Anna Butler, Associate Editor - Dallas Business Journal
Jun 27, 2016, 9:10am EDT Updated: Jun 27, 2016, 10:18am EDT
Last week, The White House hosted its first ever United State of Women Summit. Spear-headed by Michelle Obama in her final months as First Lady, the summit – or "movement" as the White House terms it – seeks to continue to advance gender equality issues both domestically and internationally.
I spoke with Two North Texas women, Crystal Arredondo and Darla Beggs, who ventured to Washington, D.C., for the invitation-only event to take part in panels, discussions and lectures on topics ranging from equal pay to increasing access to credit for women.
Both Arredondo and Beggs serve on the executive committee of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), an organization founded in 1975 in the D.C. area due to the business climate.
"There weren't any resources or organizations for women in business back then – unless they were an honorary member through their husbands," Beggs told me. "Women couldn't even get loans or a credit card in their own name without a male co-signer."
Fortunately, women have come a long way in the past 40-odd years.
Arredondo, who is the current national chair of NAWBO, is a partner at Dallas-based MPACT Financial Group, which focuses on wealth management and comprehensive planning for high net worth individuals. Beggs heads up Abba Staffing and Consulting as president in Fort Worth.
Arredondo and Beggs shared key moments and emphases from the Summit and what The United State of Women means for Dallas-Fort Worth women, below.
What was your over-arching takeaway from the Summit?
Arredondo: Honing in on the Entrepreneurship and Innovation portion of the Summit, one of the biggest takeaways was the issue of access to capital – it is the biggest obstacle for women business owners. This has been an age-old challenge for over 30 years, and we are finally seeing it come to the top of the list in conversations. In order to get capital, you have to show that you are running a profitable business.
Another big obstacle women business owners face is getting the education needed to run their business. Being a great chef and opening a restaurant still makes you a great chef, but you’re not necessarily equipped with the knowledge of successfully running a restaurant. In order to get the education, you need to take time away from your business. It is quite the chicken and the egg conundrum.
With such esteemed speakers and panelists, were there any surreal moments for you?
Arredondo: The President addressed the audience during the Summit and said in his early remarks, 'This is what a feminist looks like.' Instantly, the room exploded in applause.
Beggs: It was a very surreal moment to be in the same room and on the receiving end of the President’s strong yet positive address...The next generation will never have to know a world where a girl can’t pursue anything she sets her mind to, including running for the highest office.
Tell me about a favorite speaker at the Summit.
Arredondo: Warren Buffett (said) he is 'bullish when it comes to investing in women.' When asked to give one piece of advice to business owners, Buffett answered, 'Delight your customer.' Those are words to live by.
Beggs: Learning how to manage capital and manage a business are two important skills that need to go hand in hand. What we noticed was the marriage of these two big voids – access to capital and education – are coming together through programs such as Goldman Sachs, the Tory Burch Foundation and Community Lenders.
Arredondo: Many don’t know that (Warren Buffett) is a mentor to women business owners through the Goldman Sachs program. He said that he remembers questioning at a young age why expectations for his sisters were to get married and have children, and he and his brother were to get an education and go into business. Buffett is investing time and giving back to a community he strongly believes in – and his decision is purpose driven, not profit driven. Since 90 percent of women-owned businesses are solopreneurs, with themselves as the only employee, the biggest message is that we need to start investing in ourselves.
What's the biggest obstacle that North Texas women are facing in the workplace?
Arredondo: Entrepreneurship is on the rise as women in the workplace are faced with more responsibilities and work/life demands – increasing need for flexibility and fair pay. What we are seeing is the 'glass ceiling' effect is becoming less and less effective as women are realizing they can make a job and not take a job.
After attending the Summit, what's something you wish you could go back and tell your 25-year-old self?
Beggs: The best is yet to come.
Arredondo: Embrace being uncomfortable. It’s a natural part of the journey to getting one step closer to your dreams. And give yourself permission to dream big.
Anna Butler is Associate Editor of the Dallas Business Journal.