Event Puts Focus On Empowering Women In North Carolina

By Rochelle Moore
The Wilson Daily Times, N.C.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) N.C. Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram was among close to 70 people who gathered for an event focused on empowering women. The number of women owned businesses in N.C. is pretty impressive. From 1997 to 2015, the rate of women-owned businesses in N.C. grew by 97.5 percent. Nationally, women owned businesses grew by 68 percent during that same period. 

The Wilson Daily Times, N.C.

U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., visited Wilson Thursday as part of his Jobs and Justice Tour in an effort to meet with residents in the First Congressional District.

Close to 70 people met for a roundtable discussion, at Wilson Community College, which included local and state experts connected to resources. The Wilson event — When Women Succeed, America Succeeds — focused on women in the workplace.

“Members of Congress have a job description,” that extends beyond work in Washington, D.C., Butterfield said. “We have a responsibility to come home and to hear from the people that we represent. It’s my job and my responsibility to get out to the district as much as I can and to hear from the citizens.”

The roundtable included input from N.C. Sen. Erica Smith-Ingram, a Democrat representing District 3, Melissa Evans, director of the WCC Small Business Center, and Kenneth Johnson, manager of the Business Opportunity and Workforce Development branch of the N.C. Department of Transportation.

Butterfield said the discussion was important in an effort to better understand the needs of people within the First Congressional District, which encompasses 24 counties, including Wilson, where 700,000 residents live.

He said wage disparity continues to exist, and women are often using their own savings to start a business.

“Mothers should not have to choose between the well-being of their children and a paycheck,” Butterfield said. “There are 31 million mothers with children under the age of 18 in this country, and 70 percent of them work every day. Mothers are the sole providers for a record 40 percent of households. This as compared to 1960, when it was 11 percent.”

Today, women make 79 cents per dollar made by men, Butterfield said. African-American women make 64 cents and Latino women make 56 cents per dollar earned by their male counterparts, he added.

“That is a shame, and we talk about it all the time,” Butterfield said. “The problem is, we must do something about it.”

Smith-Ingram said women face barriers when trying to start businesses because they have to pull from personal savings accounts. She said young women should be encouraged to enter higher-paying professions, such as those in science, technology, engineering or math, in an effort to make higher salaries and open doors for other opportunities.

Another barrier is the lack of access to high-speed Internet in rural communities.

“When you don’t have that access to technology, you don’t have some of the resources that you need to pursue and push for those higher paying jobs,” Smith-Ingram said.

She said that North Carolina women fare better in owning their own business.

“From 1997 to 2015, the rate of women-owned businesses in North Carolina grew by 97.5 percent,” she said. “It went from 139,000 women-owned businesses to 276,000 women-owned businesses.

“From 1997 to 2015, nationally, women owned businesses grew by 68 percent. We are in a good place, actually ranked number three in the entire nation.”

The Wilson Community College Small Business Center offers close to 70 seminars each year and offers training and guidance for residents interested in opening a business. In an effort to strengthen the businesses, the center also continues working with business owners for three years after a business opens.

Two of the leading reasons businesses fail are owners who do not have enough money invested that will carry businesses through the highs and lows and not having good management.

“We try to do an excellent job in training people,” Evans said. “A business plan is key. Ladies, we wouldn’t buy a house without checking out the kitchen. Don’t start a business without a plan.”

The roundtable discussion included interaction and questions from the audience.

The Jobs and Justice Tour continues next week with events planned in Greenville and Halifax. Butterfield plans to have a State of the District Address on April 5 in Durham.


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