Last week, Florida’s economic development folks revealed the state’s first ever “business brand”, designed to attract more businesses to the state.
The necktie motif has caused some consternation, to say the least. As a Florida businesswoman myself, who comes from elsewhere originally, my reaction went like this:
My first thought: “It’s a man’s necktie.” (I am very literal-minded.)
My second thought: “I don’t wear neckties, and neither do most of my customers.” (Again, with the literal.)
My third thought: “Oh dear.”
Not “Oh dear – I’m offended.” Just “Oh dear, why would Florida leave so much money on the table by choosing such an old-fashioned, narrow-minded, male-only image?” I mean, even for men, neckties are increasingly rare. My husband the software engineer hasn’t worn a tie to work in decades.
Businesses usually want to appeal to as many people as possible. That’s how you make money. Why narrow the field with an image that excludes so many?
Florida is already fighting decades-old stereotypes of being the land of old people, oranges and beaches. And we have those. The point is, we have so much more than that. We’ve got high-tech and medical research, defense contractors and movie production, real estate, construction, professional services, tourism. If the state were smart, there would be a full-court press to invite green companies to Florida to use our abundant sunshine to provide cheap energy to power businesses and consumers alike. A necktie suggests none of that.
Florida also has a lot of women. Of our 19 million citizens, 51.1% are female, including a lot of successful business women. In fact, out of the 50 states, Florida ranks fourth for the most women-owned businesses, according to a study commissioned by American Express.There are an estimated 587,600 women-owned firms employing 473,100 workers and bringing in revenues over $77 billion.
From my perspective, Florida is a great state in which to do business. But businesses in Nebraska or New York won’t know that, looking at a necktie.
And do you know why there are so many women-owned businesses in Florida? It’s not because they are home with the kids. It’s because they got tired of someone in a necktie ignoring or dismissing their business ideas. Those women don’t get offended. They leave and start their own businesses. They’ve got the education, the experience and the skills to do so. And Florida is a huge market that offers a lot of opportunity.
The creators of the necktie campaign insist that it tested well. My question is, “With whom?” The women business owners that I know would have rejected it flatly as a woefully inadequate and misleading symbol of the many and varied business opportunities in Florida.
So women business owners aren’t offended. We’ve seen this all too often. We simply shake our heads – and then get back to work.