March is women’s history month and we’re still celebrating…right? This year, celebrations have been overshadowed by the uncertainty, event cancellations and disruption of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).  I was lucky enough to to spend the first week celebrating with fantastic women business owners. They are an inspiration and also a reminder that change is the only constant. The picture of the panel above is from the Women Elevating Women conference, which is probably the last conference I’ll attend in Women’s History Month if not longer.

The Challenges

The picture includes moderator Camille Burns, CEO of Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), Staci Redmon, CEO of SAM’s, Wendy Shen, CEO of Flomo/Nygala and Barbara Mowat, CEO of GroYourBiz. Each of them runs a successful multi-million dollar business. Each shared examples of times when they faced and overcame challenges because of unconscious (or conscious) bias from colleagues and clients. Wendy said because she is an Asian woman who speaks English with an accent, potential clients and partners automatically assumed that her white male salesperson was the boss. They also assumed that her business was small. It’s not.

We often hear about these challenges that women face in business.This year the celebrations were tinged with uncertainty about coronavirus and the kinds of decisions that make good leaders great leaders.

Camille has been with WPO for 20 years and in the past six months was named the successor to Marsha Firestone, Ph.D. as the organization’s CEO. She is deciding whether to cancel the international conference at the end of April, which would have a huge financial impact and emotional impact for the business owners that look forward to it.

Staci Redmon was to be honored as the WBENC Women in Business star at the Summit and Salute which was set to take place this week in Nashville.  Unfortunately, that event was postponed to concerns around travel. While we will get a chance to celebrate her later this year, it’s too bad she can’t receive the recognition during women’s history month.

The Celebrations

Still, the month was not without its celebrations.  We celebrated Marsha Firestone, Ph.D.‘s impact on women business owners and us personally at the WPEO Awards Breakfast at the beginning of the month.

We also honored this year’s WBE Stars, Women’s Business Advocates and Outstanding corporations. Two 12PointFive clients received awards. A current client, Kathy Benson of ORI and a former client, Susan Michel of Glen Eagle Advisors won the highest honor for women’s business enterprises in the DC and New York regions.

I also met with Ibilola Amao, CEO of Lonadek, whom I connected with years ago online. We were able to finally meet in person in New York. Her company provides engineering experts to Fortune 500 companies and her passion is increasing the number of girls in STEM in her home country Nigeria.

Business UNusual

Even as a fully virtual training program, Diversity Masterminds® has experienced disruption. Our cohort of Diversity Masterminds® had just finished the course at the end of February. They were ready to approach the upcoming “conference season” with a road map, along with new skills and ideas.  When WBENC cancelled the Summit and Salute, however, we felt we had to offer some additional value. We are now offering tips for continuing your business development strategy with a mini-mastermind called Business Unusual.

For my current clients, and the women business owners in the pictures above, they have survived business disruptions before.  They put plans in place for other crises. Coronavirus is proving to be a unique challenge. We decided to share their lessons learned in a Business Unusual educational series. The theme is about the lasting impacts of these seismic shifts in the workplace. When does doing business unusual become business as usual?

We talk about lessons they learned the hard way in the hopes that you don’t have to.

This year in March, we’re all celebrating successes even as we stare down a brand new challenge. During women’s history month, that is business as usual.