Powerful Ladies

Women are proving to be powerful leaders in West Virginia—and the nation—as business owners, politicians, activists, and so much more.


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I would wager that none of the women we feature in the September/October 2014 issue of West Virginia Focus would tell you she is powerful. They don’t toot their own horns. They are ladies, after all. That’s where we come in. We know West Virginia women rock, and we think it is important to acknowledge those who are truly making West Virginia a better state—from championing the arts to passionately protecting our environment to everything in between. In Focus, we showcase more than 50 remarkable women. I’m sure I’ll get tons of emails pointing out those who were not included so, for the record, the list is by no means comprehensive. These women rose to the top of our list by being repeatedly suggested. Hopefully by showcasing some of our leading ladies, we will encourage more women to step up, harness their passions, and lead our state to a brighter future.

Two women who have been leading our state for years—Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant—are running against each other to become our state's first female United States senator. This is no small feat. Only 31 women have ever been elected to the U.S. Senate. Currently 20 are serving. No matter who receives the most votes during the election, our state wins.

Recently the Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis of Census data found that West Virginia is the worst state in the nation when it comes to equal employment and earnings. Our women are paid 70 cents for every dollar paid to men. There is no doubt this needs to be addressed. When women don’t receive equal pay, it affects the entire well-being of the state. The loss in wages means not only do families suffer, but there’s also less money spent on goods and services. More than 35 percent of family households in West Virginia headed by women have incomes that fall below the poverty line. This is a tragic statistic.

Something else we urgently need to change is the way we collect data on women-owned and minority-owned businesses. West Virginia does not know how many women-owned businesses exist because when someone applies for a business license, there is no way to indicate it. We need this data and I challenge the state government to do what is necessary to start capturing it. Women business owners are starting companies at a faster rate than ever. They are an important aspect of our state’s economy. Without this data, we can’t have an accurate snapshot of our economic drivers or provide the right types of resources to help them grow.

While I’m on a tirade, I have another bone to pick. Women make 85 percent of all purchasing decisions. We spend around $20 trillion a year on consumer goods. Chances are, whether you are an attorney or a car salesman, you need to market to women. Here’s some advice. Don’t make marketing decisions based on stereotypes. We are not a homogeneous group. We don’t make decisions using groupthink. We are empty nesters, working mothers, millennials, widows, and executives. One size does not fit all. Get to know us. Understand our needs. Trust me, we have a long checklist, and we’ll share it with you. And seriously, stop already with the pink.

See our list of West Virginia's leading ladies here.

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