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The average median income when the Women’s Business Development Center (WBDC) started in 1986 was $24,900. Women earned 64.2 percent as much as their male counterparts. Think of it this way: every time a man received an A+ in class, a woman earned a D with the exact same answers.

This injustice and inequality drove Hedy Ratner and Carol Dougal to bring about an organization unlike any other. Before the WBDC, women business owners, both conceptual and established, didn’t have a place to get help.

Now, in 2013, the average household income is $50,502, women are earning a B- (82 percent) for the same work for which men earn an outstanding grade. Progress has been made, but our work is nowhere near complete. Women, and in particular women of color, are still dealing with fairness and equity issues.

It is our responsibility at the WBDC to respond to rapidly changing business conditions through the development of initiatives that propel women business owners to grow and succeed. Access to capital, contracts, contacts and capacity-building opportunities continue to be the key obstacles and opportunities to fuel women’s business ownership and create jobs to stimulate overall economic growth. We need to continue to be diligent in providing programs and services to amplify access. In the past year, we dramatically expanded our direct lending program, delivered new workshops on risk management and financial alternatives, launched our women’s veterans program, developed more on-line on-demand eLearning courses, and further expanded our outreach in underserved and low-to-moderate income communities to present entrepreneurship as a path to economic independence.

The WBDC and our corporate and government sponsors and partners are committed to helping our women business owners succeed. At the Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference, build relationships with buyers, business experts and other business owners. Everyone is here to accelerate their business opportunities whether it’s sourcing new suppliers, learning of new contracting opportunities or sharing resources. The Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference, Women’s Business & Buyers Mart is here for you to maximize your exposure and grow your business.

In the words of Carol Dougal: “You have to show up!” In life — in business — you have to be present to have a voice, so keep showing up, as you will on Sept. 26. Now, make the most of the 27th Annual Entrepreneurial Woman’s Conference, and remember: your growth is our business.

Emilia DiMenco

President and Chief Executive Officer

Women’s Business Development Center