By Michaela Kilgallen and Tim Oakes
The 2016 Women’s EXPO in Centereach tomorrow will showcase 80 of Long Island’s businesswomen. Although the event will only feature local entrepreneurs, there are over nine million women-owned businesses in the country.
This is a growing trend in the United States. In 2012, over 36 percent of businesses in the country were women-owned. In 2007, that number was 28.8 percent, according to census data. Tomorrow’s expo at the Middle Country Public Library in Centereach looks to bridge the continued gap between men and women in business. The expo usually brings in 2,500 attendees.
“I’ve been a quilter all my life really, some of my earliest memories are from quilting, and so my background is in business, and at one point I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur,” Angela Veeck, Pieceful Quilting owner and Women’s EXPO vendor, said.
Aspiring Long Island business owners, like Veeck, can receive resources and guidance from The Miller Business Center in Centereach. The center hosts events like Twitter for business and the annual Women’s EXPO.
“I think being a woman entrepreneur has some benefits and some challenges,” Elizabeth Malafi, coordinator of the Miller Business Center, said. “I think women in general have challenges… The expo gives them a chance to meet other people doing the same thing they’re doing.”
Events like the expo create a community for entrepreneurs, Melissa Sgambati, one of the dozens of vendors attending the event, said. Sgambati started her business Melissa Marie Imagery as a photography and graphic design service. After she started to gain traction selling prints and photos, she branched off to handmade goods like buttons and bow-ties.
“Sometimes because being a woman is a disadvantage, it almost becomes an advantage,” Sgambati said. “Our once oppressed gender is now out and crazy and doing everything we want to do.”
Women spend 32 hours per week on childcare and housework compared to 17 for men, according to the Pew Research Center, creating another obstacle for women entrepreneurs. Eileen Lichtenstein, stress and anger management coach, teaches her clients techniques to balance work and home life.
“Often women will become the caregiver,” she said. “I don’t mean to sound sexist, but the majority of caregivers are women. It’s about balancing. It’s about taking care of family obligations, taking care of your own well being, having fun and doing best you can.”
Even in fields with high percentages of women, like real estate, it is uncommon to see women in positions of power, Sarah Gilligan-Hynes, co-founder of Gilligan Real Estate in Sea Cliff, said. She finds that there are few women business owners in the industry despite the fact that 58 percent of real-estate agents are women, according to the National Association of Realtors.
Only 14.2 percent of leadership positions are held by women, CNNMoney analysis found among Fortune 500 companies. Although women do not hold as many positions of power as men, Women’s EXPO organizers plan to use the event to change that.