Women Entrepreneurs Can Help Create a ‘No Ceilings’ Society

Last week, I traveled to Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, to join Chelsea Clinton, co-chair of the Clinton Foundation and Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter and Square, for a conversation with students and local business owners about female entrepreneurship. Our discussion highlighted new data released by the Clinton Foundation’s No Ceilings initiative, which reveals that, while we have made some truly incredible progress over the last 20 years, we’re not there yet when it comes to gender equality and enormous obstacles remain for women, especially those trying to start and support their own businesses.

As an entrepreneur and the founder of Buzz Marketing Group, I’ve had to overcome many of these obstacles and break through the barriers that still exist for women in business. I started my own career as an entrepreneur when I was 16 years old because I was motivated by an interest and passion in pop culture and fashion, and I knew that I had the skills and network to gain insights into the youth market (especially because I was part of that demographic!). As I began my work in that space, I knew that others would be inclined to define me based on certain characteristics — my youth, my race, my gender. But with that knowledge, I worked even harder toward my goals to reach a point where others had no choice but to see me in the way that I saw myself.

For so many women, the hurdles are economic as well as cultural: a lack of resources, mentorship, and access prevents many women from achieving real success. However, I am happy to see that it is becoming less and less uncommon for women to start their own businesses — not just in the United States but also across the world — where women are capitalizing on the resources they do have to empower themselves through entrepreneurship.

For instance, last year, I visited the Nakivale refugee settlement in Uganda and met brilliant women who started their own tailoring companies, restaurants, farms, etc., and found success. In fact, across Sub-Saharan Africa, more and more women are turning to entrepreneurship to follow their passions, lift themselves up and help their communities to thrive. The No Ceilings data shows that in Uganda and Namibia, an almost equal number of men and women are starting their own businesses, and in Ghana and Nigeria women entrepreneurs actually outnumber men.

Regardless of where you’re from, all women should have the opportunity to explore a new career, land a new job or start a new business based on their interests and professional passions. There is still quite a bit of work left to do until we reach that goal, but I hope organizations, governments, and citizens will realize that we can no longer afford to ignore the 50% of human potential that lies in the economic empowerment of the world’s women.

Last month, No Ceilings also released their Full Participation Plan, which sets out 10 priorities for action including eliminating barriers to women’s economic participation and leadership. This is a plan that all of us — individuals, governments, nonprofits and businesses — can follow to unlock potential for women and girls. I am glad to see that initiatives like No Ceilings and so many others are working to get us there — whether through data and a plan for action or through meaningful conversations like the one we had at Spelman — where we can all come together and share our challenges, successes and hopes for the future to empower each other to break down barriers and achieve our full potential.

Tina Wells is the CEO and founder of Buzz Marketing Group, which creates marketing strategies for clients within the beauty, entertainment, fashion, financial, and lifestyle sectors. She has authored the youth marketing handbook Chasing Youth Culture And Getting It Right and the best-selling tween series Mackenzie Blue. In addition to serving on the Young Entrepreneur Council, the United Nations Foundation’s Global Entrepreneurs Council, and The Franklin Institute’s board of directors, Tina is also the current Academic Director of Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World program. Tina’s long list of honors include Essence’s 40 Under 40, Billboard’s 30 Under 30, Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business, and Inc’s 30 Under 30.