SMITH BRAIN TRUST — The global proportion of women among the planet's billionaires is still shy of 3 percent. That's a slim minority, but the proportion has tripled in the past decade. And as Forbes recently documented, 56 of these women are self-made billionaires — an increase from 42 in 2016.
While the percentage remains small, the growth hints at a certain "golden era for female entrepreneurs," says J. Gerald Suarez, professor of the practice in design thinking and a fellow in the Center for Leadership, Innovation and Change at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business.
In an interview with GoodCall, Suarez says women are making their mark, approaching business with an innovative spirit and a capacity to solve problems in a disciplined way. "I think (women) excel in their capacity to be impactful, and this gives them an edge as they develop a solution to a need," Suarez says, citing both research and anecdotal evidence. Subsequently, he adds, women tend to be innovative from a pragmatic point of view. Many people think they possess ingenuity, he says, while in reality, they’re just being novel.
"Women tend to reinvest in their business, and they are less likely to react and drop out or quit — and that resiliency, that capacity to adapt really sets them apart," he says.
More peripherally, more women are obtaining a college education, Suarez says, and that's opening new opportunities. Lower interest rates and increasing accessibility to commercial borrowing are also playing a role, he says. Changing perceptions are playing a role as well. "I think those who are investing in women are focusing on the business potential and not basing the decision on gender," he says.
As more women populate the billionaire ranks, he adds, they are "inspiring other women to follow in their footsteps."
The dynamic was reflected recently at the Smith School via its annual Women Leading Women forum and a related event, "Women, Leadership & the Workplace: A New Playbook for Success." In the latter, Sallie Krawcheck, co-founder and CEO of Ellevest, a digital investment platform for women, advised young women to practice negotiating tactics and to apply their skills at every given opportunity. She said women should not sit on the sidelines, but should actively develop meaningful personal and workplace relationships.
Related: Women Leading Research: 30 Scholars, 30 Fearless Ideas from the Smith School.
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