March is National Women’s History Month, a period we set aside to recognize and honor trailblazers – the women who paved the way for us through their accomplishments as well as their extraordinary impact on society.
When we consider how far we as women, especially black women, have come, it should make us extremely proud.
According to the National Association of Education Statistics, black women are the most educated segment of the U.S. population. The good news doesn’t stop there. When it comes to entrepreneurship, black women are six times more likely than other groups to start their own businesses. We are gaining confidence. We are gaining our voices, and are not afraid to use them.
There is bad news, though. Despite our education and entrepreneurial spirit, our companies have not experienced nearly the level of financial success as those of other groups. While some factors are rooted in the system, much of the onus falls on us.
Too often we lose sight of what got us to where we are. We forget that we didn’t get here by doing it alone, and that we won’t get further ahead by traveling alone.
Collaboration is key
I am speaking about teamwork and collaboration – and the fact that there is not enough of it.
In our quest for achievement and success, it appears that women have begun to see each other not as potential partners but as competitors. Indeed, some business leaders say competition is necessary – that you must be the best and prove how much better and more capable you are than your counterparts. Yes, maybe on a racetrack.
As I see it, the desire to best someone is often rooted in fear and insecurity — fear of failure and insecurity stemming from the possibility of relinquishing the spotlight. Not only is this a flaw that stunts our individual growth, it also stunts our growth as a collective.
Oprah Winfrey, who I truly admire, once said: “the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service…” I completely agree. We all have gifts, and our gifts are not meant solely for us, but to be shared.
Equally important, we must be honest in assessing the areas in which we are not gifted, and this is where collaboration can be a powerful tool. There will always be someone better or more knowledgeable than us at something. I wish I had understood this earlier in my entrepreneurial journey. I might have avoided a lot of unnecessary hardships and saved a lot of money.
That is why in my organization, RediscovHer, it was a priority of mine to create an atmosphere that is non-competitive, where women can come together to equip, motivate and inspire one another. Through our empowerment conferences, workshops, luncheons, weekend getaways and other events, entrepreneurial-minded women all come together to connect, share strategies and uplift each other. We are not only partners; we advocate for and promote one another.
Through collaboration, women can often find the piece of the puzzle they’ve been missing. By ourselves, we can only make a thump, but together we can make a mighty roar. I also believe that little girls compete, but real women collaborate.
Therefore, I encourage women to see their only competition as the person staring back at them in the mirror. See each other as assets. Work together. Support each other. Promote each other, and become the BOSS women you were destined to be.
Martha Cooper-Hudson is an entrepreneur, author and the founder of RediscovHer, a women’s empowerment organization for entrepreneurs based in Charlotte. For more information on Martha and RediscovHer, visit www.rediscoverher.com.