Maria Pinelli, of Ernst & Young, the global consulting corporation, is determined to help more women business owners succeed. Let’s face it, we women entrepreneurs still don’t have access to the same types of networks our male counterparts do. Ernst & Young wants to help—and for the third year is presenting its Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, which gives women business owners the chance to be part of a network of the country’s best entrepreneurs and high-growth companies.

The Entrepreneurial Winning Women program is designed to help women business owners:

• Identify potential partners, customers, suppliers and prospective sources of private capital.

• Learn about the latest business strategies and practices tailored to high-growth companies.

• Receive one-to-one guidance and support.

• Strengthen our business skills and identify ways to grow our businesses by meeting advisors and successful entrepreneurs who can serve as role models, coaches and mentors.

According to Maria Pinelli, Americas Director, Strategic Growth Markets Leader for Ernst & Young, the company has been “a passionate supporter of entrepreneurs for almost 25 years now. However, we know that women-owned businesses do not typically reach the scale of businesses run by men. We designed the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program to deliver experienced role models and access to business-building networks that are so critical.”

I recently talked to Pinelli about women entrepreneurs and what we need to succeed.

Rieva Lesonsky: Why aren’t more women-owned businesses earning over $1 million annually?

Maria Pinelli: Women face unique challenges. They sometimes lack opportunity, access to role models and financing, and they face different personal situations than men. Through targeted support, we can help them overcome these obstacles in order to scale their companies. In the U.S. women start businesses at nearly twice the rate of men. Babson College found that if these women entrepreneurs started with the same capital as men, they would add 6 million jobs to the economy in 5 years.

Lesonsky: Are women too often risk-averse?

Pinelli: Women are very willing to take risks. Sometimes, though, they lack the support network to back them when they step out on a limb. Through the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, we strive to provide access to networks and mentors that can fill this critical role for high-potential women entrepreneurs.

Lesonsky: Looking back at the previous winners, are there any common traits they share?

Pinelli: All of the winners are passionate, highly intelligent women who saw a need in their respective industries and took it upon themselves to fill that need. They all have the vision, confidence, creativity and tenacity to be market leaders.

Lesonsky: What resources do we entrepreneurial women need to help us succeed?

Pinelli: Women have the brains and the guts, but they need help to break through the barriers for rapid growth and entrepreneurial success. They need mentors to challenge and encourage them to think bigger and provide a voice of experience that is invaluable. They also need access to networks of potential partners, strategic alliances, customers and suppliers, as well as prospective sources of capital.

The Entrepreneurial Winning Women program was designed to help do all of that. There’s much more information about the Entrepreneurial Winning Women program, including entry requirements, on the E&Y website.

Having a mentor can certainly make a difference in our success and it’s not as difficult to find a mentor as you might think. The key is to act now!

About the Author(s)

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a content and consulting company specializing in covering small businesses and entrepreneurship and

CEO, GrowBiz Media