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How women altered the business landscape

The growing proliferation of women-owned businesses across the United States is changing the business topography and climate of the country and may cause some to rethink the old macho business mind-set, says Margaret Heffernan, an entrepreneur, author, and former BBC producer.

"When a woman's company wins a piece of new business, the competitor learns that times are changing," Heffernan writes in her new book, "How She Does It." "Business is the most interactive relationship in the world, and every day that a new woman-owned business comes to market, a little corner of the landscape shifts. And they're coming at the rate of 17 new companies every hour."

Heffernan, a former CEO at five companies in the United States and the United Kingdom, says that 40 percent of all privately held companies in the United States are owned or headed by women.

Every day, she says, 420 women-owned businesses emerge in the United States and women-owned companies are creating jobs twice as fast as all other companies combined and pay more salaries than all of the Fortune 500 companies.

"Women's companies are more likely than others to stay in business, while companies owned by women of color are four times as likely as others to stay in business," Heffernan writes.

In "How She Does It," Heffernan focuses on the stories of 26 women entrepreneurs and business executives to show why they went into business and why they have been so successful. They all had something to prove to themselves, she writes. Some thought that they had been undervalued by their employers.

They thought that a rejected idea had merit, that they were financially responsible, and that their ways of doing things could be as effective as the predominant macho styles.

"In this respect," Heffernan writes, "women entrepreneurs remind me of a wave of immigrants: driven out of a land they found hostile, taking big risks in their determination to create a New World where they can succeed on their own terms. America was built by such pioneers and, today, its economy continues to be enriched by the fresh thinking of women who don't accept defeat."

Other factors besides the need to achieve and transcend gender stereotypes that propel the women featured in Heffernan's book are:

A high capacity for empathy that contributes to zeitgeist, the intuitive ability to see ahead to the next need, trend, and potential opportunity.

A greater propensity for improvisation.

A leadership style that favors orchestration over command and control.

A greater emphasis on values than on profits.

A nurturing concern for the well-being of their employees.

"Every woman I spoke to may have had a slightly different reason for starting her business," she writes. "But what motivated them after they had started was strikingly uniform: They were all driven to succeed for their workforce. They may have started for themselves, but they kept going for others."