Vicki Dearmon heads up Santa Rosa-based event-production company Event Lab West and All Things Book, an independent bookstore. We asked DeArmon, an entrepreneur with 30 years of business experience, how women in business can manage their careers with an eye toward ranking up and helping their fellow women in the workplace.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing women who want to take on leadership roles? What steps would you take to solve it?
We need to step into leadership roles, take the lead, and just do it. We can’t wait on the sidelines. It’s hard to play in big arenas, because everyone gets to witness your failures, but therein lies the character building that makes a leader. I don’t actually view the world as a place where people are stopping me or against me, even if that is sometimes the case. That view prevents me from motivating myself to be better. I believe we make our opportunities.
So confidence is probably the biggest factor. And courage. And we build our confidence and our courage incrementally, by stepping out and failing and surviving it, and winning too. There is no substitute for experience and you can’t get it by playing small. So the solution is in the heart of each woman. And woman are key in supporting other women to be brave-- they can do it by example.
What is an example of a time you helped another woman foster her career or were helped by another woman do so?
After 30 years in business, it’d be hard to answer this specifically. There have been so many women who I’ve worked with and others mentored, in so many capacities. They’ve enriched me. And, especially now that I’m older, I make it a point in my business to provide younger women with opportunities to learn and grow by giving responsibility and then not micromanaging.
There also have so many organized programs for young women in which I fostered them in entrepreneurship or mentored them. The world of women and supporting women is something I’ve been dedicated to all my life. And my current business is engaged in assisting and helping women entrepreneurs through the WomenTalkBiz Confab events. I believe in women and the power of women to help one another.
What can women do for each other to advocate closing the gender pay gap in the workplace?
Women can support one another up the chain. When you achieve a level, help the next woman up. (FYI: I’m loving the mandating of women on boards until we get some equity).
But my concern is primarily women business owners and currently we represent 39% of all business ownership but only 4.2% of the total revenues generated. The goal for us needs to be 50/50 which would reflect equity according to population, but also resources. Women start businesses, but don’t necessarily grow them. So we need to help each other here to run our businesses at optimum levels. I believe women have business wisdom to share with one another and we need to do that now. The more women control their own fate through their livelihood the better the world will be.
What is the most valuable lesson you have learned working in business?
That I need to rely on myself, that no one is going to do it for me. I need to face my fear and take on challenges and push myself. There’s help along the way of course, but the initiative has to originate with me. Entrepreneurship is a spiritual path and I want to keep evolving.