Schwartz: Advocating for women in business

Tuesday, July 18, 2017 9:13AM

When the Ledger-Transcript asked me to prepare an article relating to women in business, there was no hesitation. I said yes, absolutely. For five decades, I have been encouraging females to be all that they can be and I have been a strong advocate for gender equality everywhere, especially in the workplace.

My first episode: At age 26, I worked in a company that had a golf league on Tuesday afternoon. The players were all male. I was chairman that year. In early spring, I posted a flyer on the bulletin boards, announcing the upcoming season and asking for employees to sign up. Two females did. I thought nothing of it since they were employees after all. But, the company president heard about it and told me that they could only participate if they played naked.

We have come a long way since then, but we still have a way to go. Nobody taught me to think and feel the way that I do, but somehow I rose above that time when the career path for most women was to become a secretary, nurse, teacher, librarian, store clerk, or housekeeper/chambermaid. Clearly, these are important vocations necessary for our society. But girls should not grow up believing that this is their destiny. Happily, since that golf league episode time, we have seen women become astronauts, CEOs of large corporations, senators, members of Congress, and almost President of the United States.

I have only lived in New Hampshire since 2002, but it is apparent to me that NH women are generally more entrepreneurial here than they are in many other regions. That is a good thing, especially since wage inequality still exists in our society. So if they have certain skills or things they are passionate about, it is relatively easy to start a business and create your own destiny. Owning your own business solves the problem of unequal pay because nobody can stop you from charging the same amounts for goods or services that others charge.

To clarify that last statement, while it is true that you can charge the “same,” it may be that you are also limited to that amount. This happens in services that have many providers to choose from. If all the hair stylists are charging $50 and all the massage therapists are charging $70, you probably have to stay close to that as well – unless you can offer something unique.

If you are a carpenter, an electrician, a financial advisor, or a tax consultant, you have much more latitude. However, my advice in these areas is to be as competitive as you can be. Consultants generally charge hourly rates, but in the trades, jobs tend to be quoted as a total package. This can be tricky.

For those who have the desire to be their own boss, I now offer this advice: Please take the time up front to develop a business plan and learn how to keep track of income and expenses. While you are in the early stages of generating revenue, you must keep expenses to a minimum. This means, among other things, doing your own bookkeeping – it is not that hard. Hopefully, you will quickly grow to a level of business where you can farm that task out.

Actually, if you are detail oriented and good with numbers, perhaps you should consider becoming a Bookkeeper. There is a shortage of bookkeepers in the Monadnock region and those that I know tend to set their own schedule so this is something that you can do even if you have school-age children or other obligations or interests that would get in the way of full time employment.

The downside, of course, that comes with self-employment (besides the self-employment tax) is that you get no benefits; No sick days, No vacations, No insurances, No 401(k), Nothing. If this is not for you, then we are back to working for some company or corporation. That is O.K., but as a female, you might be at a disadvantage – depends on the company and management. All you can do is try very hard to demonstrate that you are special and you bring something extra to your position that makes you extremely valuable.

It has been and still is a long and difficult road to true gender equality, but we can get there, with your help. Be strong and carry on. Thank you.

Larry Schwartz of Hancock has been providing financial advice in the Monadnock region for 14 years. He has been trained in all areas of personal finance and he volunteers as the official Money Coach for the River Center in Peterborough. He can be reached at phcfinancial@yahoo.com.