As the ABC ‘scandal’ ends, the harsh reality of women-owned businesses continues


After seven seasons, ABC’s DIS,
The hit TV series “Scandal” airs its final episode Thursday night – and, with it, viewers can take one last look at the challenges faced by women owning small businesses.

Conceived by Shonda Rhimes, “Scandal” followed the forays of Olivia Pope, owner of a Washington, DC-based crisis management firm as portrayed by actress Kerry Washington. The show mainly focused on political intrigue and romantic affairs – specifically, Olivia’s entanglement with the show’s fictional president, Fitzgerald Grant.

But once viewers got past the Oval Office rendezvous and comedic tall wine glasses, the show offered them an overview of the challenges faced by women small business owners. (Indeed, Olivia Pope’s character was based on Judy Smith, the show’s co-executive co-producer who is also a true crisis manager whose customers included Monica Lewinsky and Sony Pictures Entertainment US: SNE.

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It should be noted that Olivia and her colleagues were generally better off than the average small business owner. The high profile clients that Olivia’s company represented on the show almost certainly paid with big checks. But in reality, female business owners are at a severe disadvantage compared to their male counterparts.

  • Almost half of female business owners reported incomes below $ 50,000, and women were half as likely as men to report income over $ 250,000 from a small business they owned. , according to a 2015 Gallup study sponsored by Wells Fargo WFC,

  • Women-owned businesses represent only 39% of all private companies, according to an American Express study.

  • And businesses owned by women of color account for only one-fifth of the revenue generated by women-owned businesses overall.

50% of women-owned businesses occupy only three sectors

While the success of Olivia and (spoiler alert) her ultimate successor, Quinn Perkins, known with their business might be unusual among women-owned businesses, “Scandal” nonetheless offered moments that would ring true for female entrepreneurs in America.

To begin with, as a public relations professional, Olivia worked in one of three industries – professional and technical services – which accounted for 50% of all businesses owned by women by American Express AXP,
+ 0.36%.
The other two sectors were health care and social assistance and “other services”, which includes hair and nail salons and pet care.

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Women business owners receive 45% less from lenders than men

For its 100th episode of Season 6, the series portrays an alternate reality where Pope did not have as much success after choosing not to rig the presidential election in Grant’s favor. Rather than the expansive and sleek office space it has in the rest of the series, it works from a hole in the storefront wall. And instead of her usual designer outfit, she wears a simple cardigan.

It would appear that the Olivia Pope in this timeline is facing the same difficulty that many female business owners face in getting their businesses off the ground in the real world. Take small business loans: Women-owned businesses received an average of just $ 57,097 from lenders in 2017, 45% less than male-owned businesses, according to a study by Biz2Credit online credit market.

This challenge is particularly important for Dorothy Crenshaw, Founder and CEO of Crenshaw Communications, a public relations and crisis management firm in New York City. “My experience is that women entrepreneurs are less likely to get financing for their business,” Crenshaw said. “In the past I’ve had cash flow issues and I’ve been like, ‘Oh my God, I have to put my own money into the business.’ “

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For Crenshaw, “Scandal” reflected the reality of being a female business owner, especially in this area, in other notable ways – particularly by showing how easily small businesses can go through their ups and downs, and how risky it is to become too dependent on a single client.

Nonetheless, real-life women like Olivia Pope are increasingly in good company. As the American Express study found, there are now seven times more businesses owned by African American women than 20 years ago. And, overall, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 114%.

And to that end, Crenshaw sees Olivia Pope as a strong example of how to behave as a woman and a business owner, especially as the show portrays her cultivating the loyalty of her employees and colleagues. “She shows that you can be feminine and glamorous and a great role model,” Crenshaw said.


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