Hello, all! Once again, I come bearing very exciting news. Every year, for the past 12 years, the Knoxville Chamber of Commerce has hosted the prestigious Pinnacle Business Awards ceremony to celebrate business excellence in Knoxville. This year, I was named a finalist in the Young Entrepreneur Award category, along with two others. More than 170 companies were nominated in eight different award categories recognizing outstanding local businesses and businesspeople.

“A Pinnacle Business award is one of the most prestigious honors a local business, entrepreneur, or organization can receive,” said Mike Edwards, Chamber president and CEO. “We are proud to recognize businesses and businesspeople that are positively impacting our region by contributing to the local economy and community.”

This is great news! But, what does any of that even really mean for Smarter Searches? Besides the prospect of a shiny new addition to our growing collection of awards and accolades, another reason this is so important is the necessity for me–and women in general–to be recognized for success, especially in male-dominated industries, such as tech.

The very basis of technology forces us to evolve or accept the fate of becoming obsolete. By constantly pushing ourselves to learn more, test new ideas, think outside the box, and think strategically, Smarter Searches has continually achieved sustainable, successful results. Persistence is another key for outstanding success, especially when I think about the fate of women in not only technology, but in the business world as a whole. According to data from 2014, although women hold almost 52 percent of all professional-level jobs, American women lag substantially behind men when it comes to their representation in leadership positions. Women make up only 14.6 percent of executive officers, 8.1 percent of top earners, and 4.6 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs. As a female CEO, these figures do not rest well with me. I, myself, try to make diligent efforts to help progress the roles of women in the digital and tech industries through my work with organizations such as Girls Who Code, and by purposefully hiring smart and talented women onto my staff.

Even though the world has begun to evolve in its inclusion of women in the workforce, more strides need to be taken – particularly in the tech industry. Overall, women make up less than 30% of positions in the tech industry, with only 22% of those holding leadership roles. There have been more times than I care to acknowledge that I have been asked who my boss is, or if a client can speak to my boss. It can feel isolating to be one of the few women working in a Boys Club, but our work stands for itself. Even when clients have insisted on an outright preference to work with a man, as soon as we develop successful campaigns and increase profits, I earn their respect

As the only female CEO in my category, I am very proud to be named a finalist, and you should be too because this means things are changing and women are getting the recognition they deserve. The winners will be announced and recognized at the Pinnacle Business Awards on May 13 at the Knoxville Convention Center, so keep your fingers crossed for me!

Until next time, #thinksmarter.

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