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American Business Women's Day: Celebrating women in the work force

Tracy Byrnes
PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi poses for a portrait by products at the Tops SuperMarket in Batavia, New York, June 3, 2013. REUTERS/Don Heupel

Tracy Byrnes is a financial journalist and author of "Break Down Your Money."

Sept. 22 is American Business Women's Day so get out the champagne. Because this day we celebrate the contributions and accomplishments of women and in the work force.

From executives like Indra Nooyi and Sheryl Sandberg to women who took a shot at small businesses of their own -- like Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, who created The Money Coach, a financial education business, and Marlo Scott, owner of Sweet Revenge, the only wine, beer and cupcake bar in New York City.

And why celebrate the accomplishments of women, and not men? Because being a woman in business still has its challenges. According to the White House, full-time working women earn 77% of what their male counterparts earn (with worse numbers for women of color). And women hold just 4.6% of CEO positions at S&P 500 companies.

Correcting that pay inequity is the mission of the American Business Women's Association (ABWA), a professional network for women, says its executive director, Rene Street.

And while twice as many women than men are starting businesses, women’s businesses tend to stay as small sole proprietorships.

Still, we have come a long way. So ABWA, which was founded on Sept. 22, 1949, decided it was time to celebrate.

The first American Business Women’s Day actually was Sept. 22, 1982, and then it got a congressional proclamation and a nod from President Ronald Reagan in 1983.

So it’s official. "The ABWA’s mission has been the same for 66 years – to improve the lives of working women. To allow them to find and share a voice,” says Street. And to bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations and help them grow and network.

Scott, who was let go of her corporate job, and founded Sweet Revenge as just that, believes, that women need to help women more and challenge the notion of inclusivity at the top. “As a small business owner, when I look up, there is no glass ceiling. It's an endless sky of opportunity, limited only by me.” And that is a message she tries to share.

Yet the ranks of upper management in corporate America is occupied predominately by men.

There are still more men at the partner ranks, says Elda Di Re, tax services partner at Ersnt & Young, who services high-net-worth individuals. And even though her clients are married, most of her interaction is still with the men. That work-life balance struggle always comes up and “women sometimes jump out prematurely or don’t raise their hand for [the] tough assignment because of it,” says Di Re.

The good news is that balancing act has created a lot of entrepreneurs. “Starting my own business was absolutely the best thing I could have ever done for my career. I actually wish I had done it sooner,” says Khalfani-Cox, who particularly loves how she controls her own schedule.

So whether you are a working woman or know someone who is, enjoy a glass of champagne and celebrate all that women have done for our families, for the economy and for future generations.


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