Women’s History Month Guide: Innovators, resources and more

Meet Cleveland’s leading ladies, of yesterday and today

Call Cleveland suffragette city. The area has long been at the forefront of the fight for gender equality.

In 1869, Cleveland was home to one of the nation’s earliest suffrage conventions, the American Women’s Suffrage Association.

On October 3, 1914, more than 10,000 Cleveland women marched down Euclid Avenue, promoting the Ohio Women’s Suffrage Amendment.

East Cleveland was one of the very first cities in the United States to grant women suffrage — on June 6, 1916. Declared the Plain Dealer: “East Cleveland yesterday became the first city east of the Mississippi River to grant by home rule suffrage to women in municipal elections.”

Leaders for the local suffrage movement included Belle Sherwin, daughter of Sherwin-Williams founder Henry Alden Sherwin. In addition to being a founder of the National League of Women Voters , she was the first president of the Consumers League of Ohio and founder of the Women’s City Club.

These are just a few of the notable women who shaped Cleveland history. The list includes:

— Bankers Clara and Lillian Westropp, who founded the and operated The Women’s Savings and Loan in 1922, the first bank in the nation operated by women.

— Social worker Eliza Bryant, the daughter of a formerly enslaved woman, who founded the Cleveland Home for Aged Colored People in 1896, now the Eliza Bryant Home.

— Pioneering journalists Jane Scott and Dorothy Fuldheim.

— Cleveland first — and only — female mayor, Jane Campbell, in office from 2002–2006.

— Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who was also a judge and county prosecutor.

The story of women leaders in Cleveland is in its early chapters, however. Cleveland is still a home for innovators, changemakers and groundbreakers working to make their business and world a better place. In honor of Women’s History Month, GCP will be shining a spotlight on these leaders on our blog, social channels and newsletters each week in March.

Business in Ohio

As part of our Women’s History Month coverage, as the region’s chamber of commerce we are taking a look at the state of women-owned businesses in the country and state — how many are there, and how can there be more?

According to data from the most recent reference year available, 2017, women own 18% of employer firms in Ohio. Nationwide that number was 20%- up .6% from the previous year. According to a 2018 ABS Survey, “Women-owned firms tend to be more concentrated in certain sectors than all firms overall. … 191,230 or approximately 16.8% of the nation’s total 1.1 million women-owned firms in 2018, were classified in the Professional, Scientificand Technical Services sector, compared to 14.3% for all firms in the sector.

“Employees of women-owned firms were also concentrated in certain sectors. Nearly 2.0 million or approximately 19.4% of the 10.1 million employees of women-owned firms worked in the Health Care and Social Assistance sector in 2018, compared to 14.9% of all firm employees.”

Average annual earnings of employees of women-owned firms lagged behind the national earnings average: $38,238 in average annual payroll per employee compared with $54,114.

In 2018, women-owned firms earned an average of $1.6 million in sales, shipments or revenue; male-owned firms earnings were double at $3.2 million.

According to the Zippia career site, based on the number of women- owned businesses; the number of employees who work at women owned businesses; sales per company; and percent of women CEOs, Ohio ranks 19th in the nation for women in business.

The data for women in C-Suite leadership positions is less positive — though women are making progress . According to, Women occupy only 29.2% of the chief executive roles in the United States, and 8.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women. Only 6.6% of S&P 500 companies are run by women.

However, there is progress. Twenty years ago, there were only seven female CEOS in the Fortune 500.

We can do better.


How can regional leaders help achieve women achieve equity in the business world? There are numerous programs working towards that goal in Greater Cleveland and Ohio:

Project 257 – Accelerating Women’s Financial Equity

Cleveland | WBCs of Ohio (

Small Business Administration (

Women Business Enterprise Program (WBE) | Development (

Ohio Business Resource Connection — Ohio Secretary of State (

WBENC Women’s Business Enterprise National Council — : WBENC

Empowering Women in Business (

NWBC — Advancing Women Entrepreneurs. Growing America’s Economy

Read More

Want to learn more about the contributions of Women to Cleveland History, women in business and Women’s History Month? Check out the following stories:

Women’s History Month (

International Women’s Day 2023 (

Women Business Ownership in America On the Rise (

Women’s History Month: Cleveland suffragettes, protests and parades since 1869 (vintage photos) —

Facts About Small Businesses: Women-Owned Businesses — SBA’s Office of Advocacy

In honor of Women’s History Month, Greater Cleveland Partnership is spotlighting Women-owned businesses, leaders, changemakers and events throughout March on our blog, website and social channels. We’d love your input. Email suggestions to

Greater Cleveland Partnership’s All In vision for a Great Region on a Great Lake has five key priorities: Dynamic Business, Abundant Talent, Inclusive Opportunity, Appealing Community and Business Confidence. All of our work ties back to these values. This story relates to Inclusive Opportunity.


On Key

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