Continued Growth for Women in Franchising Will Depend on More Women in Leadership Roles

More women are looking for a good work-life balance and the opportunity to be their own boss and a lot of the time they’re turning to franchising to help them accomplish these dual goals. 

According to the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO), as of 2017, over 11.6 million companies were owned by women in the United States, employing 9 million people and generating $1.7 trillion in sales.

Clearly, women-led businesses are a huge part of the US economy and encouraging more women to enter into business ownership is important for the continued health of the economy. 

Franchising’s Role

Encouraging more women to try business ownership and helping them succeed is where franchising can play a significant role, as it provides an easier path to business ownership and success. 

Women are well positioned in franchising, with the International Franchise Association currently having a woman, FASTSIGNS CEO Catherine Monson, as its chair. Many franchises and franchise brokerages are also helmed by women.  

There are also numerous groups dedicated to helping women explore the world of franchising, including the Women's Franchise Committee (WFC), which was formed in 1996. The WFC’s goal is to inspire and encourage women in franchising by creating a network of business professionals to provide international networking opportunities for the exchange of ideas, resources, and experiences.

The committee has created a number of local networking chapters, has an annual conference and a podcast entitled Her Success that shares success stories from female franchise leaders. 

The local networking chapters of the WFC are collectively known as the Women’s Franchise Network (WFN). These local networks are meant to develop relationships between women franchising professionals and address business issues, share ideas and provide solutions related to franchising. 

The first WFN was launched in Denver, CO in 2002 and now includes networks in markets all throughout North America.

“Women are incredible leaders who can—and do—add tremendous value to any organization,” Nancy Bigley, former chair of the WFC said in a press release. “Thus, everyone being mindful of how you can bring along and guide other female leaders is a huge step. We can raise the level of female leadership by setting the right example and being more mindful of creating opportunities for them to flex their muscles.”

One woman who is leading a successful franchise and being a role model for other women wanting to get into franchising is Assisted Living Locators CEO Angela Olea. She started her franchise business in 2006 and says in the time she’s been involved in franchising, she has seen the number of women business owners grow. 

“The amount of growth from 2006 until now—14 years—has been tremendous,” she said.

Franchising tends to offer business owners a really good work-life balance and many women who become business owners are looking for more flexibility and business opportunities in industries that are typically male dominated, Olea noted. 

As franchising provides a blueprint to success along with marketing and administrative help, typically male-dominated industries become much easier for women to break into via purchasing a franchise. 

“Franchising provides such an amazing opportunity for women,” Olea said. 

Assisted Living Locators consists of about 55 percent women-owned locations compared to 45 percent of male owners. 

Women in Franchise Leadership Roles

Another franchise that is predominantly women-led is Massage Envy, where the C-Suite is 60 percent female. 

In a Q&A session with the IFA in 2019, General Counsel for Massage Envy Kristin Paiva said the franchising industry needs to continue to boost women as leaders. 

“The industry has historically been male-driven,” Paiva said. “Current and potential stakeholders continue to expect that men will play the key roles. The best way to break down and change outdated expectations is for women to grow their visibility as industry leaders.”

Often, for women rising through the ranks of a traditionally male-dominated industry like franchising, they can be pushed to lead in a certain way, but Beth Stiller, Chief Commercial Officer for Massage Envy, advises women to find their own leadership style. 

“Everyone needs to find their own style of leadership as opposed to conforming to a textbook model—male or female, leading with authenticity is the only sustainable way to lead,” Stiller said. “I personally struggled for a few years and found myself trying to adapt to fit the styles that seemed to be successful and rewarded in the big corporate male-dominated environment I was part of. When I stopped trying to fit into someone else’s idea of how a leader should act and react I began to lead in a more authentic way that was ‘my style.’ I connected better with my team, felt more comfortable and found greater success.”

Chief Marketing Officer for Massage Envy Kathy Collins concurred.

“I think it’s important for women not to change who they are in a professional environment,” she said. “If your personality happens to be fun, loud and smart—be fun, loud and smart. Always. Just stay true to who you are.”

What to Look for in a Franchise

While franchising clearly offers women a path to reach their business ownership goals and become strong leaders, like anyone interested in becoming a franchisor, they should choose their franchise wisely. 

Current chair of the WFC Michelle Rowan, who is also President & COO of the Franchise Business Review, an independent research and consulting firm, gives these bits of advice for women who are looking for a franchise:

  • Ensure you’ll get the support you need up to, and after, the opening day of your location.
  • Look for a progressive brand with a vision for the future that includes constantly innovating new ways to serve their customers. 
  • Make sure the franchisor seeks out and values input from its franchisees.
  • Seek out expert advice when making your decision.

As more women enter the world of business ownership, franchising continues to provide a viable path to success for them with proven business blueprints and support. With more women having leadership roles in franchising, their growth is going to continue and inspire the next generation of women business owners.