The State of Women in Alaska and Why Women Entrepreneurs of Alaska Matters

In April 2013 a national study and survey was published by American Express Open on the growth of Women owned businesses throughout the United States. Since I spend a lot of time in personal and business relationships with Women Entrepreneurs in our community, my perspective was a bit skewed. Alaska didn’t rate anywhere close to where I expected we would.
“The state ranked 51st in the U.S. — behind every state and Washington, D.C. — with just an 11 percent increase in women-owned businesses from 1997-2012. That compares to a 54 percent growth rate nationwide.” Jeff Richardson, Newsminer.

To state the obvious…we ranked dead last.

One of the first thoughts that I had when I read the results of this study were the other studies that have been conducted nationally. In those particular studies Alaska ranks in the top 5 nationally; rape, incest and domestic violence. The connection, although not scientifically proven, seemed obvious. Women, or anyone for that matter, that are battling personal pain on that level may find it difficult to function in daily life, let alone start and bring to fruition a thriving business.

In my various searches online for articles on traits of successful women entrepreneurs, the three top traits that repeatedly come up are: self confidence, persistence and the help and support of others in their lives.
I completely agree with those traits as they have been major factors in determining the success of my business. Although I didn’t start with a lot of self-confidence, I had enough confidence in my abilities and skill sets all coupled with the timing in my life where I could take the risk that culminated in a thriving business.
The support in my life from family and friends has been and continues to be enormous. Persistence seems a given in all forms of success.

I believe that organizations like WE of Alaska can be part of the solution to Alaska’s low Women Entrepreneur ranking. Women business associations can assist helping women move past some of the painful circumstances that are all too common in our state.
Part of our mission and goal is to provide a safe place for Women Entrepreneurs to learn, grow, network, mature and ultimately mentor others in their businesses along side other supportive and encouraging Women Entrepreneurs that have the same goals. We provide a structure of networking, education, learning and nurturing that increases self-confidence and creates a supportive network around us. Persistance is encouraged through attendance and engagement with other like-minded members.

We may not be in the same places in our businesses, or our personal lives, but most of our goals are the same. We want to leave a legacy, provide for ourselves, our family and possibly our staff and make a difference in this great state of Alaska.

There are many programs dedicated to fighting the ills of the current violent statistics towards women in our state. Our governor has made the issue his mandate. http://gov.alaska.gov/parnell/priorities/public-safety/choose-respect.html Not all of the women that are coming out of these situations may be interested in starting or running a business, but I believe many would embrace a safe, supportive, professional organization as a great starting point for a new life.

I would love all your feedback too. What other solutions to the extremely low growth of Women owned businesses in Alaska are out there? How can we do better to support each other, and make a difference in those statistics?

Jennifer Christensen