dollar enterprise, all while raising a family.
Her company, Care.com, helps families find a wide range of care services, inspired by her time at Harvard Business School when she couldn’t find help caring for her son.
Marcelo graduated with an MBA degree that facilitated her climb from consultant at Monitor Company to vice president and general manager at Ladders Inc.
This exposure helped Marcelo expand her network and secure funding for Care.com, which InterActiveCorp(IAC) later acquired in a deal worth $500 million.
Today, Marcelo is working on a new project, Proof of Learn, a platform that promotes learning by awarding users with cryptocurrency and NFT credentials.
Entrepreneur 3 – Eva Michalkova, No F-ears & MIRAIO
When Eva started No F-ears, a live chat tool that facilitates real-time conversation between a hearing doctor and a deaf patient, she was met with overwhelming success.
The company won multiple awards, which encouraged her to start MIRAIO, a more significant solution than just communication, but running this business was more challenging.
MIRAIO had a larger global customer base with a variety of social and cultural influences, which complicated marketing. She had to figure out the best marketing channel for each group, measure returns, localize content matter, and stay within the budget.
So, Eva decided to pursue an MBA with Quantic to acquire the necessary business skills for international business without taking time off work.
Today, MIRAIO is a global brand that has massively changed how deaf and hard-of-hearing people access information and health care.
“To succeed in the fast-paced business world, I aspired to obtain the business skills I needed to accelerate my career.”Eva Michalkova, Quantic MBA
Entrepreneur 4 – Kaitlyn Yang, Alpha Studios
Kaitlyn Yang has her own post-production company, Alpha Studios, and more than 40 visual effects credits, including:
- Robot Chicken
- Falling Skies
- The Walking Dead
She also has an MBA from Quantic and was recently featured on Forbes 30 Under 30.
However, as a disabled, Chinese-American woman in a male-dominated creative industry, recognition was always an uphill battle. While on set, Yang often got the question, “Who are you visiting?”
There just weren’t enough women with Yang’s background in the industry.
Determined to change the narrative, Yang worked harder at building her brand, Alpha Studios. A Quantic MBA added to her business acumen and accelerated the growth of her company.
Today, Kaitlyn Yang is one of the biggest names in her industry and an inspiration to other female entrepreneurs.
“If you’ve got that 9-5 locked down, figure out what you can do to use that opportunity to add other skills.”Kaitlyn Yang, Quantic MBA
Entrepreneur 5 – Anne Michael, Focused Software
Anne Michael became VP of operations at Focused Software and realized that she needed to improve her business skills to be successful. She was going to be in charge of determining strategy and managing client needs, which was much different from her previous role as a physician.
This led her to the MBA program at Quantic. The curriculum was highly structured to accommodate work and travel, so all she needed was 5–15 hours each week. The program was comprehensive and featured courses on:
- Leading organizations
- Data & decisions
- Markets and economies
- Supply chain & operations
Today, Focused Software is a leading applications developer for special needs companies, with clients from multiple US states.
Entrepreneur 6 – Paige Drobny, Squid Acres
When Paige Drobny purchased a ski lodge off the Denali Highway—a remote, scenic location in Alaska—she recognized she needed help getting the business running.
As a newcomer to the tourism business with a background in science, Drobny needed foundational knowledge in accounting, business law, and marketing—in a nutshell, an MBA education.
She also needed it delivered remotely to her new lodge, which had 50 sled dogs and property that required constant managing.
This led her to the MBA program by Quantic, which featured a mobile platform for remote access and a comprehensive curriculum for deep learning. The coursework came in bit-size video sessions which were easy to fit into her busy schedule to ensure completion.
Today, Paige Drobny is a successful entrepreneur with multiple businesses.
Entrepreneur 7 – Olivia Lin, Studio 1 Labs
Olivia Lin started Studio 1 Labs, a textile technology company, but soon realized she had gaps in knowledge of business and strategy. Lin found it difficult to keep up in important conversations with executives and possible partners about her company.
This undermined her efforts to generate interest for her smart blankets capable of reading patients’ vitals.
Lin, thus, decided to apply for an executive MBA from Quantic to gain a better understanding of finance, marketing strategy, and accounting within the context of starting a tech company.
Today, Olivia Lin is a recognized entrepreneur who recently won the Markham Board of Trade Aspire Startup Award and was featured in Girls in Tech.
Entrepreneur 8 – Cindy Mi, VIPKid
Cindy Mi is an avid educator, entrepreneur, and founder of VIPKid, an online tutoring company from China worth billions of dollars.
However, the climb to the top was arduous.
Cindy Mi started with ABC English, a language-teaching school based entirely in China. Though the company was profitable, the industry was hyper-competitive. She needed to scale her idea and go global to stay competitive but had no experience running a multinational.
This inspired Cindy Mi to undertake an MBA from Cheung Kong Graduate School where she learned how to run an international business and expanded her network. Soon after, VIPKid was established with investments from Sequoia Capital, Tencent, and Yunfeng Capital.
Today, Cindy Mi is a world-famous entrepreneur and often advises on building a global company.
Entrepreneur 9 – Ramona Hood, FedEx
19-year-old Ramona Hood was a single mom working a 9-to-5 job when she landed a receptionist role at Roberts Express, which later became FedEx Custom Critical.
FedEx exposed Hood to various roles and positions, leading her to develop an interest in business leadership. Her interest inspired her to obtain a Bachelor in Business Management from Walsh and later an executive MBA from Case Western.
With her business experience and education, Ramona Hood rose to senior management and later became the first ever black woman to lead FedEx.
Today, Ramona Hood is glass ceiling-shattering proof that women can have both a successful business career and a family.
Entrepreneur 10 – Melaye Ras-Work, Efficio Consulting
Melaye Ras-Work has an MBA from INSEAD, a Bachelor in Economics from Brown, and is co-founder of Efficio Consulting, the largest global consultancy focused entirely on procurement.
In the early years of Efficio, Melaye struggled to find funding due to the 2000 dotcom crash when there was little interest in financing a professional services startup.
So, Melaye drew on her MBA training and restructured her expenses and cash flows while organically growing her client base. This strategy solved their funding problem and turned Efficio into a global brand.
Today, the company has a talent pool of 500 experts and serves clients across Europe, North America, and the Middle East.
How Can Women Be More Successful in Getting Business Leadership Positions?
It’s no coincidence that the most innovative companies are also the most diverse.
Men and women experience the world differently which informs their approaches to business. Working together facilitates exchange of ideas and promotes the creativity that pushes organizations forward.
In particular, women have a unique insight into the “female economy” and a better understanding of purchase motivations. Any organization with female customers needs this knowledge to compete effectively.
This is why it’s critical to have more female corporate leaders, and an MBA is an excellent way to achieve this.
Quantic MBA is an accredited online program that will help you break into the business world, whether you’re looking to start your venture or work your way up to senior leadership.
An MBA from Quantic will give you:
- A deep understanding of key business principles and entrepreneurship
- The perspective and analytical skills of senior leadership
- A high caliber student and alumni network; spanning over 150 countries. This will help you expand your professional horizons.
Apply for the Quantic MBA today and jump-start your career.