Free Markets Free Women

Driving her Jeep, canine companion in the back seat, Heidi Ganahl is the picture of a successful, Colorado woman. She is the independent, creative business owner that young women need as a role model.

Widowed in her mid-20s, Heidi poured her savings into starting a new business, Camp Bow Wow. She worked hard and grew the doggie daycare into a multi-million dollar enterprise with 200 franchises throughout the US and Canada. Her contagious smile and business acumen have been featured on television and magazines.

Heidi’s Colorado story is inspiring, and she’s not alone.

Christine Van Diest operates her own health and fitness business as a personal trainer to elite athletes and professionals while caring for four boisterous kids. Sarah Bouma, an enterprising millennial, just opened an online studio showcasing her art to supplement her office day job.

As Coloradans, we are fortunate to live in the United States where free markets, combined with private property, rule of law and individual rights, form an environment where women can truly be free to create their own destiny.

A free market, defined as a system in which the prices for goods and services are set freely by consent between sellers and consumers, and the laws and forces of supply and demand are free from intervention by a government, price-setting monopoly, or other authority. Government plays a role in preserving free trade by enforcing property rights including intellectual property rights, rule of law, and freedom of contract.

Free markets empower women to start new businesses; free markets empower women to achieve economic freedom. In societies where the market is highly controlled by government, it is much more difficult to start businesses, particularly if one is not well connected.  There is a formidable glass ceiling.

Sadly the United States could go down that perilous road by adopting regulatory and legal burdens which create disincentives to open or expand businesses. Well-intentioned policy makers who strive to help women succeed, more times than not put policies in place that hurt the very women they are trying to help.   

While our research shows women are more welcoming than men of an active government in their personal lives, the topic of “women’s issues” is misleading if it doesn’t also include issues like supporting our families, paying for the escalating cost of living, and achieving economic freedom and independence. Women, like men, cite concerns about jobs, economic prosperity, and opportunity as top issues.

More vital than creating laws to “protect” women or label them as victims, let’s create a real dialogue that points to real success factors for women reaching economic freedom: college major, career choice and planning, salary negotiation, entrepreneurship and skills that help her create a life of her dreams. 

Not every woman will operate a doggie daycare, like Heidi. Or, run a personal fitness and training business like Christine. Whether the choice is through entrepreneurship or homemaking, or balancing both, free markets provide an environment where women have the freedom to follow their dreams.

Debbie Brown
Director, Colorado Women’s Alliance