By Michelle DeClerck | Founder and president, Conference Event Management

"It's no accident I'm here ..."

This thought occurred to me as I stood at a flip chart documenting statistics just over a month ago. I was selected by Goldman Sachs, representing the only Iowa company to participate in their 10KSB program. This gave me the opportunity to collaborate with 149 other business owners -- 42 in my cohort --  at Babson College, the leading business entrepreneurial college in the nation.

I scanned the room and it dawned on me that of the 16 scholars standing in the same area, sectioned off by personality assessments classified for our ability to take charge of situations, 12 of us were women.

I couldn't help but realize the importance of this. It was only 30 years ago women were still taking male family members with them to the bank to sign off on loans required to start their own businesses.

Back then, women would not have had a place in that class, but on that day, a majority of my cohorts were women. Taking on the ranks of Target, Walmart and Costco, some of these women were securing their shelf space in the B2C realm, while other women were on the B2B side with environmental, invention and other noteworthy businesses they founded and sustained with their own intellect and financial means.

To think we're no longer classified in the same amiable group -- we've taken a huge step. We're spread out with different characteristics and skill sets, each managing our talents and building upon one another's diversity that allows us thrive. The exciting part of this is it allows us to create jobs and bring up other women, joining us in new career paths as they take risks and create pathways to valuable opportunities.

In this highly interactive class, I was humbled on several occasions when I tried to state where our success came from by using the word "luck" or that we "must have done a few things right." I was immediately reminded that was not how I got where I am today; rather, it was through hard work, rigor and discipline, coupled with a passion and vision to build upon the true potential of our future growth.

I wasn't solely motivated to move forward on my own, though -- only through the inspiration of other women who came before me was I able to understand that anything is possible. I was able to lean on those resources to move forward.

For all those women visionaries who believed in themselves, who refused to let a bank stop them, who didn't give up on their dreams, and who showed us how to grow our businesses into super success stories -- we persist because of their initial steps to help us get where we are today. Despite any current trend or unfavorable news trying to polarize or degrade women, we refuse to be held back. It's no accident we're in the positions we're in today, and the great news is we're supporting one another and we will succeed because failure is not an option.

Michelle DeClerck  
founded West Des Moines-based Conference Event Management and Financial Speakers Bureau. She is a 2017 Goldman Sachs 10KSB graduate, the 2017 Iowa SBA Women in Business Champion of the Year, the 2017 Inspiring Women of Iowa - Character Award winner, and a Smart Meetings Top Influential Woman - Innovator of the Year Award winner. She recently founded Iowa Hospitality Donation Network to rescue usable products from hospitality venues and get them into the hands of the hungry and homeless, and Mentor Tank to provide opportunities for young women to jump-start their careers. She sits on the Executive Council for Iowa Women Lead Change and for the Lieutenant Governor's Million Women Mentors. She also enrolled her company in the Epic Corporate Challenge to foster opportunities for women at all levels of their careers.