I stumbled into entrepreneurship in 2016 after studying philosophy, theology, and anthropology for my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Ending up in the business world felt like a long and winding road filled with sleepless nights, much discernment, and many conversations. In the few years after graduating from college, like many early 20-year-olds, I felt untethered and unsure of my direction. What was my direction in life? What was my mission? How did the Lord want me to use my gifts and talents to serve him?
At the time, I attempted to answer these questions by searching for women who had accomplished work in the same field that I was going into. I spent endless hours looking for women on LinkedIn in their 40s and 50s who had achieved a successful career while also being married and raising a family. My search was futile. Although I did find a couple of single Catholic female entrepreneurs to connect with, for years, I felt like I was “making it up as I went along”: trying to weld married and family life while scaling a business, hiring and firing employees, serving clients, and trying to keep God in the center of it all.
Every vocation for women within the Church is beautiful and worthy, but being a Catholic entrepreneur in particular has been challenging. Although I have developed some great friendships with secular business women, I can’t connect with them fully about discerning business decisions with my spiritual director or praying a daily rosary for my employees. Within the Catholic sphere, I can’t completely relate to stay-at-home mothers or women who are working a 9-5. I desperately needed a mentor but could not find one who was willing to devote time and effort to my growth.
Speaking to women’s particular vocation, Pope John Paul II in Mulieris Dignitatem spoke to every woman’s calling to love:
“The moral and spiritual strength of a woman is joined to her awareness that God entrusts the human being to her in a special way. Of course, God entrusts every human being to each and every other human being. But this entrusting concerns women in a special way - precisely by reason of their femininity - and this in a particular way determines their vocation”.
Here, Pope John Paul II illuminates women’s ability to “receive the other” because of the design of their femininity. Through their motherhood, spiritual and physical, women are capable of receiving, knowing, and loving others in a manner different to men. God entrusts humanity to women, knowing that she is uniquely made to care for those around her.
This act of entrusting carries through to every aspect of our modern world, including the sphere of business. Just as a mother nurtures her family, every woman in business has the mission to nurture those in her care: her clients, her employees, her colleagues. In a special way, Catholic women entrepreneurs co-create with God to create something out of nothing. Every woman-owned-business begins as merely a dream placed on her heart. Her mission is to share with the world her services and products—glimpses of God’s own heart and a genius that only she can share.
This is why mentorship is essential: so that women who are called to practice business can find and live out their own unique mission in this world. Women are called to cultivate the gifts and talents of others, to foster the dreams that only they can bring forth. A mentor provides guidance, critique, and reassurance as a young person matures. This is crucial to the formation of any woman, entrepreneur or not, but also fulfills the role of each Christian to evangelize the world. Without this relationship, one might not have the tools and resources to realize their full potential.
By fostering the gifts and talents of others through mentorship, women are living out their feminine genius. My Co-Founder, Emma Moran, and I created Catholic Women in Business in 2018. CWIB is an online resource of Catholic women who are seeking to live a life of faith while striving for excellence in their careers. We hope that it’s a space for women to cultivate mentorship and connection.
My dream is to initiate a movement where there is more mentorship available within the Church, for women and men. In encouraging these relationships, I believe we will be able to activate the missions of those within our communities, answer the Church’s call to a New Evangelization, and to bring forth the Gospel into our society.
"Business is a vocation, and a noble vocation, provided that those engaged in it see themselves challenged by greater meaning in life; this will enable them truly to serve the common good by striving to increase the goods of this world and to make them more accessible to all"
(Evangelii Gaudium, 203).
Catholic Social Teaching is a core component of our Catholic faith. Its principles are rooted in the dignity of every human person and bring us together as a community, while creating relationships of love and respect. A few of the basic concepts that it encompasses are the life and dignity of the human person, a call to family and community, a preferential option for the poor and vulnerable, the dignity of work, and a care for God’s creation. We are called to uphold these principles in every area of our lives, not only in our personal affairs, but in our professional lives as well. It is easy to see how these Catholic principles can be applied to the way we interact with customers, coworkers, and shareholders.
Businesses are commonly seen as seeking only to achieve higher profit margins, line the pockets of the executives, and expand their market share. By our Catholic standards, this is not an ethical foundation or what the purpose of any organization should be. The objective of a business should be to advance society by using its core competencies to fulfill a need, providing something valuable for society. This is not to say that businesses should not be profitable. Without profits, a company cannot exist. Instead of defining a company’s success solely by its profits, it should also be defined based on the value it adds to society and the way it treats any and all parties affected by its decisions. In other words, businesses should aim to serve the common good.
One of the biggest competitive advantages is creating good relationships with stakeholders—any of those who are affected by a company’s business decisions. Whether the quality of its goods and services are high or its prices are competitive, good relationships with stakeholders are invaluable and often lead to higher market share for these companies. Therefore, applying the principles of Catholic Social Teaching is also beneficial to the business’ success and, in turn, the success of the shareholders.
Today’s business world is highly competitive. As technology advances, businesses are required to act quickly when new ideas arise to obtain market share and stay afloat against competitors. With this need for quickly evolving business strategies also comes a tendency toward bending the rules and taking any measure necessary to beat out competitors. This can give a company a negative image, which is often difficult to reverse. On the other hand, a company that fights these temptations and follows the principles of Catholic Social Teaching will likely see success. Businesses should not be looked at as profit mongers, but instead as organizations who further develop society for the better. They must create this positive image, and as stakeholders we have a responsibility to hold companies accountable for their decisions and demand that they uphold ethical standards.
For a good article on the Catholic University of America's recently formed School of Business and Economics, click here.
Also, be sure to check out the Catholic Apostolate Center's resources on Catholic Social teaching by clicking here.
Amanda White is a graduate of The Catholic University of America's School of Business and Economics