The debate rages on about women and money. After I published "Are women afraid of money?"--which stirred up this week's far-flung opinionated commentary--Susan Sobbott, president of American Express OPEN, emailed me her thoughts. Her note was so insightful that I asked her if I could run it as a Guest Post.
Sobbott knows entrepreneurs. At American Express (AXP) since 1990, she has headed OPEN, the company's small-business card unit for seven years. Two years ago, OPEN partnered with Fortune to create Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs, a program that each year selects 10 of the most innovative female entrepreneurs in the U.S. and brings them to the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit. There, they share ideas with the world's foremost women leaders and our honorary male participant who believes passionately in entrepreneurship: Warren Buffett (BRKA). - Patricia Sellers
Guest Post by Susan Sobbott, President, American Express OPEN
When you speak to women about their businesses, they start with their inspiration, their mission, their client relationships, their personal journey as entrepreneurs.
After a few probing questions, typically, they get to the business model and how they make money.
Male business owners have the order a bit different.
So how does this translate? This isn't true for all women, but more women than men are "intimidated by the numbers," they say. "I'm just not a numbers person..."
Usually, that is so far from the truth.
The intimidation is a psychological barrier. Asking for financing comes less naturally for a woman. She feels that she should do it on her own.
Size of business also matters less. And size (pardon the stereotyping here) absolutely matters most to men.
The mission of the business is what drives women who start them. The size of the profit drives their male counterparts.
I noticed this recently as I was speaking to a married couple who own a retail business. The husband shares details about inventory turns while his wife talks about the specialty merchandise she carries for the unique needs of her customers.
She's focused on the relationships; he's focused on moving the goods.
Men also tend to have a hard and fast goal in mind. They want to get to $X in revenues or Y locations. The goal allows them to plan their way to it.
Women entrepreneurs tend to operate with a more general goal to grow their business. Their thinking then goes to the plan: How many customers?...What suppliers, margins, cash flow will get them there?
The upshot of all this: Women start businesses at 1.5 times the national rate. And women are driving the growth of our smaller business--to a point. That is, women-owned firms have higher growth rates than male-owned firms, but only up to the 100-employee and $1 million mark.
Unfortunately, only 3% of all women-owned firms have revenues of $1 million or more. This compares to 6% of all male-owned firms.
What's the best thing that women who have large and successful businesses can do? Show other women that knowing the numbers is critical and that making money is a noble outcome of owning a business.
And the best way to break woman's psychological barriers about money? Teach girls at a young age that they shouldn't shy away from the numbers--and especially from the money.
by Patricia Sellers
Monday's Postcard--detailing an experiment in which female undergrads revealed themselves to be practically allergic to $20 bills placed randomly in a classroom--drew a flood of comments and spirited debate about women and money.
Men, for the most part, said women do fear money. "Why the fear?" asked a Miami reader, Michael D. " "IMHO, it is learned behavior. Girls are bought things, boys are given opportunities to own them."
Other MOREPatricia Sellers - Apr 19, 2011 12:24 PM ET
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by Jessica Shambora
It's a given that when corporations suffer, so do the charitable groups that rely on them for support.
Amidst the financial crisis, many strapped non-profits face funding losses as the need for their services rises. And unlike their counterparts at for-profit corporations, not-for-profit execs haven't had the proper leadership training do what's needed -- restructuring, staff cuts, even mergers with other organizations. A recent study by Bridgespan Group shows MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - May 12, 2009 3:56 PM ET
We're all looking for inspiration these days, aren't we? Not to be Pollyannish, but I'm jazzed following a dinner that I attended last evening. It was organized by Joan Amble, the EVP and corporate comptroller of American Express (AXP), and Skadden Arps partner Martha McGarry. These two women convened two dozen women who participate in Fortune's Most Powerful Women Summit. Terri Dial, the CEO of Citigroup's (C) U.S. Consumer Bank, MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 19, 2009 12:57 PM ET
On Friday, I left you with a promise: that I'd find something new and proactive to do to answer President Obama's call to "responsibility"--which seems to be the buzzword of his Administration.
I found my "to do" this weekend--but before I tell you what I decided on, let me share briefly what I spent yesterday working on. Carrie Welch, my onetime Fortune colleague and former Most Powerful Women Summit co-chair, and MOREPatricia Sellers - Mar 2, 2009 2:10 PM ET
"In an uncertain environment, what do you need? You need trust in management. Don't hunker in the bunker."
-- American Express (AXP) chairman and CEO Ken Chenault in an interview today at the Fortune 500 Forum. Chenault talked about becoming CEO in 2001, amidst both a crisis in confidence in American Express ("A number of folks were almost writing us off," he said) and the crisis of 9/11. He learned then MOREJessica Shambora, Writer-Reporter - Dec 3, 2008 5:17 PM ET
I took a 7 a.m. Acela from New York to Washington, D.C. this morning to meet with D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee and then attend the Fortune 500 Forum, beginning this afternoon. My train was on time to the minute; Rhee's red-eye from the West Coast was delayed by D.C. fog, so she and I are now due to meet Wednesday. I'll share my thoughts later this week about Rhee, who MOREPatricia Sellers - Dec 1, 2008 2:05 PM ET
The upshot of the government's bailout of Citigroup (C): millions of calmed investors, 350,000 relieved employees, and one CEO who is hanging on to his job at least for a while.
Vikram Pandit's apparent security at the helm of Citi may be a good thing. For all his faults - his failure to get a timely grip on the company's toxic assets, his unconvincing arguments last week that Citi is adequately MOREPatricia Sellers - Nov 24, 2008 4:44 PM ET
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