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A Woman's Place

Is it in franchising? Top women franchisors weigh in on the future of women in franchising.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

It's always seemed like the ideal pairing--women seeking assistance in starting and running a business, and franchisors seeking qualified, success-oriented franchisees. Some franchises have even claimed to aggressively market to women. So why are there still so relatively few women franchisees? And what do you have to know to break into this franchising club?

Though we've still got a long way to go toward equal representation, these five female franchise executives are extremely optimistic about the future of women in franchising. Recently, Franchise Zone spoke with: Dina Dwyer-Owens, president and CEO of The Dwyer Group, franchisor of Mr. Rooter and Mr. Electric; Hala Moddelmog, president of Church's Chicken; Barbara Moran-Ploger, president of Moran Industries, franchisor of brands including Mr. Transmission and Atlas Transmission; Lorrie Rennick, executive vice president of American Leak Detection; and JoAnne Shaw, president and CEO of The Coffee Beanery.

Franchise Zone: What do you see for the future of women in franchising?

Dina Dwyer-Owens: I see more women getting involved in franchising at the franchisee and franchisor level, mainly because more women than ever are involved in business today, which produces a ripple effect. As women read about and talk to women who are successful in franchising, the doors of opportunity begin to open wider.

Hala Moddelmog: There's every reason for the number of female franchisees to climb. Women are starting their own businesses at twice the rate of men, and a franchise is a sound way for women to have their own businesses and create wealth.

Barbara Moran-Ploger: I see the future for women in franchising as positive and exciting, and expect participation to continue growing both at the franchisor and franchisee level. Franchisors are focusing more on generating women's interest in becoming franchisees, and some franchises are developing businesses geared specifically toward women's interests. Also, as women in the workforce gain more management and executive positions, they'll become more interested in owning their own business.

Lorrie Rennick: The future for women franchisees is a bright one--more franchisors are marketing to women. Women franchisors, however, are still few in number and will grow slowly, partly because of our current economy and partly because men still dominate that arena. More women need to step up to the plate and be entrepreneurs.

JoAnne Shaw: I believe there is and will continue to be more opportunity for women in franchising. We are taking more risks, and women franchisees and franchisors will be a more visible force in the world of franchising.

Does your company have any specific programs to attract women?

Moddelmog: Church's has a program called the Professional Mentoring Program, which is designed to pair women who want to become franchisee partners with women who are currently successful partners in our system. We have only had a few pairs over the last few years, but the results have been positive.

Shaw: The Coffee Beanery doesn't have a specific program to attract women, but the fact that the company president and CEO is a woman makes the franchise attractive to women.

What advice do you have for prospective women franchisees?

Dwyer-Owens: Be clear about what you love to do, then find a franchise that fits your passion and go for it.

Moddelmog: My advice to potential women franchisees is to do it. Take that first step of investigating companies from a financial perspective, but then make sure it's a brand you can be passionate about. You need to love the brand and want to be a part of making that system grow. Only you can know in your heart if this is a business you want to grow with and incorporate into your life.

Moran-Ploger: Keep your options open when looking at a franchise company, because what may appear to be the obvious business for a woman to go into may not be the most successful. Also remember to look at the skills and experience you've obtained over the years. As a franchisee, you need to be a leader and crave success.

Rennick: Don't discount the viability of a franchise by the nature of the work. Look hard at the integrity of the system. Talk to women franchisees and franchisors. The International Franchisee Association has a Women's Franchise Committee on its Web site--go to the Profile in Success page, which profiles all women in franchising willing to be mentors.

Shaw: Find a franchise that suits you and your skills, one that you're excited to become part of. Be prepared to work very hard to build the business, and, above all, don't underestimate your abilities.