It’s National Women’s Business Week, a celebration of the contributions of working women and employers who support working women. As the company of a female entrepreneur, this nationally recognized event is close to our hearts and to celebrate, we are highlighting our Founder, President and Chief Executive Officer, Sheila Benson.
At age 24, Sheila Benson faced more than one challenge – as a divorced single mother and law student, it was her responsibility to provide for her son and she soon learned the company she was working for would be going bankrupt, without paying back wages. Turning a challenge into an opportunity, Sheila began her entrepreneurial journey by founding her first company. After years of successfully providing services for other businesses through her three other companies, she recognized a need for background screening services and founded Employment Screening Services in 1994.
Sheila’s vision and leadership has brought tremendous success to Employment Screening Services. The company has been named on Inc. 5000’s list of fastest growing companies for 12 consecutive years and recognized by HRO Magazine’s Baker’s Dozen list as one of the top 10 screening companies in the nation. Sheila has been named one of the Top Woman-Owned businesses from DiversityBusiness.com, Enterprising Woman of the Year in 2015 by Enterprising Women Magazine, and BHM BIZ Magazine’s 205 Most Influential Executives in Birmingham in 2016. Sheila was recognized in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year – Southeast Program and was a finalist in both 2015 and 2018.
Even with her success, being a female CEO still has its challenges. For Sheila, the toughest challenge is always the next one and offers this advice to other women entrepreneurs: “Women in business need to realize that it is impossible to do everything and be everywhere. Take a moment each day to prioritize things and just breathe. Also, find a great support system or group that understands your stress. It’s beneficial to have an outlet, but also one that can give you great advice.”
The business world continues to change shape and become a more inclusive environment, but there is still so much to be done, which is why Sheila works as an advocate for women seeking leadership roles. “More women are launching successful businesses and serving on boards of directors, which has helped. There is still a long way to go, which is why supporting women in the workplace and women’s leadership organizations is important.”
Sheila believes that mentorship opportunities in companies led by women will allow for great strides in the equalization of gender in the workforce. “We hire talented, driven women [to lead], so we should work to first develop their leadership skills with internal programs. It truly does start with us.” Sheila does her part to help lead women through the business world as a longtime certified member of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) and serves on the Board of Directors of Women’s Business Enterprise Council South. In addition, she is an active member of the Women Presidents Organization (WPO) and mentors aspiring entrepreneurs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business.
It is our hope that women will continue to trailblaze professional avenues, with incredible leaders like Sheila Benson at the helm. We celebrate all of those who have previously and are presently succeeding in the business sector and look forward to the exciting growth to come.
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