For Debbie Greer, CEO of employee placement firm Greer Group Inc., moving into a new Raleigh, North Carolina, headquarters a little more than one year ago meant transforming the office walls from gray to a peachy pink. "The color was too dark," says Greer, 43. "We lightened it up a bit." Today, floral paintings, polished hardwood floors and elegant furniture decorate the space where Greer and her 25 employees-24 of them female-work.
In growing numbers, companies like Greer's are also transforming the way business is done. According to 1999 figures from the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (NFWBO), there are 9.1 million woman-owned businesses in the United States employing more than 27.5 million people and adding $3.6 trillion in sales to our economy. In fact, the fastest-growing industries for female business owners are traditionally male-dominated ones, such as construction and manufacturing. "Women are leading in their own style and creating their own business cultures," says NFWBO executive director Sharon Hadary.
But do challenges arise when women work together? How can a female entrepreneur in charge of a female staff maximize its potential? Carolyn Duff, a Fort Collins, Colorado-based trainer and consultant, as well as the author of Learning From Other Women: How to Benefit from the Knowledge, Wisdom and Experience of Female Mentors (AMACOM), says, "A different dynamic exists in a female environment, and we as women need to talk about our work style."
Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.