maria contreras sweet, women entrepreneurs, US Small Business Administration, SBA, heforshe, un women, gender equality, JPMorgan Chase, chase, Chase Business Banking, Brad Feld, Startup Week, womens empowerment, empowerment, woman business owners, Womens Business Symposia, UP Global, Jennifer Piepszak Maria Contreras-Sweet, left, with Jennifer Piepszak Maria Contreras-Sweet, left, with Jennifer Piepszak Maria Contreras-Sweet, left, with Jennifer Piepszak Maria Contreras-Sweet, left, with Jennifer Piepszak
Bold Leaders


Men, Women Join to Support Women Entrepreneurs

From the United Nations to Local Startups, a Global Effort

Last month I spent time with a remarkable group of people, including Maria Contreras-Sweet, the Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). She's a fascinating woman whose own entrepreneurial success led to her role as the nation's chief advocate for small business.

Around the conference table were bankers and public servants from diverse backgrounds, male and female. It reminded me of HeForShe, a campaign created by UN Women, the United Nations organization that advocates for gender equality and the empowerment of women. HeForShe spreads the word globally about the positive roles men can play in the advancement of women. JPMorgan Chase is very proud to support HeForShe as the program's title sponsor.

The Administrator and I share a special commitment to advancing business opportunities for women- and minority-owned businesses, as Chase has been the nation's No. 1 SBA lender to those segments for the last three years. Together we're exploring ways we can partner to infuse more capital into more women-owned businesses.

In my role as CEO of Chase Business Banking, I sit around another table with the other five CEOs in JPMorgan Chase's Consumer & Community Banking unit. Three of the six of us are women. To be sure, all six of us have identical performance goals and are expected to pave an inclusive path for those who follow. I don't see gender around that table as much as I see leaders who want to make things better for our customers, our communities and our company.

I see that commitment outside the company, too, in people like Brad Feld. He's a successful Colorado entrepreneur and investor who started a non-profit organization to solve a problem: too few women were pursuing technology careers. His National Center for Women in Information Technology is inspiring as it informs the tech community about the need to encourage women to innovate, code and lead. They're bringing more women to America's leadership tables.

Feld also serves on the board of directors for UP Global, which produces Startup Weeks powered by Chase. During Startup Weeks, organizers make an effort to host panels of women discussing issues they face in their entrepreneurial journeys. Many of the topics are clearly gender neutral – funding, marketing, product development – though the conversation often addresses issues specific to women. It's gratifying to see men in the audience, leaning in, learning and participating.

A Denver Startup Week panel last fall included a business owner who shared the evolution of her architectural metalsmith company, Living Design Studios, in Lafayette, Colorado. Jessica Adams' growing business now employs nearly two dozen welders – both men and women – who each year produce more hand-forged ironwork than they did the year before. Adams received a Mission Main Street Grant in 2013 from Chase to help her company grow even more.

Helping a woman business owner succeed is an investment that pays dividends for her business, her employees and the community she serves. To that end, Chase also started the Women's Business Symposia, where hundreds of women we serve come together to get information and inspiration from each other.

We've created a social following via #wobiz, so women entrepreneurs and those who support them around the world can engage with us. Think of it as a much bigger table where people come together for the same reasons.

Perhaps someday, HeForShe will become WeForWe.

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