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Utah Women in International Business Conference Utah International Trade ITDO GOED June 4, 2013 | 7:00 pm

Women Have a Growing Presence in Global Business

Published by the Deseret News 06/04/13:

Women have a growing presence in global business

By Jasen Lee, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – Being a woman in the business world can be challenging, but being able to meet those challenges and build a successful international company is the kind of reward that motivates entrepreneurs like Sarah Lehman.

Along with her husband, the Harvard-educated mother of three founded ENVE Composites, which manufactures high-end carbon fiber bicycle wheels and components.

Today, their Ogden-based firm sends those parts to distributors in more than 30 countries worldwide. As the chief executive officer, Lehman is charged with helping build the company’s brand and negotiating on behalf of the firm, among various duties.

For the most part, being a woman has been more of an asset than a hindrance, she said, because women have unique attributes that help them navigate the intricacies of global trade.

“We bring a lot of ability to adapt to local cultures and regions,” Lehman explained. “We seek to understand first before being understood.”

Women also are “particularly good” creating alliances that can be very advantageous long-term in business, she said.

“(Women) partner with a lot of companies that are similar to ours and organizations that are trying to achieve similar objectives,” Lehman explained.

Those virtues have helped her greatly in her interactions with businessmen and women she connects with regularly abroad, she said.

Lehman was a featured presenter at the Women in International Business Conference on Tuesday at the Hotel Monaco in downtown Salt Lake City. The event, hosted by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, targeted business managers and leaders interested in international business and networking opportunities.

Women executives and entrepreneurs face a unique set of issues when expanding their businesses internationally, said Ariel Briggs, GOED trade and export promotion coordinator.

Participants at the conference received practical guidance from businesswomen and experts who have personal experience conducting business in international markets and advising multinational companies.

Panel discussions addressed issues that businesswomen typically encounter as they grow their companies globally, negotiate international transactions and deal with foreign customers, vendors and partners.

The conference, which drew more than 100 people, also addressed cultural factors and security issues, as well as leadership roles.

Lehman said there may be sometimes when women are underestimated in business, but she added that often is the exception rather than a common occurrence.

Because the influence of women in business around the world has grown consistently over the years, the attitudes of men have changed and have provided a more accepting environment, she said.

“There is a lot of opportunity internationally,” Lehman said. “(If women) honor who we are and honor the assets that we bring to the table, we can develop mutual understanding (with our business partners) of each other’s goals, objectives and challenges.”

GOED reported that Utah exports in 2012 totaled $19 billion, and roughly 33 percent of the state’s overall job count was directly influenced by global trade.

With international business increasing among women, learning to navigate different cultures has become a key matter of concern, Briggs said.

“It’s always about the community you’re going to sell to and understanding them as you go forward,” she said.

As the number of Utah businesswomen continues to grow, it’s increasingly more important to continue the momentum with upcoming generations, said Deedee Corradini, president of the International Women’s Forum, former mayor of Salt Lake City and keynote speaker at the event.

“It is exciting to have so many women who are small-business owners,” Corradini said. “We really need to think not just about the women who are (in business) today, but we have to encourage young girls and women to reach for the top.”

She said creating more networking opportunities for women in business also is key to future success.

“Women want to help other women,” Corradini said. “To encourage them and help them get more involved internationally is very exciting for the future of our state.”

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Utah businesswomen by the numbers

• Utah has an estimated 72,800 women-owned firms that employ 58,300 people. Those companies expect to generate $13 billion in sales in 2013.

• Utah ranks No. 7 nationwide in the number of women-owned businesses created in the past 16 years, up 73.3 percent compared with the national average of 59 percent.

• Utah is No. 5 in growth of women-owned company revenue generated, up 159.7 percent.

• Women made up approximately 44 percent of Utah’s labor force in 2011, and their presence is growing at a rate of about 8 percent each decade.

• Utah exports totaled $19.1 billion in 2012, and it’s estimated that roughly one-third of Utah jobs are directly influenced by international trade.

Sources: State of Women-owned Business Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN; Utah Department of Workforce Services; Governor’s Office of Economic Development