Women in Travel: Entrepreneurial Mindset Is Key
by Maria Lenhart

This is the fourth in a series about women in the travel industry.

If you’re a woman who owns a travel agency, or who would like to start her own agency or other travel-related business, you’re in good company.

Women-owned enterprises have grown in number by 54% over the past 15 years. Today, women-owned businesses comprise the fastest-growing segment of all U.S. small businesses, according to The State of Women-Owned Businesses Report, a 2012 study by American Express OPEN.

In fact, women now own 29% of all U.S. businesses, generating some $1.3 trillion in revenue each year, the report states.

Travel Market Report asked Susan Duffy of the Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership at Babson College to discuss the trends and to share her advice for entrepreneurs. Duffy is executive director of the center, which offers educational programs and counseling in entrepreneurial skills and best practices.

What do you advise women students who are starting out in business?
Duffy: We help women build their competencies and comfort level. Women tend to want to have everything figured out before they make a move. Men are more likely to jump in. We counsel women that they are just as ready, but that they may need to take things at a more calculated pace.

Also, we emphasize that entrepreneurship isn’t just about creating your own business. If you work in a large travel agency or other type of company, you can still bring entrepreneurial skills to the table that will help you succeed.

Why are women so entrepreneurial?
Duffy: One of the big things that attracts women to entrepreneurial pursuits is flexibility. They can design the institutional structure differently. As long as I get the job done, even if it’s after the kids are in bed, I can do it on my terms.

Do women have different business objectives than men, particularly when starting their own companies?
Duffy: Women, in particular, are passionate about wanting to create value in the world. They want to change the world. They know they can use entrepreneurial ventures to do that.

Women are starting socially conscious ventures at higher levels than men. Women want to make money but also to do good. So they find ways to create a triple bottom line that’s good for the environment, society and making money.

Do women still have a ways to go to achieve equality as entrepreneurs?
Duffy: Women are still not getting the venture capital they should – they are not as successful in this as men are. However, there are more resources for women now – more associations and groups that are supporting them professionally.

There is momentum. The more we have successful women entrepreneurs, the more it will keep growing. The message goes out to the next generation that if she can do it, I can do it too.

You work with college students. How might the attitudes of younger people change things?
Duffy: Younger people are not looking at things in terms of women’s issues, but as people’s issues. They are much less inclined to look at gender.

Related stories
Part one: CEOs in Travel: Where Are the Women?
Part two: Women in Travel: Agency Leaders Who Pushed the Boundaries
Part three: Women in Travel: How to Get More Money & Power at Work

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