Women are rocking small business in America. If you’re sick and tired of having to prove your worth to an employer, there is another option: start your own business. You’d be in good company if you decided to take this route. While the small business sector as a whole has only grown by 9% since 2007, women-owned small businesses have boomed at a rate of 45% over the same time period. What’s more? Women aren’t just breaking off on their own. They’re killing it once they go off solo. Women-owned businesses have seen a 37% increase in revenue since 2007—that’s ten percentage points higher than the economy at large. I want you to enjoy that good news for a minute. Bask in it. Because unfortunately there’s an asterisk coming up. Why Women Are Starting Small Businesses We should be really glad women are seeing such high success rates when they branch off on their own. It proves that we can and do succeed in business—an area historically dominated by men. Not only do we succeed, but we build and succeed at higher rates than men. While it’s about equality rather than competition, it is nice to see so many ladies proving gender stereotypes flat out wrong. However, the reason women are starting their own ventures is not so bright and cheery. It’s important to note that the largest growing group of entrepreneurs is Black women. Since 1997, this demographic has grown by 322%--an incredible feat met with much success, even more powerfully proving oppression is based in fallacy rather than the reality of an individual’s capability. But experts attest that a large reason for this growth is in fact that same oppression. Women of color face a far great wage gap, more discrimination in the workplace than white women, and are also affected more heavily by the lack of family-friendly policies at most workplaces in America. It’s no wonder so many are breaking out on their own, and it’s encouraging and inspiring to see so many reaching levels of success where they can independently support themselves and their families. Those in the LGBTQIA+ community also face great discrimination in the workplace. In the next chapter, we’ll hear from Nicole Lynn Perry—a transgender woman of color—and hear about her experiences as she job hunts after transition. She points out that while heteronormativity definitely plays a role in the discrimination she faces, it’s cisnormativity that she faces first. Virtually every time she meets a new person or applies for a new job, she is all but forced to come out as transgender. The fact that she’s a lesbian is something paperwork and gender presentation don’t necessarily force her to expose. Nonetheless, up to 43% of LGBTQIA+ employees say they’ve been discriminated against in the workplace because of heteronormativity and their sexual preferences—even when they haven’t yet come out. State laws compound this problem as there are limited protections for this demographic in vast regions of our country. It’s not just LGBTQIA+ people who should be concerned about this; states who are trying to attract businesses should take note, too. Over the course of eleven years—2004 to 2015—more than one million jobs created by LGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs left states with discriminatory laws. Almost 80% of them headed to the states of California, New York and Illinois, where there are far more protections. However, these entrepreneurs often cited additional reasons for their move: being closer to talent, investors, customers and suppliers along with a search for more economical locations for their businesses were all reasons that contributed to their moves. It may be that states who know how to attract businesses and talent also know that inclusive workplaces and laws supporting those inclusive workplaces are an important draw along with corporate tax advantages. Of all the self-employed and small-business-owning women I interviewed for this book, all but one said discrimination in the workplace played a role in their decision to leave their 9-5 careers. While I knew this would likely be the outcome, it was still heart-breaking to hear. These are quite obviously bright, talented women who bring a lot to the table, and workplace culture is making them feel like they’re not wanted. The story has a happy ending: these women have created meaningful ventures with their immense talent, doing well for themselves while doing good for others. But the reasoning behind their departures is enough to make you infuriated with the system. Ashley Hill, the scholarship search strategist from the Atlanta area, lives in one of the top states for growth of African-American women-owned businesses. In her past life, she was a research analyst in the field of chemical manufacturing. She told me that discrimination definitely played a large role in her wanting to start her own business, coupled with her passion for helping people get a college education. “It wasn’t direct discrimination,” says Hill, who was the only minority female in her office. “It was things like purposefully leaving me out of meetings, or having me play a part in the project without giving me any guidelines. My first job was for a major company. I would go to upper level management asking for resources and assistance and be told, ‘No you’ll figure it out.’ It was how men would talk to me and how I was berated in front of other employees. It prompted me to move sooner than I had planned to.” We should definitely be celebrating people like Hill. Those who build their own success when the world tries so hard to deny them it. But admiring bootstrapping without addressing the reasons it’s necessary is to do a great disservice to women—especially women who face oppression at multiple intersections