I am thrilled to be in New York this week for the "Women Entrepreneurs Rock the World" conference (along with a Yankees game!). One of the guest speakers is my dear friend Taryn Rose. Talk about an inspiration. Taryn is a former orthopedic surgeon, and if that's not impressive enough, she combined her understanding of feet with her love of shoes to create a multi-million dollar empire built by necessity -- the creation of comfortable stilettos. This opportunity to network and exchange ideas with six-hundred other female entrepreneurs sparked my train of thought about how far women have come over the past one hundred years -- and how far we still have to go in our pursuit of genuine economic equality.
Yes, it is true -- women in America have come a long way. We've evolved beyond sexy secretaries and "Fly Me" stewardesses to hold positions in every conceivable field. Women no longer have to go to work and endure condescending "atta girl" butt swats a la Mad Men. We now have freedom and choices that were once only a dream. We comprise more than fifty percent of the workforce. We have closed the education gap. We can get married or not, stay that way or not, and we can openly have sex with anyone we please. We can have children in or out of wedlock, and we can decide whether to have a career or stay at home.
Sounds fabulous. So what do modern women have to complain about now that we have it all? The answer is plenty, because something unexpected happened once American men realized that American women had succeeded in their fight for liberation. It seems the fellas made a calculated decision of their own. Men conceded to women's liberation by exchanging equal opportunities for women with the historic obligations of men, and out the door they went! Buh-bye! And half of them never came back.
Women fought for the right to have it all, and now we have the obligation to do it all. Talk about bitter sweet. The big question for all modern women is this -- how are we supposed to do it all without sacrificing our children, our careers, our marriages, or ourselves? One thing is for sure, even if it's possible, it's certainly not easy -- for any of us. My own entrepreneurial ventures are 100 percent determined by how much I can accomplish between the hours of carpool. Now, toss in a dutiful husband, a feverish child, grocery shopping, a sink full of dishes, and ten errands that should have been done yesterday, a shower, and oh yeah -- a business, and you have the challenges of a typical 21st century woman. I acknowledge that I am a turtle in this race. I gave up on speed long ago. When it comes to my business ventures, my goal is simply to cross the finish line -- in this lifetime.
Here it the biggest obstacle to the workplace advancement of women: we can change the law, but we cannot change our biological make-up. The fact is, most women have children, and children are indeed one of the greatest joys in our lives. However, with a 50 percent divorce rate, way too many women are now forced to raise those babies on their own -- much to the detriment of their kids, as well as their earning power. The sad reality is that it's nearly impossible for women to compete in an economic race against men when women are forced to run the race with babies strapped to their back. It's no mystery why single women with children are by far the largest demographic living in poverty in America. Some women may think that with all of our liberation and opportunity, they don't need men anymore. However, children certainly do. Modern women are going to have to accept that men can bring value to our lives. And that's okay. It doesn't make us weak. It makes us smart. There's nothing wrong with acknowledging that a strong partnership is an asset when it comes to balancing business -- and babies.
As a flag-waving liberated women, I still realize that our struggle is far from over. Women must step up our fight for affordable childcare and flexible hours. We also need to go above and beyond to help each other -- not only in business, but by sharing our wisdom to help guide young women to make intelligent decisions in the first place. We need to bring men on board our businesses to be our allies, and our advocates in attracting financing and venture capital for our companies. (Women-owned businesses receive less than 10 percent of venture capital funding). We need to unite our strengths and become mindful and proactive in not supporting anything or anyone who undermines our respect, our careers, our marriages or our families. We have to preserve the rights we've fought so hard to have. We also must maintain our professional dignity and self-respect while keeping our husbands in our homes and our children on the right track.
So here's to all the great female entrepreneurs gathering in New York this week. Good luck to you all. And for all of us women, thank you for continuing to crash through those glass ceilings, even if you have to do it with a baby balanced on your hip. Oh, and very importantly -- Go Yankees!